Catoctin Mountain Park: A user's guide
This Maryland park houses Camp David, the famous presidential retreat, but you're more likely to see whitetail deer and black bears than a president.
Thu, Aug 25 2011 at 9:22 AM
D.C. GETAWAY: Catoctin Mountain offers 25 miles of hiking trails and plenty of ways to get away from it all. (Photo: alykat/Flickr
It’s a short helicopter hop from Washington, D.C., to Catoctin Mountain Park, which is something you’re looking for when you’re in need of a presidential weekend retreat. The park in Maryland contains Camp David, a refuge of presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Trout streams and trails lace Catoctin Mountain Park, and while you can’t play with the president, you’ll be in the neighborhood.
And while it’s not as nice as Camp David, Camp Misty Mount offers more than two dozen rustic wood and stone cabins for camping. Central bathhouses provide showers, flush toilets and a place to wash your dishes.
Catoctin Mountain Park is the product of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, two jobs programs championed by Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The government programs turned clear-cut forests and marginal farmland into a recreational area, planting thousands of trees and building cottages and lodges.
In 1942, Catoctin became home to Roosevelt’s private retreat, Shangri-la, now called Camp David.
Things to do
There are 25 miles of hiking trails in Catoctin Mountain Park, including a portion of the 26.6-mile Catoctin Trail that passes through the park as it traverses the eastern-most ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Maryland.
Brown’s Farm Trail is a short, easy trail that starts at the Owens Creek Picnic Area and ambles for nearly half a mile through wetlands, a pine grove, Brown’s Farm ruins, an eastern hardwood forest and across a mountain stream.
You can get your cowboy on riding the aptly named Horse Trail, a 7.2-mile path open to equestrians and hikers.
Big Hunting Creek harbors spawning populations of brook, brown, and rainbow trout and is Maryland’s first catch-and-release trout stream. Anglers can keep what they catch when fishing Owens Creek.
When winter dumps a few inches of snow in the park, roads that are closed to vehicular traffic are used by cross-country skiers.
Why you’ll want to come back
Just on the other side of state Route 77 is Cunningham Falls State Park (at right), named for an impressive 78-foot waterfall — the largest in the state.
Flora and fauna
The woodlands of Catoctin Mountain Park are home to whitetail deer, black bears, coyotes, skunks, squirrels, raccoons and red fox.
More than 200 species of birds are found in the park, including wild turkey, red-eyed vireo, scarlet tanager, wood thrush, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker and red-bellied woodpecker.
By the numbers:
- Website: Catoctin Mountain Park
- Park size: 5,810 acres
- 2010 visitation: 385,745
- Funky fact: Visitors are allowed to collect morel mushrooms from the park for personal consumption.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.
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