If you want to avoid the crowds, at least in the morning, try to get to the parking area by no later than 8 a.m. on weekends and there's a good chance you'll have Chimney Rock to yourself. The trails in Catoctin Mountain Park are not blazed, but are very well signed, and if you take a map along you shouldn't have any trouble following this circuit.
Mile 0.0 – From the parking area at the Visitors Center on Foxville Rd. MD77 start the hike a the far end of the eastern parking area. There are two trails that start at this point. Take the trail on the right that goes towards the Catoctin Mountain Park Headquarters and Chimney Rock. Follow the trail as it parallels Foxville Rd for 0.9 miles.
Mile 0.9 - At the intersection for the Catoctin Mountain Park Headquarters turn left uphill towards Chimney Rock, then in 0.1 miles pass the intersection for the Crows Nest Campground loop.
Mile 1.4 - Arrive a the ridgeline and other end of the Crows Nest Campground loop. Turn left towards Chimney Rock and pass around the eastern side if the ridge before reaching the Chimney Rock intersection. Turn left for the short walk to Chimney Rock.
Mile 2.4 - Wolf Rock is a quartzite ledge that was deposited 550 million years ago, with the quartzite forming 250 million yeas ago. Since then the softer sediments above the quartzite have eroded leaving this spectacular feature. If you climb the Wolf Rock ridge and follow it to its northern end there are nice views of the Thurmont Valley below. From Wolf Rock continue along the trail and pass another intersection that leads to Park Central Rd. From this intersection it's 0.7 miles to the Thurmont Overlook.
Mile 3.4 - Leaving Thurmont Overlook the trail will head downhill for 0.4 miles to a 4-way intersection.
Mile 3.8 - Turn right following the signage to Hog Rock. The trail winds around the northern section of the mountain, then climbs before arriving at the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook.
Mile 4.6 - From the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook continue on the trail to the Hog Rock parking area on Park Central Rd in another 0.3 miles.
Mile 4.9 - From the Hog Rock parking area cross Park Central Rd towards Hog Rock. Pass one end of the Hog Rock Nature Loop, then shortly arrive at Hog Rock.
Mile 5.3 - From Hog Rock stay on the trail to the left that leads downhill towards Cunningham Falls (the trail just to the right is the terminus of the other end of the Hog Rock Nature loop). The trail becomes more steep and rocky then reaches the intersection of the Falls Nature Trail, and Foxville Rd MD77.
Mile 6.7 - Retrace your steps re-crossing Foxville Rd to the intersection of the Falls Nature Trail you just passed.
Mile 7.0 - Now turn right on the Falls Nature Trail and hike the remaining 1.4 miles back to the Visitor Center and parking area.
Mile 8.4 - Arrive back at the Visitor Center.
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Reviews For The Catoctin Mountain Park Hike (5 Most Recent)
We drove from DC and arrived at the parking lot at 8:15. I definitely recommend getting an early start because it was chock full upon our return at 12. This hike is a new favorite due to its beauty, geology, views, and proximity to DC. We hiked mostly alone for the first half, then started meeting more and more hikers as the day got later. If we do it again, we will probably turn back at Hog Rock because the first half is arguably more beautiful and rugged than the last half.
Date of Hike: Friday, January 20, 2017
Arrived around 10am to the visitor center. Parking wasn't an issue at that point. Plenty of spaces available. When we finished the lot was full so take that into account. The visitor center volunteer was very informative and explained the best trail to take. This particular day was misty and foggy so the sights of the trail were not seeable, but there was something about hiking this trail in the elements that made it fun. Hike took about 3.5 or 4 hours. Would like to do this hike again when the sights are seeable.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 16, 2016
I was not familiar with this park until reading about it on this site. Now I'm so glad I found it! What an absolute treasure and an incredible national park. The hike is the perfect combination of distance, scenery and elevation. I was there midweek during late fall and had pretty much the entire park to myself. Did not see any other person until near the waterfall at the end. I did it in a counterclockwise direction to spend more time exploring Chimney & Wolf rocks while still fresh. Saving the waterfall as the payoff near the end is also a nice bonus. The climbs were nice and steady, nothing I'd consider terribly steep at any point. Took 4.5 hours to complete the circuit, including a brief rest at the falls. Note the NPS is beginning to mark the trails with blazes, but at this point have only completed the project to near Wolf Rock. Despite lack of blazes, the trail is very well signed, wide and easy to follow. It would be very hard to get lost on this circuit. The views from the overlooks were not very good, quite overgrown, but the real highlight of this hike is the rock formations. It would be a very good idea to check in with the ranger station before beginning this hike, as it appears significant portions of the trail are closed upon short notice. Talking to the ranger afterward, the park gets essentially shut down when the president is using Camp David. You could find yourself a couple miles into the hike before being forced to turn around and go back down. On a brighter note, though, he pointed out that Obama hardly used the camp during his tenure and Trump does not appear to be much of outdoor kind of guy either. We're all hoping that the park will survive the next four years without being turned into casino under presidential order, or without any glass & steel monstrosity being built on top of the mountain! This hike is definitely one I'd like to repeat some day.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 10, 2015
This is my second time hiking at Catoctin. The trail was full and I would definitely recommend getting an early start if you want to find a parking spot. Leaves are starting to change with lots of yellow, gold, and some red. Did a ~4 mile loop. Trail seems to be in great shape and I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a nice hike!
Date of Hike: Friday, September 25, 2015
I hiked this on a Friday in late September and had the park virtually to myself. I enjoyed the multiple overlooks and did some rock scrambling on Chimney Rock. I accidently took a wrong turn and added a two mile down and back to Camp Airy (the trail is not on the Park Service map).
Pros: Multiple overlooks, well maintained trails, good signage. I have always enjoyed Cunningham Falls so that is a good way to top off a day in the woods.
Cons: Several portions of the trail are wide smooth gravel. I guess one personís Pro is anotherís Con. I thought it detracted from the natural experience. It seems funny that they donít blaze the trails to keep them more natural but are willing to truck in tons of gravel (note, the gravel tends to only be around the more popular places). The road noise off of 77 on the south side and 550 (to a lesser extent) on the north side was ever-present (mostly motorcycles). The hike between Cunningham Falls, the Visitor Center, and the Park HQ is within sight of the 77 which really detracted from the experience.