Location: Thurmont, Maryland
Webpage: National Park
General Description: After being used to supply firewood to operate numerous iron furnaces in the area since the mid 1700s, the wooded mountains that make up the over 6,000 acres of Catoctin Mountain National Park was purchased by the federal government in 1935. Due to its close proximity to Baltimore and Washington D.C., this land was selected for the creation of the Catoctin Recreational Area during the Great Depression as a recreational demonstration area. Construction of roads and camps were carried out by the CCC and WPA workers. One of these camps eventually became Camp David in 1942 as a location close to D.C. that President Franklin D. Roosevelt could use to escape the summer heat. It has been used as a Presidential retreat since then and this part of the park is closed to the public. In 1954, the Recreation Demonstration Area was divided into two parts, approximately half becoming the Cunningham Falls State Park and the other half Catoctin Mountain National Park. Today the National Park has miles of mountain trails for hiking, clear streams and waterfalls for viewing, campgrounds for staying overnight, and clean air and vistas that can be enjoyed by everyone throughout the year.
1) The Visitor Center is just a small cabin with information about the hiking trails and a small souvenir shop. It was interesting to find out the walls in the Visitor Center are paneled with Chestnut wood, which was once the dominant tree in the mountains but is now gone due to the Chestnut blight.
2) The road to the campground was closed while we were there for some unknown reason which limited access to only those trails at the Visitor Center. There is one very steep trail that heads up the mountain, which was out of the question. This left only the moderate trail that parallels the highway and descends to Cunningham Falls, which is actually in the State Park. The trail goes up and down the side of the mountain as it winds it way down to the falls. Since it is going to the falls, I expected a hike that would be along the stream, however, it follows the highway. It is placed up the hillside from the highway so for the most part you cannot see the cars, however, hearing them is no problem at all, especially the motorcycles zooming up the winding road. Once we got to the falls, it was worth it. I suspect there is a trail in the State Park that does follow the stream to the falls since there is a separate boardwalk to the falls that does not connect with the trail from the National Park, even though they are separated by only 50 feet!