5 Fantastic Hiking Trails in Frederick, MD (+ Nearby!)

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Are you looking for the best hiking trails in Frederick, Maryland (and nearby)? This guide covers some of the top opportunities for hiking in Frederick, MD, including ones for all skill levels!

Did I miss any of the best Frederick, Maryland hiking trails? Let me know in the comments!

🥾 ABOUT THIS GUIDE: This guide was co-written by Megan here at Virginia Travel Tips and Nicole VanLandingham (and her husband, Glenn). They run a Frederick travel site and are experts in the area. Nicole is also an avid hiker and takes advantage of local trails when she can.

I moved to Frederick, Maryland, from Alberta, Canada. If you’ve ever been to Alberta, you know that the Canadian Rocky Mountains are home to some of the world’s best and most beautiful hikes. That’s not what this article is about.

As a passionate day hiker and summit chaser, the first thing I did once I unpacked my meager belongings was look to the internet to see where I could get out and do some hiking in the Frederick area.

Sugarloaf Mountain has some of the best hiking trails near Frederick, MD
Sugarloaf Mountain has some of the best hiking trails near Frederick, MD

My favorite hikes are typically around 4.5 or 10 miles (7 to 15 kilometers).

Most of what I found in the Frederick area is on the shorter side, unless, of course, you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, which runs for 40 miles in Maryland. One of the hikes below is on the Appalachian Trail.

Below are some of my favorite hikes around Frederick, in no particular order.

Best Hiking Trails in Frederick, MD (and Nearby)

1. Annapolis Rock via Appalachian Trail

Distance: about 5 miles (8 kilometers)
Type of Trail: out and back
Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
Parking: paved Lot

The Annapolis Rock Hike is pretty in all seasons. All the uphill is in the first mile, and because it’s on the Appalachian Trail, it’s well-maintained. It’s also usually busy, so you might not find solitude here.

The star of the show is the rock, which is on a little downhill spur past the Annapolis Rock hiker campground and provides breathtaking views west and south. It is a fantastic place for a picnic (or a summit beer!).

Annapolis Rock
Annapolis Rock

As you look south across I-70, you can see Greenbrier Lake in Greenbrier State Park, another great Maryland spot for camping, and easy hiking and biking trails.

It’s also a beautiful place to catch a sunset, but that requires you to hike quickly back to the parking lot to beat nightfall. Alternatively, check out the sunset at Gambrill State Park, where the lookout is only 100 yards (about 91 meters) from your car.

Why It’s a Favorite: That View

2. Cunningham Falls Upper Trail

Distance: about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers)
Type of Trail: Out and back with a loop
Difficulty: Easy
Parking: a paved lot

I work not far from Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park, so this is one where I can leave work and be in the parking lot in under 10 minutes.

That’s not why I love this hike. Despite being in a popular park, it’s super peaceful, and most people visiting to view the waterfall take the short trail off MD Route 77, so the Upper Trail doesn’t get too crowded.

Cunningham Falls
Cunningham Falls

While I love this trail for the beautiful falls, the park has great trail connectivity, so you can do this trail and combine it with other trails to add variety.

After hiking the Upper Trail, you can cross Route 77 and add another 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) on the Cunningham Falls Nature Trail.

Or take a short drive to the Catoctin Mountain Park parking lot and do the 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) loop to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock, the first hike I did here in Maryland and still one of my favorites.

Why It’s a Favorite: I love waterfalls, plus I like the ability to connect to other trails in the area!

3. Sugarloaf Mountain Loop Trail

Distance: about 3.1 miles (5 kilometers)
Type of Trail: loop
Difficulty: easy

I don’t love that Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area is on private property. I don’t love that it’s often busy, and I don’t love being told where and when I can park. But I love the trail options and the numerous viewpoints on the mountain.

💡 GOOD TO KNOW: Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area is on private property, and parking is regulated on a private lot; you cannot park on the country roads at the base, and the park closes at dusk.

This loop is from the bottom, and trails are very well marked, so there are options to increase the distance of this hike if you want. I prefer to take this loop counterclockwise, which makes the elevation gain more gradual.

Sugarloaf Mountain Hike
Sugarloaf Mountain Hike

The view from the summit is worth the crowds at peak times. You can look south across the Potomac River into Virginia. As you hike down the stone steps, you’ll often see rock climbers on the quartzite cliffs near the summit.

Why It’s a Favorite: Great views, good trail options, plus I’ve gotten up close and personal with white-tailed deer in these woods several times!

4. Carroll Creek Path to Baker Park

Distance: about 3.7 miles (6 kilometers)
Type of Trail: out and back
Difficulty: easy
Parking: City Lots in Downtown Frederick

You won’t need hiking boots for this one; it’s on a paved walking trail that bisects Frederick. I lived here for over two years before I ever walked the whole thing because it’s not a traditional ‘hike’—but it’s really pretty and interesting.

We usually park at Attaboy Brewery, but Frederick has lots of easy, inexpensive places to park. Park anywhere with access to Carroll Creek Park, and the Carroll Creek Garage works perfectly.

From Attaboy, head west along the creek (on whichever side you like) past art installations, more breweries, shops, and restaurants, and then across Market, Patrick, and Bentz Streets into Baker Park.

Baker Park is a large, green community park where you’ll see locals hanging out and using the multi-purpose trail for running, cycling, skateboarding, and strolling.

In Baker Park, you’ll pass a cute covered bridge where there’s a good chance a photo shoot of some kind will be taking place if it’s a nice day. You’ll also pass a small man-made lake.

Carroll Creek Park
Carroll Creek Park

The actual trail continues across MD Route 15, but I recommend turning around at the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum (built in 1758; it’s the oldest standing house in Frederick). When you cross Market Street, take the opposite side of the creek for the return.

From November through March, Frederick’s famous Sailing through the winter solstice is happening in Carroll Creek. This popular attraction is a beautiful display of lighted boats built by local businesses and floated on the creek.

Visitors vote for their favorite boat (with a donation), with the proceeds going to support local non-profit organizations.

In summer, local non-profit Color on the Creek fills the same section of the creek with water gardens. Giant carp roam Carroll Creek all year round!

Why It’s a Favorite: A great stroll through downtown Frederick, one of Maryland’s most charming towns. Bonus: Plenty of places to stop for a drink along the way! McClintock’s Back Bar is one of our favorites.

5. Black Locust Trail (Gambrill State Park)

Distance: about 3.1 miles (5 kilometers)
Type of Trail: loop
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Parking: gravel lot. Be warned, it’s not a large lot, and it fills up quickly.

There are several trails from this lot, the distances of which vary from approximately 2.5 miles to just over 6 (4 kilometers to just over 10). But the Black Locust Trail is a nice, moderate hike with some ups and downs and good views from both sides of the park road.

If you go counter-clockwise, you’ll go down for the first half mile, descending about 300 feet (90 meters), and then right back up over roughly the same distance where the trail stays high for most of the way. 

Black Locust - Gambrills
Black Locust: Gambrill

Nice forest views, a great overlook for sunsets, and there’s an interpretive section at the end where a few species of trees are labeled and described.

There’s a good chance you’ll see wildlife here, particularly early and late in the day. Also, if you happen to be here in early to mid-June, the top section has the most beautiful mountain laurel blooms I’ve ever seen.

Why it’s in the top 5: Sunset views and those whitetails.

Bonus Hike: Weverton Cliffs

Distance: about 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers)
Type of Trail: out and back
Difficulty: easy/Moderate
Parking: a paved lot

This one is also on the Appalachian Trail, just across the state line from Virginia. I call it ‘easy/moderate’ because it’s short, but it gains 820 feet (250 meters) over a mile (1.5 kilometers).

The juice is worth the squeeze as far as distance to view, with a gorgeous view across the Potomac.

Weaverton Cliffs
Weverton Cliffs

You can’t see Harper’s Ferry, one of the most famous towns in West Virginia, from here, but this historic site is only a short distance away, and I recommend a visit if you are in this area.

If you’re heading back to Frederick, stop in Brunswick, MD for a great burger at Boxcar Burgers or a craft beer at Smoketown Brewing.

About Nicole and Glenn

Nicole VanLandingham and her husband Glenn are residents of Frederick, Maryland and Bend, Oregon, and write about everything related to these amazing places at EpicFrederick.com and EpicBend.com.

There, you can read about Nicole and Glenn’s pursuits in Frederick, Bend, and beyond, including outdoor pursuits, road trips, visits to restaurants, breweries, wineries, and all kinds of other travel adventures!

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