Rocks, and the smell of hickory. Those were the two primary impressions this mountain made on me one recent, overcast workday afternoon.
Before I get too far – I’m NOT talking about any famous ski resorts, I’m referring to a mountain in Maryland that sits by itself well east of the Catcotins and the main Blue Ridge. Once a mountain estate owned by Gordon Strong, and now managed by a non-profit called Stronghold, the area surrounding Sugarloaf Mountain (including the Strong Mansion) is a privately-owned, publicly-accessible park with some very nice trails and views from 800 feet, or so, above the surrounding farmland of the Monocacy Valley between Gaithersburg, MD, Frederick, MD, and Leesburg, VA.
It’s not a tall mountain – it’s southern peak rises to just 1,282 feet, and its northern rises to around 1,000 feet. But it is a chunk of resilient rock, left standing here alone while erosion claimed its ancient neighbors. The summit is surrounded by steep quartzite cliffs, and by all appearances the southern face of these cliffs is popular among rock climbers (though I didn’t see any while I was there). On the north end, trails lead to viewpoints at White Rocks, with views toward Frederick and the main Blue Ridge.
With its relative ruggedness and ever-present rocks, it gives a sense of being immersed in the Appalachians, but is much more accessible to the Washington, DC area.
Oh, and the hickory – you know how some smells just cause a rush of memory? I pushed through a fallen branch and through a hickory grove, and the aroma brought back memories of childhood in central Virginia, roaming a completely different part of these mountains, with my Dad. I smiled for the rest of the trip.
My recent (and first) trip to this mountain was a 6.7 mile ramble. It’s summarized below and is published in video form on YouTube.
It’s a very nice area, and managed on volunteer labor and through donations – if you go, please consider making one!
Trailhead: East View Parking Area (39.26046, -77.38965)
Route: Up to the summit via the Orange trail, back down the Red, then the entire Blue loop to overlap past the Red intersection to White, and then back to the parking lot.
Mileage: 6.7 miles (10.8 km)
Elevation: +/- 1880 feet
Maps and Information: Sugarloaf Mountain website.
Get Out There