Nestled an approximate 90 minute, northwesterly drive from DC, Catoctin Mountain Park located just outside of Thurmont, MD, is a great spot for a day trip or the perfect location for a weekend getaway from the district’s hubbub.
I’ve long had Catoctin on my radar since moving the DC, in fact visiting the national park is one of my New Year’s resolutions. And while I wouldn’t consider now the perfect time to visit the park, I’m of the spring/summertime hiking ilk, the park is definitely still opened to hikers, drivers and visitors, although you should check the park’s website prior heading out for closure updates, and is well worth the effort.
The park’s grounds offer extensive natural resources and a variety of recreational opportunities (rock climbing, hiking, wildlife watching, etc.,) while its cultural resources (Native American artifacts, relics of the coal and iron industry, etc.) provide fantastic learning experiences of our nation’s history.
If you choose to visit Catoctin in the spring, there are a variety of overnight accomodation options. Within the park boundaries, you’ll find a selection of campgrounds and there’s even the year round option of spending the night in Adirondack Shelters. Be sure to bring a subzero sleeping bag and check if you can/should make reservations ahead of time.
Additionally, three historic lodges are available for larger groups. Camp Greentop, built in 1937, was a project of the Works Progress Administration created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and helped give local people a chance to rebuild their lives after the Great Depression. The Misty Mount lodge, also built in 1937, served as one of the earliest camps for people with disabilities and The League for People with Disabilities continues to use the Catoctin facilities to this day. Catoctin’s association with the WPA and Civil Conservation Corp, and the still in tact efforts of this labor is a reminder of the potnetial of youth programs like the Boy and Girl Scouts.
Interesting fact: Catoctin Mountain is home to 4 different types of squirrels: the large Fox Squirrel, the most common Grey Squirrel, the vocal Red Squirrel and the Flying Squirrel.
Of additional importance is that Camp David, named after Roosevelt’s President Eisenhower’s grandson, is located within the park’s boundaries and the park service works tirelessly to keep the area protected and secluded from the public park.
All in all, Catoctin is a gem of trip and we are truly lucky to have it located within such close range.