Things To Do In Northern Frederick County
Established around Catoctin Mountain, northern Frederick County offers many tasteful ingredients for a relaxing getaway. Discover incredible hiking, Maryland's tallest cascading waterfall, and enjoy the charms of the countryside and historic Main Streets.
Anywhere you go in Frederick County, you’ll find yourself in close proximity to Catoctin Mountain. This ridgeline, running from Virginia at the south to near Emmitsburg, in Frederick County, is the easternmost mountain in the Appalachians. And with it comes many opportunities to get out and explore the outdoors.
On the mountain west of Thurmont, you’ll find two parks that provide opportunities to explore the mountainous terrain. Managed by the National Park Service, Catoctin Mountain Park preserves 5,770 acres of forest-land that’s great for hiking. Rocky outcroppings like Chimney Rock provide overlooks for the hiker looking for the perfect view. Historic cabins are also available for rent, as well as tent camping sites on the west side of the park.
Chimney Rock provides an incredible view of Frederick County, especially when the leaves change in the fall.
On the south side of Maryland Route 77 in the same mountainous landscape, the Maryland State Park Service operates Cunningham Falls State Park. The namesake falls are the tallest cascading waterfall in the State of Maryland. At 78 feet tall, this waterfall is worth the short hike from the parking area at the William Houck Area of the park.
Cunningham Falls State Park also contains Hunting Creek Reservoir, a spot for fishing and boating. The park is a backdrop to one of Frederick County’s most popular events each March - the Maple Syrup Festival.
Running through both Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park is the Catoctin National Recreation Trail. This 26.6-mile-long trail connects with Gambrill State Park near the City of Frederick and is perfect for those looking for a longer, challenging hike.
Northern Frederick County is a region home to centuries of fascinating history, from the fires of the iron industry to the darkest days of the Civil War to rich Catholic heritage and much more.
In 1776, Catoctin Furnace went into blast and among their earliest products were cannonballs for George Washington’s Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. Despite making weapons in the American fight for liberty, the earliest decades of Catoctin Furnace used enslaved labor. The stories of the workers who kept the furnace in operation from 1776 to 1903, enslaved and free, are told at the Museum of Ironworker in the historic village near Thurmont.
Included in the Museum of the Ironworker exhibits are the life-like facial reconstructions of two African Americans who toiled at Catoctin Furnace
Frederick County sits just below the Mason-Dixon Line and in the summer of 1863, this region saw the tramp of the United States Army on the march as the Civil War raged. The Union’s Army of the Potomac marched through Thurmont (then known as Mechanicstown) and Emmitsburg during its pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army to the nearby Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. You can trace the march route of the armies by following Maryland’s Civil War Trails sites throughout northern Frederick County.
In the heat of the summer of 1863, Union soldiers marched through Frederick County on their way to the Battle of Gettysburg
In 1809, a widow named Elizabeth Ann Seton moved to northern Frederick County to found the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first community for religious women established in the United States. Seton became an advocate for Catholic education at her St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School in Emmitsburg. More than a century and a half later, in 1975, Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized as the first American-born saint. You can learn her story at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
You’ll immediately notice when traveling through northern Frederick County that this is a land rich with agricultural heritage. In fact, agriculture remains one of the region’s most important economic products.
Taste the bounty of the land at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard near Thurmont. This winery is situated in the rolling hills at the foot of Catoctin Mountain, providing sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Enjoy a tasting experience (21+ only) with music and food trucks on weekends and watch the sunset over the mountain.
Want something unique to Frederick County? Springfield Manor is home to Maryland's only winery, brewery, and distillery located in one location. This historic home is also a great event venue and home to an annual Lavender Festival that draws thousands of people each year. You can also stay the night at this property!
Looking to sit down and enjoy a meal during your visit to the region? Try the Carriage House Inn in Emmitsburg. Established in 1998, this restaurant serves classic American fare served up in a restored building that dates back to 1857.
Enjoy these other dining options:
No visit to northern Frederick County is complete until you make a stop at Catoctin Mountain Orchard, a mainstay in the region for many decades. This orchard and farm market provides the opportunity to pick fresh fruit and walk among the orchards that reach up the slopes of Catoctin Mountain. Visit in the fall to watch the mountains turn from green to oranges and reds and take a picture with their famed pumpkin pyramid. Don’t forget to grab some fresh baked goods from the market as well.
Speaking of fall, autumn is a perfect time to experience Frederick County’s fall festivals. One of the largest is Magnolia Meadow Farms, with lots of great family activities and including Maryland’s largest corn maze.
Take a walk on the wild side through the grounds of Catoctin Wildlife Preserve near Thurmont. Get the whole family together to spot animals from all over the world, including lynx, lemurs, wolves, dingoes, and more. Enjoy a safari ride and don’t miss the chance for special opportunities to feed the animals as well.
Northern Frederick County offers opportunities for unique overnight stays so you can enjoy more time in the region.
Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort has luxury log cabins that contain all the modern comforts of home while still providing a secluded retreat, creating the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. You’ll find Ole Mink Farm atop Catoctin Mountain, with close proximity to outdoor activities at Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park.
Spend the night in a historical setting at the Forgeman’s House at Catoctin Furnace. This restored 1820s home in the village of Catoctin Furnace has three bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and bathrooms - the perfect blend of historical charm and modern convenience. All proceeds from overnight stays go directly to support the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Camp Misty Mount has been bringing family and friends together for rustic mountain cabin camping in Catoctin Mountain Park since 1937. The cabins were constructed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and have been favorites in this national park ever since.
Looking for another place to stay? Use our “Places to Stay” guide to help find the perfect overnight accommodations for you in Frederick County!
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