Catoctin Mountain Hike & Buffet Lunch at the Mountain Gate Restaurant


Since this is such a popular hiking location in the fall, due to the spectacular views, we have to get to the parking lot and the trail head early.  So, prepare the day before the hike, come to the meeting place early, have a cup of coffee, and let's head up the mountains safely and in a relaxed manner.

 

 

At our last hike, we were very careful to stay on the trail - wherever it was

 

 

 

 

You are most welcome to bring your pet, but you may not allow your dog to run free and it must remain on a leash that is six feet or less at all times for the safety and well-being of the pet.  There have been several rabid animals identified in the forest, and this is the prime reason for this requirement - it is also the law.

The address of the Mountain Gate is 133 Frederick Road, Thurmont, Maryland.  Here is the web site for the restaurant and meeting point:

http://mountaingatefamilyrestaurant.com/

Everything at this restaurant is comprised of down-home country cooking, which is good food and plenty of it.  The cost is $18 and it is all you can eat - you will definitely get your money's worth.

Directions to the Mountain Gate restaurant (133 Frederick Road, Thurmont, MD):

From Washington, D.C. take Route 270 North to Frederick, MD.

Then take Route 15 North towards Thurmont, MD.

Make sure that you pass the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo.

Take the exit for Route 806 (Thurmont) and the sign will read: "806 Catoctin Furnace Rd. To Frederick Rd. Thurmont" where you are to exit.

Turn at the 1st Right on Thurmont Blvd (There will be a green sign in front of you that will point you towards Thurmont).

Turn at the 1st Left on Frederick Road which is also Route 806 (Catoctin Furnace will be on the right side).

The Mountain Gate restaurant will be on your left (Make sure that you park in the Mountain Gate restaurant and not in the Cozy restaurant).


This will be an autumn hike, so hikers should dress accordingly.  Please read the entire activity write-up, and read the documents located by way of the links within the narrative.

It is requested that attendees post a profile photo, so that we know who you are, and we can look for you at the event.  This event is appropriate for all ages, and members may bring guests and young'uns.

We are meeting at 8:30 AM in the parking lot of the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, consolidating cars for carpooling, leaving for the trail head at 8:45 AM, and then beginning the hike at 9 AM.  There is no admission fee to the national park.

This activity is appropriate for folks of all ages and hiking abilities, provided they can walk unassisted for 4 miles in an outdoor, mountainous setting.  No special equipment is needed; waterproof hiking boots or mountain shoes or running shoes are okay.

The mountain's name is derived from the Kittoctons, an American Indian tribe, which once lived between the mountain and the Potomac River.  It means "a place of many deer."

 

 

 

 

Our meeting place in Thurmont

 

 

 

 

At the trail head, we will start our walk at elevation 840 feet, by the Catoctin Mountain National Park Service Headquarters (do not enter that facility, as it is the Superintendent's home).  There are no public rest room facilities right there, or along the trail, as it is the wilderness, so please plan accordingly.  Some of our members on past hikes found that bringing zip lock bags with baby wipes were convenient, if the need exists.  So, stop along the way to the meeting location if you are shy about using nature.  During the hike, though, your shyness will have to be dissipated.  Regarding the climb, Wolf Rock's elevation is 1401 feet, and Chimney Rock's elevation is 1419 feet.  Accordingly, since we will start at 840 feet, the total extended elevation climb for our entire walk is solely 579 feet.

The pictures shown below are from the same hike that our group did in the past, and they can provide our members an idea of what it is like up here and what folks wore on the trail.

 

 

At the base of the mountain, our adventurers definitely seemed ready for the challenge ahead

 

 

 

When we got to Chimney Rock, we could see the mountain range for many miles.  Will we will have an early snowfall this year?

 

 

 

 

At the crossroads of several trails, we were still doing well

 

 

 

 

 

Some have to buy their coats while others have natural coats

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city slickers wondered why this was called copperhead crevice

 

 

 

 

 

The colder it gets up here, the happier the hikers seem to be

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, the crevices were quite deep, and one could even see Pennsylvania beyond the mountains

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone made it safely to Chimney Rock at this hike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each hiker likes to lay a claim to a personal rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very large boulders, though, they can be shared

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditating on the buffet meal is a definite driving force for us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will be just Southeast of Camp David, and we will stay on the trail, or else we will be greeted by well-armed strangers

 

 

 

In the cold mountains, the air is fresh and clean; one feels reinvigorated, and can get healed up here.

As noted, children are welcome, but must be kept under supervision at all times.  Pets are welcome on the hike, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.

Be aware that the trails may be treacherous and slippery, which is why we do not rush on our hikes.

This will be an up-and-back loop hike.  Remember that off season hiking demands twice the energy as fair weather hiking; that is, one mile in the cold with wet terrain equals two miles in the warmth with dry terrain.

Yes, the area is serene and resplendent as well as remote in its wild nature.  However, allow me to say this, so that there is no misunderstanding later on.  Our entire hike will take place on Federal property.  We will be east of Camp David (i.e., the Presidential Retreat, originally called Shangri-la, which is actually a US Navy installation), and south of Area "R" (i.e., Raven Rock, otherwise known as the Alternate National Military Command Center, or the "Backup Pentagon").  Of course, since the sensitive facilities are all in an underground complex, it will not be visible.  The perimeters therein are nonetheless prohibited locations.  It is therefore important that none of us venture in areas that are off-limits.  Accordingly, we will stay on the trail, so that no stray sheep become part of a Federal catch and release program.  This is one of the few parks where riflemen are trained to shoot people.

There are no parking fees, and no park entrance charges, and no costs whatsoever in the park.  Your only cost will be in gas for the trip and for food at the restaurant.

Here is what our hike will consist of.  The walking will start on the trail head at 9 AM, so all will need to arrive before that time, as the parking lot fills quickly.  If you miss the 8:30 AM meeting, you will have to somehow catchup.  We will do a 4-mile loop to the mountainous outlooks, and visit two of the most well known and most scenic rock formations in the entire national park, Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock.  While the initial ascent is classified as "the most strenuous, narrow, steep, and slippery trail" in the park, and it is "very difficult to identify without a map and compass," we will be okay.  Regarding the ascent, if you can walk up several flights of stairs, you will do just fine.  The park rangers tell visitors that a compass and map is strongly advised, as so many get lost there, so this hike will test our trail tracking skills.  We will keep our eyes open to ascertain where the trail is.  The views are stupendous in the Catoctin Mountain, which is the easternmost mountain ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and which in turn is a part of the Appalachian Mountain Range.

As well as having radio contact capability with the park rangers, we will have at least one first responder with us trained in first aid and CPR.

And after the hike, we will enjoy a well-deserved repast, and eat to our heart's content at this excellent family restaurant.

When you RSVP, make sure you answer the corollary question that will magically appear asking you if you want to eat the buffet lunch after the hike so that I know what size room to reserve on that day.

 

 

 

At the Mountain Gate, we will share stories that you don't read about in booksl

 

 

 

Please note that we're giving ourselves three hours for a four mile walk, and it includes extended breaks at two overlooks.  No one will be left behind, as we will have a sweep and be in radio contact at all times.  The activity is dependent on safe weather, as hiker safety is the top priority.  If the event is canceled due to inclement weather, all will get an email the evening before, no later than 9 PM.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at any time.

Based on what we have learned from prior winter activities, we have made a document for our hikers that can be life-saving during the cold weather season, and it lists sensible clothing to wear in the winter:

Letter to Hikers - Winter Hiking Gear - What to Bring and Wear

As is true on all our outdoor hiking and kayaking activities, no smoking, no alcohol, and no illicit drugs.  It is quite rude for a group to be walking single file with one person smoking away thus having everyone behind him coughing and wheezing.

This document contains a map of the area:

Catoctin Mountain Park Map

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Great day, great hike, well planned, great company and food.

    October 28, 2013

  • Bob

    It was a beautiful autumn day. A bit chilly in the morning, but then it warmed up. We got to the designated meeting place, and quickly consolidated vehicles to get to the trail head before other groups got there; in fact, we took every single spot on the Federal parking lot in front of the Park Superintendent's house. We had an invigorating walk to Wolf Rock and to Chimney Rock. We got some excellent pictures from the lookouts. I was surprised to see my boss hiking with his wife and kids (and dog), as we ran into them when we departed Chimney Rock, but it was good to know that he enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. After our hike, we headed to the Mountain Gate restaurant, and did some serious eating. I wish that every fall and winter day was as fantastic as today was. It was a great group of people on our hike (and at the buffet).

    October 27, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      LOL on seeing you boss up @Chimney Rock. I guess that means you can't call in sick on Monday :). Seriously, thanks for coordinating and giving the group super-specific (!!) instructions. The weather, the trail, the views and the dessert buffet (!) were all awesome. Great way to have spent the Sunday!

      October 28, 2013

  • Bruce S

    Great group of folks and a beautiful day for the hike.

    October 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    thank you for coordinating such a great hike Bob!

    October 27, 2013

  • Linda L.

    You hit another one out of the ballpark Bob! Beautiful weather, great hike, lots of fun people! And the FOOD, oh my the FOOD!!

    October 27, 2013

  • Sonja

    Excellent day for a fall hike! Great group of hikers and wonderful fall foliage.

    October 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Had a great time. Thanks for organizing it, Bob!

    October 27, 2013

  • Ellen

    Thanks Bob for another terrific hike and lunch! I am getting better acquainted with the DMV area with your help on the outdoorsy side of things :)

    1 · October 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    A great day for a hike! Thanks, Bob, for setting this up.

    October 27, 2013

  • David

    I will be driving up from Ashburn, either in my Miata or Jeep. I can offer a ride to one person, both vehicles are only two seaters.

    October 23, 2013

    • David

      My cell is. [masked]

      October 26, 2013

    • Ellen

      That works!

      October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    I added the detailed directions in the activity narrative. Do not speed on the way up here. Leave early on Saturday and go to the Mountain Gate with slack time (it opens at 5 AM).

    October 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry, got the date wrong. Thinking it was a week away. Have plans tomorrow.

    October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    There will be no precipitation tomorrow, but on our meeting time it will be 31 degrees. It will go to a high of 38 degrees during the day. This is the real-feel temperature. Please dress warmly and comfortably.

    October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    I closed this event to solidify the attendee list. Write to me offline if any new members are interested in attending.

    October 26, 2013

  • Karen

    My apologies for the late cancellation. I should have anticipated the icy conditions and don't want to chance another injury. Hope to catch up with the group at another event.

    October 26, 2013

    • Bob

      Based on the current weather models, it is safest for you to wait until May for any outdoor events when NWS predicts with any degree of solid certainty that the roads would be clear...... And then after one month Hurricane Season begins, so you have a 30-day window of opportunity.

      October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    Remember that we are meeting at the large Mountain Gate restaurant parking lot, and not at the trail head. We will consolidate people in vehicles at the Mountain Gate and then drive to the trail head. And the small parking lots at the trail head are now clear.

    October 26, 2013

  • Suzann D

    Anyone interested in carpooling from Centreville or the Vienna Metro?

    October 23, 2013

    • Suzann D

      Ron, I can't go. Sorry! It would have been fun to carpool. Next time!

      1 · October 25, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks, Suzann!

      October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    Folks - It is now ice-covered up here. And it is thoroughly beautiful. My calendar says it is autumn, but Mother Nature passes through time the way she wishes to, unheeding to man's demands. Please read the link entitled "Letter To Hikers" for some ideas on gear.

    October 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just signed up. I think this will be my first meet up with your group. Looking forward to the hike!!

    October 26, 2013

    • Bob

      Welcome to our group. Make sure you read the entire activity narrative - and the helpful links as well.

      October 26, 2013

  • Bob

    Folks - The Mountain Gate restaurant opens at 5 AM if you want to get coffee or use the bathroom. We are meeting at 8:30 AM in the farther parking lot in front of the restaurant.

    October 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am driving up from F'burg VA and will be happy to carpool/pick up on the way. let me know.

    October 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    What level of difficulty is this hike?

    August 21, 2013

    • Bob

      Moderate on the hiking scale, challenging on the rock balancing scale, with an incline elevation of 579 feet that has to be negotiated twice.

      August 21, 2013

    • Bob

      It is an up-and-back hike, at two scenic outlooks. One could stay at the fist scenic outlook and wait for the main group to return from the final scenic outlook.

      October 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ugh, I've always wanted to hike in this park but looks like I have to be up in the Philly area for the weekend so changing my RSVP to no to free up a space for someone on the waiting list. Have a great time everyone! FYI: Mt Gate and Cozy are fun stops on the way to/from Liberty as well.

    October 24, 2013

  • Doris

    Sorry can't go..need to play with grand kids :)

    October 23, 2013

  • Christine M.

    Behind on school project and need the time to work.

    October 23, 2013

  • Elise

    Had a change in my plans for Sunday, everyone have a good time.

    October 23, 2013

  • Gail D

    I am so sorry not to be able to join this hike. This one is beautiful!! I got a class III sprain yesterday and it wi be weeks of healing. I hope that everyone has a wonderful time !!

    October 20, 2013

    • Bob

      Please take care of yourself and you will be able to join us on a future adventure.

      October 20, 2013

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