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:

http://mountaingatefamilyrestaurant.com/

Everything at this restaurant is comprised of down-home country cooking, which is good food and plenty of it.

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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  • Jennifer

    Great hike and great company. Thanks for organizing it, Bob!
    We should plan to do this again in the spring.

    November 5, 2012

  • Doris

    Another great hike...good food and deserts mmm! so good...so many. Thank you Bob for the time and effort to put this together

    November 4, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Really sorry I missed it. Great pictures

    November 4, 2012

  • Sheri R

    After all that exercise, the huge buffet was perfect. Another great hike with a very congenial group.

    November 3, 2012

  • Diana

    Great hike with a nice group of friendly people. it was a lovely way to spend the day.

    November 3, 2012

  • Cindy G

    Enjoyed another good time when hiking with Bob in the lead. Great group of people, enjoyed the weather and both Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock. Yummy buffet and good conversation followed.

    November 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Another great day for a hike! Thanks, Bob.

    November 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    This was a challenging hike, since we ventured out after the serious storm that hit the area. This was my fifth day with no power, and I really wanted to get out in the woods. The hiking trail head was blocked by a huge tree, and we head to negotiate it carefully as there were downed wires in the area. The hike was invigorating, and it was a beautiful day to be out in the mountains. And the meal at the Mountain Gate was a well-deserved repast after our hike. I think that some of us truly got their money's worth at that long buffet table...... We had a great group of people on this hike, and I thank everyone for their enjoyable and warm company.

    November 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great day for a hike and once again Bob did a fantastic job!

    November 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    So glad we had a small group - more interacting for all. Another awesome hike Bob!!!

    November 3, 2012

  • Cindy G

    On my way - running 15 min late

    November 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    In the next 24 hours, it will be coldest at 7 AM tomorrow. It will be above freezing, however, and remain clear. Please dress appropriately.

    November 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Please read the entire activity write-up. We are meeting at 8:30 AM at the Mountain Gate (not the Cozy Inn or the Roy Rogers or anywhere else) and then consolidating hikers in vehicles due to the limited parking at the trail head.

    November 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    is anyone driving from the dc area? i can meet by a metro? thanks

    November 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Folks - I am closing the event. If you cannot make it, please update your RSVP accordingly. Do not simply not show up or cancel right before the event is set to begin. Thank you.

    November 1, 2012

  • Pattie W.

    Anyone driving fm Chantilly/Fairfax area? Would love a ride.

    November 1, 2012

    • Sheri R

      I'll be coming from Fairfax/Chantilly too. Could meet anywhere also.

      November 1, 2012

    • Pattie W.

      Thanks Sheri. You might be closer to me then Ana and we could meet somewhere. Please email to setup something! [masked]

      November 1, 2012

  • Doug R.

    I live in Dunn Loing...

    November 1, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Driving from Annapolis area email me if you need a ride

    November 1, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    We have had a change in plans as well. I just cancelled 2 spots, hope someone can use them.

    November 1, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry plans have changed, I hope someone else can still go in my place.

    November 1, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    October 31, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I will update this activity in time, but know that as of this writing we are good to go. Please be advised that after the current storm it will be a calm and sunny day. Post-hurricane weather, paradoxically, is surprisingly good. Stay tuned, and, too, stay safe.

    October 29, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Woohoo!

    October 23, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi,
    I am a bit afraid of heights. Will part of this hike require hiking on ledges or very high bluffs?
    Thanks for clarifying!
    Kathy

    October 20, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      You do not have to go on the ledges or cliffs, and you can stay on the trails that lead to the Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock overlooks. That's where we congregate at the rest stops. You will be fine.

      October 20, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bob?I see several peeps have changed their RSVP to No- when will you open this up?

    October 11, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      Actually, it is "open" automatically, one person at a time, so that each time someone who was going, when that person changes the RSVP to not going then a waitlisted individual moves up the queue. If I can get the larger room at the restaurant, then I can increase the total number per se, but that last change is still in the works......

      October 12, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am thinking of doing the hike and meal on two separate occasions on two dates. The private dining room can only accommodate a certain number of folks. I will provide more information soon. But I am really happy that so many want to enjoy our beautiful outdoors.

    October 3, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      On a Saturday, please. :-)

      October 6, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is this trip going to open for more?

    October 3, 2012

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