Outdoor Activities Perfect for Fall in Frederick County
True fans of fall know there’s something magical about this time of the year. From the crisp, gray mornings and fiery foliage, to the smoky, bonfire-lit nights, autumn is meant to be enjoyed outdoors. Whether you’re hiking, biking or taking a picturesque stroll, Frederick County is the prime place to celebrate the changing of the leaves. Here, a few of the must-see spots.
If you want to hike…
Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont is a signature scenic destination for hikers of all capabilities. With more than eight miles of trails in the 5,800-acre park, there are limitless possibilities. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from Chimney Rock, Thurmont Vista, Hog Rock and the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook (and if you have extra time, venture to the 78-foot cascading waterfall in nearby Cunningham Falls State Park). Set out early in the morning in order to see all these parks have to offer – and squeeze in some much-needed meditation time.
With 15.7 miles of towpath, the C&O Canal National Historical Park is a great way to spend the day. Part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and an easy place to hop on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Canal winds its way for 184.5 miles from Georgetown to Cumberland. Quench your thirst after your trek at the Smoketown Brewing Station, located just steps from the Canal in Brunswick. (Insider tip: Be sure to sample local favorites like the Tiny Tank Stout and Potomac IPA!)
Monocacy National Battlefield, just south of Frederick, is ideal for history lovers and hiking enthusiasts alike. With six trails, there’s something for everyone, including a nature walk down the Brooks Hill Loop trail, the Gambrill Mill ½-mile loop past the Monocacy River with a wheelchair-accessible portion, and the Ford Loop, which features interpretations of key events in the Battle of Monocacy.
If you want to bike…
For an unofficial tour of the town, the Frederick History Bicycle Loop is a 10-mile loop with 22 stops including the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, the Francis Scott Key Memorial and various Civil War sites. With at least two hours required to complete the loop, this can be stretched into an all-day affair if you decide to fuel up.
The Frederick County Heritage Bicycles Tours offer five distinct routes through the county. The Campaign Ride transports bikers through Civil War history, while the Transportation Heritage Trail passes the C&O Canal, the North County Bridge Sampler takes riders through both covered and iron and steel truss bridges and the Catoctin Mountain Challenge tour highlights rural gravel roadways and off-road trails. The most challenging tour, Spirits of Burkittsville, explores the South Mountain Battlefield, whiskey distillery heritage and Gathland State Park (psst: you can spot some of these landmarks in the spooky, found-footage film The Blair Witch Project!).
If you want a new Instagram photo…
Looking to enjoy the transformative season without breaking a sweat? Though Gambrill State Park is home to 16 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, its High Knob area offers wooded picnic areas and the “Tea Room,” a large stone lodge available for reservation. The Rock Run area of the park features a family-style campground and a small pond for fishing. Pack some sandwiches and a good book, and cozy up under a tree near the pond for some well-deserved R&R.
To make the most of your autumnal adventure, pay a visit to any of Frederick’s nine wineries – including the first licensed cidery in Maryland, the Distillery Lane Ciderworks. Snag a premiere mead or Merlot at the Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery, or taste tradition in the medal-winning Maryland vinos at Elk Run Vineyards.
No matter how you choose to explore the area, Frederick County is your ultimate destination this fall. For more information, check out www.VisitFrederick.org.This is a paid partnership between Visit Frederick and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio