Never heard of Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland? Don’t feel bad – we hadn’t either. In fact, when we went, we couldn’t figure out why it was a National Park site and not just a state park. The reason is simple. Camp David is inside Catoctin Mountain Park. Where inside? That is a need-to-know question. We didn’t need to know and the park rangers weren’t going to tell us.
Catoctin Mountain Park is a beautiful park. When you are hiking, you feel like you might be in the Smoky Mountains. We started our visit at the Visitors Center and learned about the miles of hiking in the park. Most of the time the park is open for all kinds of recreational activities.
We also talked to the ranger about Camp David. He said that if the President is in residence at Camp David, the park is closed. The rest of the time there are restrictions on where you can visit, but they are passive barriers. For instance, the trails curl around to miss Camp David but you don’t notice that they are deliberately turning. There are a few places that, if you wander in accidentally, you will be met by Secret Service officers. One road, marked on Google Earth as a through street, is a “dead end.” We backed up and turned around when we met two men in a black SUV.
We took two beautiful hikes in Catoctin Mountain Park. The first was the Hog Rock Nature Trail. Hog Rock was a favorite location for pigs to graze, not a rock that looks like a hog. We also hiked to the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook. The woods around us was replanted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. Before that, the mountain was almost completely deforested for farming. Cunningham Falls State Park borders Catoctin Mountain Park.
We enjoyed hiking at Catoctin Mountain Park and learning more about the area. It is a beautiful, relaxing place to spend a day or a week. As long as the President isn’t coming.