Camp at the Adirondack Shelters in Catoctin Mountain Park

Camp at the Adirondack Shelters in Catoctin Mountain Park

Rate this Adventure Camp Round Meadow

Distance

4 Miles

Elevation Gain

1200 Feet

Activities

Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Intermediate

Season

Year Round

Type

Out-and-Back

Added by

Ashley Stimpson

Forest
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Escape boring ol' car camping with a challenging 4-mile hike to an Adirondack shelter, buried deep in the park's wilder, less crowded western edge.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Maryland is an ideal place to live. Between the mountains and the Bay--and the rivers, bike paths, and trails along the way--we couldn't ask for much more. But if we were feeling greedy, we would probably ask for additional backpacking options, right? Of course, there are the state forests out west, and Pennsylvania and Virginia are close enough destinations. But for a state as beautiful as ours, it would be great to have another way to get out--and stay out--in it. 

Catoctin Mountain Park saves the day. The popular spot, run by the National Park Service, has built two Adirondack shelters (much like the ones you'll find on the AT) deep in the backcountry of the park. These cost a measly reservation fee and seem to be only sporadically booked. Accessing the shelters requires a moderately difficult hike in, but takes you to the western edge of the park, away from the madness that surrounds Chimney and Wolf Rocks. 

I was advised by a ranger to park overnight in the Camp Round Meadow lot, but that checking in for a permit was not required. From the lot, take the Brown's Farm trail to the Owen's Creek picnic area. Once in the picnic area, head toward the road (Foxfield-Deerfield Rd.) and turn right. In about 100 yards, you'll veer left onto a horse trail, narrowly skirting the Owen's Creek campground. 

From here the trail crawls uphill. The climbs are gradual and there was ample water along the way (in late July). The horse trail merges with the Catoctin Scenic Trail briefly before diverging for one last push to the shelters. We encountered no other hikers in the backcountry on a Saturday in the summer. Depending on which trails you choose, the hike is 3.5-4 miles long. 

The shelters themselves are set back on a lush hilltop beneath enormous trees among endless undergrowth. They are far enough apart that your neighbor would have to throw down pretty hard to bother you--but they're close enough that if you go with friends, you can at least spy each other across the way. The structures are sound and kept us dry through a night of torrential rains. A fire ring and pit toilet are nearby if you need them. A small creek runs just behind shelter #2 to filter drinking water and clean your gear. You cannot camp in these shelters without making a reservation online or in person at the ranger station.

While not quite a Homeric adventure, this backpacking excursion is a great way to test out new gear or get in shape. And for those of us Marylanders who crave nearby backpacking, Catoctin Mountain is a Free State miracle.  

Community Photos

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Nearby Lodging

From $133/night

Liberty Hill Camp

Aspers, Pennsylvania

From $120/night

Sky High Estate

Herndon, Pennsylvania

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Distance

4 Miles

Elevation Gain

1200 Feet

Activities

Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Intermediate

Season

Year Round

Type

Out-and-Back

Added by

Ashley Stimpson

Nearby Adventures

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Hike to Cunningham Falls

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Hike the Cunningham Falls Lower Trail

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Hike the Catoctin Mountain Extended Loop Trail

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Hike the Old Misery Trail to Cat Rock

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