Catoctin Creek Loop is a 1 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Middletown, Maryland that features a river. The trail is rated as moderate offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
A hidden and little known gem, the Catoctin Creek Loop is one of five intersecting loop trails at scenic Catoctin Creek Park. Visitor information and naturalist-led programs are available at the park's nature center. The Catoctin Creek Loop (marked on the map, and blazed on the trail, as blue) has a hidden trailhead behind the "ruins" near the main parking lot. Head towards the playground and then walk behind the ruins, following the fence, until you hit the tree line. From the trailhead you'll descend down a hill. There are lots of fallen trees and dead snags, making this a great location to see woodpeckers as well as mushrooms. Watch for lines of osage orange and white pine trees that used to mark the boundaries of old farm fields. The trail wanders down to Catoctin Creek at Pebble Beach, the perfect spot to walk along (or in) the creek. You can continue following the Catoctin Loop trail through a lowland meadow, where you'll see native wildflowers and shrubs, as well as many species of birds at nearly any time of year. The trail connects with the Vista Loops (paved walking paths) at Mink Hollow, a second beach along the creek. You can take the Vista Loops back towards the nature center and parking lot, passing an herb garden and a campfire pit, or you can continue walking the Catoctin Loop trail along the creek further. The Catoctin Loop trail eventually connects to the Heritage Grove Loop (marked on the map, and with blazes on the trail, as red). Where these trails meet, there is another opportunity to return to the nature center and parking lot. If you continue along the Heritage Grove trail, you climb a steep hill of mostly pine forest. The trail empties out into a field, used as overflow parking during events. The trail picks up on the opposite side of the parking lot (or you can follow the parking lot back down towards the main parking lot and nature center). There's a great vista here overlooking neighboring Fox Haven Farm across the creek. You'll also see the foundations of more "ruins." The trail winds around crossing over the overflow parking lot once more to connect with the Sensory Trail (marked on the map, and with blazes on the trail, as green). The Sensory Trail was designed for visitors who are hearing and/or vision impaired. It's sensory exhibits are available only during certain times / programs. Note that this trail is the only trail not open to dogs. Follow the Red Heritage trail / Sensory trail back towards the nature center and parking lot. You'll pass the outdoor turtle enclosure, where in the summer resident turtles may be seen.
Catoctin Creek Park is classic Frederick County, Maryland. It's the park where rolling farmland meets the woods. Hiking near the creek you may get a chance encounter with more rare wildlife, such as wild turkeys, minks, beaver, and bald eagles. Climb the hillsides and you get a sweeping vista of neighboring farms. The park also has a Nature Center that is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. This is definitely one of Frederick County's lesser-known gems!