Saturday, July 4, 2015

Maryland - Catoctin National Park - Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock

National Park, website: Catoctin Mountain.

How to Get There

Catoctin National Park is free and there are a lot of great hiking trails.  If you're new to hiking and you live near Catoctin park, this is the place to start.  The Chimney Rock trail is a bit of a challenge.  Take U.S. 15 until you see the exit for highway 77 (near Thurmont).  If you follow the Catoctin National park and Cunningham Falls State park signs, you'll be heading in the right direction.  The park is West from U.S. 15.  You'll want to stop at the Catoctin Mountain park headquarters.  If you see the Visitor Center, you went too far (though you can hike from there if you want to take a longer hike).  These pictures were taken on August 28th, 2013.

If you hike this trail in the summer, be sure to bring water or drinks.  My wife and I hiked this trail with no back-pack and we were ready to kill for a drink of water before we reached the top.  This is the hike where we swore we would purchase a back-pack and get serious.  The total distance to Chimney Rock is 1 mile (one way).  If you continue to Wolf Rock, then you'll add 0.3 miles for a total of 1.3 miles one way.  The elevation change is what makes this hike a bit difficult.  If this is your first time hiking, you might want to try an easier trail first.  When we talked to the park ranger about this trail, she mentioned that they had an average of 5 carry-outs from this trail each year.  I suspect that most people get hurt at the lookout since it is so tempting to climb out on the rocks to get a better view.

The Trail

This trail is very scenic with an overlook that is breathtaking.  You'll leave the parking log and immediately start climbing up the 700 foot climb:

Looking back down the trail:

This trail levels out, then climbs more:

Some of the path gets steep and it turns it rock steps:

Eventually, you'll come to this sign:

Just keep going:

OK, this sign made me smile.  Just stay on the path and nobody will get hurt!

The path leads around to the left and then you'll see signs that point to the overlook.  This is the view you'll get:

On to Wolf Rock

At this point you're probably already tired.  Wolf rock is a straight walk from Chimney rock.  Not much change in elevation.  So it's a good idea to visit Wolf Rock now, while you've already expended the effort to climb the mountain.  

Here's what the trail looks like:

You'll come to some signs that point you in the right direction:

You can climb up the rocks and see over the top:

The sign that warned of deep crevices was not kidding;

So watch your footing.  Also, there have been rattlesnakes spotted in this area, so pay attention to where you walk and sit.

Wolf rock can also be reached from another parking lot that is closer.  There is still a climb that you'll need to make from that lot to Wolf Rock.

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