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After decades of plundering Catoctin Mountain for its ore, mining companies sold the land to the state of Maryland in the early 1930s, which promptly turned into a park. Under President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) descended upon the park and built cabins and lean-tos, blazed trails, paved roads, and constructed bridges. They also replanted tens of thousands of trees. Catoctin Mountain Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its significant mining history, which played a large role in growing the nearby towns, and the buildings constructed by CCC, which are still in good condition today.
Contained within Catoctin Mountain Park is Camp David, which was one of the original campgrounds created by CCC. Camp David is best known as being a preferred retreat for several United States Presidents.
Though there are a handful of towns around Catoctin Mountain Park, the closest large town is Hagerstown, MD, which is about 15 miles to the west. In addition to a variety of dining and shopping options, Hagerstown has the closest hospital with an emergency room. Nicknamed “Hub City,” Hagerstown is located at the nexus of several interstate highways and train tracks. Search for an RV in Washington County, MD, and prepare to embark on an RV camping trip of a lifetime.
Once stripped bare of trees, Catoctin Mountain Park has been nearly restored to its former glory. A little over 6,000 acres are blanketed by a mix of oak, hickory, maple, and tulip poplar trees. The second-growth forest is relatively young and is expected to hit its ‘peak’ growth condition in 2070 or so. A little over 25 miles of soft, brown trails wind and weave through the growing forest, past fresh, bright meadows, and over babbling streams. Catoctin National Recreation Trails adds 27 miles to that tally, following the ridgetop of Blue Ridge Mountains.
Fishing is practically a national pastime in Maryland, second to baseball. Many fishermen enjoy wading out into one of the dozen streams that course through Catoctin Mountain Park for an idle day of fly fishing. Anglers can expect to catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Note that some streams are strictly catch-and-release, and violations can carry a hefty fine.
When winter rolls around, the fun doesn’t stop. Although Maryland isn’t known for getting snow, it does usually get a few inches each winter. When there is sufficient snow, the trails are opened up to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Although any trails can be used, skiers should be aware that these trails won’t be groomed. Certain trails are rocky and may require skiers to walk around to avoid damaging their skis.
Once devoid of wildlife, these hills now teem with animals. Though deer and small-game critters like rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons are the most common, bobcats, black bears, and even coyotes have been sighted. Bring a camera.
Catoctin Mountain RV campground is a smaller one with around 30 sites. Because of the tight turns, trailers longer than 22 feet and RVs bigger than 30 feet are discouraged. There are no hookups. However, the campground does have restrooms with flush toilets and showers. There are faucets with drinking water, too. All RV sites have picnic tables and fire rings. Reservations are highly recommended.
If space runs out, which does happen on occasion, RV camp at Cunningham Falls State Park at one of the two campgrounds, which is adjacent to Catoctin Mountain Park. William Houck Campground has 33 sites with electric hookups and an additional 106 primitive sites. The other campground is smaller, with only ten sites with electric hookups and 21 that are primitive. Both campgrounds are open between April and October. Reservations are likewise recommended.
Though it’s tempting - and certainly easy - to hop into a rental motorhome and head down to Washington, D.C. to explore the nation’s capital, don’t overlook the charms and unique flavor of the small towns that dot northern Maryland. Thurmont, MD, has several attractions, including a mainstay apple orchard, Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, which dishes up old-fashioned country meals, and Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo. The small-but-mighty zoo houses over 600 animals, many of which are endangered. What sets this zoo apart from others is visitors can interact with a wide variety of animals, including chinchillas, lemurs, and alligators.
In addition to abundant farms and orchards, this part of Maryland also is considered a wine country. Grapevines thrive in the rich, nutritious soil, and several wineries have flourished in the past few decades. The Springfield Manor Winery near Lewistown features several award-winning boutique wine varietals, and it has expanded its operations to include an on-site distillery that was voted Frederick’s Favorite in 2015. The Springfield Manor Lavender Gin seized the coveted double-gold best of class in the 2017 San Francisco Spirit Competition.
At the end of a long day of exploring and hiking, kick up your heels outside a travel trailer rental. Watch the stars appear in the night sky and enjoy your perfect RV camping adventure in Maryland.