Winter hiking (copy)

Visitors to Gambrill State Park hike on the Green Trail during a guided winter’s hike.

From the beautiful overlooks and refreshing open-sky campsites on Catoctin Mountain to the north, or the equally impressive open space of Gambrill State Park closer to Frederick, Frederick County can be an outdoor lovers' paradise.

Technically a ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Catoctin Mountain is mostly encompassed within the Catoctin Mountain Park, a roughly 8 square-mile national park with approximately 25 miles of hiking trails running past its various peaks and vistas, including the iconic Chimney Rock, and similarly impressive Wolf Rock, with a spectacular vista overlooking Thurmont elsewhere on the loop.

A visitor center located at 14707 Park Central Rd. in Thurmont holds more regular hours from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily.

The park also features five different campgrounds, including one open year round for reservations, as well as several three-sided log structures called Adirondack shelters available for hikers and campers.

Immediately south of the national park is the Cunningham Falls State Park, which offers not only a diverse array of hiking trails for adventurers of every ability level, but also the park's namesake waterfall, the state's largest cascading waterfall.

Both Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park are on the mid-to-northern end of one of the county's more arduous hiking trails, the Catoctin National Recreational Trail.

Running a total of 26.6 miles, the trail connects Gambrill State Park to the northernmost edge of Catoctin Mountain Park, with camping available in Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park and Gambrill at the southern end.

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

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