Cat Rock (Cunningham Falls State Park)

The Cat Rock Trail on Rote 77, across from Catoctin Mountain Park headquarters

The Cat Rock Trail on Route 77, across from Catoctin Mountain Park headquarters

It was kind of ironic that the first opportunity to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time came on a rainy day.  At times, it poured pretty hard, and the temperature hit a less-than-balmy 48 degrees as we reached Catoctin Mountain Park’s visitor center.  After talking to the ranger and consulting a map, the most interesting possibility for a quick walk in the woods seemed to be an out-and-back to the Cat Rock Overlook in nearby Cunningham Falls State Park.

Yellow, green, and gray!

Yellow, green, and gray!

The roughly 1.2 mile trip to the top began along Route 77–directly across from Catoctin Mountain’s headquarters (not the visitor center).  As we headed there, we could see that we had a fairly significant climb ahead of us, but nothing comparable to the ascents we faced in the past in Shenandoah National Park or on the AT.  Nevertheless, Candee and I are still shaking off the winter blues, and as a result of our recent “easy” hikes, we’re inclined (pun intended) to refer to any molehill as a mountain.

This is a really big tree--or should I say was a really big tree?  It's always disappointing to see such a magnificent tree lying on its side.

This is a really big tree–or should I say was a really big tree? It’s always disappointing to see such a magnificent tree lying on its side.

From the beginning, there really aren’t too many surprises.  The trail immediately heads uphill, and a couple of flat spots are the only reprieves.  However, 570′ of elevation gain isn’t that intimidating, even through mud and over slippery rocks.

The Old Misery Trail went off to the right a bit over halfway up.  We continued to Cat Rock, so I'm not sure how miserable this trail really is.

The Old Misery Trail went off to the right a bit over halfway up. We continued to Cat Rock, so I’m not sure how miserable this trail really is.

We did pass a few other hikers along the way, and one told us that Cat Rock was worth our trip up the mountain.  I agree!  The large pile of boulders at the top is a fine piece of Mother Nature’s artistry.  The only disappointment is that the well-worn soles of my ancient New Balance Country Walkers didn’t allow me to make it to the top of the highest rock.  The rain, the moss, and other things were just a bit too much of an obstacle.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

There are a few longer hikes that include Cat Rock as part of the scenery, and any of those would be great on a pleasant day.  This part of Maryland is one of our favorite hiking destinations.  The mountains are challenging, but they’re not too much of a back breaker for those who are trying to get back into shape.

Closer...

Closer…

But not quite there!

But not quite there!

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