Sugarloaf – a photo hike

Here is a series of photos presenting views seen along the trail during a hike at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland, on May 30, 2014.

Sugarloaf Mountain is a relatively low (1,282-foot) mountain located at 7901 Comus Road, Dickerson MD 20842. It is on private property and belongs to Stronghold, Inc. It is open to the public at no charge. See their website for restrictions.

I started hiking about 11:40 am and finished around 2:00 pm. It was overcast and rainy earlier in the morning, but cleared as I was getting started and was partly cloudy with a temperature in the mid-70s throughout the hike.

The route taken was the Northwest (Blue) Trail, starting from West View parking area and traveling clockwise around the mountain to White Rocks, and continuing clockwise to McCormack Overlook. At that point I turned onto the Red Trail to ascend to the actual mountain top, and made my final descent back to West View parking area along the stone staircase along the Green Trail. Despite the slight divergence onto the Red and Green trails, the hike was still about 5 miles long and rocky and heavily wooded throughout.

You can download and print a copy of the trail map from the Stronghold website here to better follow the photos presented below. Narrative comments are below each photo.

Entrance

From 7901 Comus Road, turn right into the mountain entrance and follow signs for West View parking area.

Eastview

The first parking area you come to is East View. Turn left without entering the lot and continue uphill to West View.

West View

Turn slightly right to enter West View parking area.

Covered pavilion

As you drive through a small traffic circle you’ll see a covered pavilion, which is a convenient assembly area, with a couple of portable toilets alongside it. The parking area is further along and to the left out of view. Behind and to the left of the camera’s point of view is the entrance to the Blue Trail.

Entrance to the Blue Trail

The entrance to the Blue Trail is in the center to the left of the picnic table, going downhill.

Flowers on the trail

Just getting started; some mountain flowers along the trail.

Trail section

A typical section of trail, sprinkled with rocks and roots, between markers B9 and B10.

Mountain stream

The trail runs alongside this little stream from around marker B9 until you arrive at (and it crosses) Mount Ephraim Road.

Mount Ephraim Road

The Blue Trail  connects with Mount Ephraim Road just after marker B8, and you follow the road to the left around the curve in the center of this photo.

Re-enter the Blue Trail

Just after rounding the curve in Mount Ephraim Road shown in the previous photo, the Blue Trail turns off on the right of the road, heading north.

Entrance to White Rocks area

After passing marker B7 and a sharp left in the trail, you’ll arrive at the entrance to the White Rocks area. The west view is to the left, and the north view is directly ahead. Once you’ve enjoyed the views, return back here. The Blue Trail continues on sharply back to the right from the camera’s point of view in this photo.

White Rocks, west view

The view from White Rocks, looking west.

White Rocks, north view

The view from White Rocks, looking north.

Hilltop 1015

A rockpile on Hilltop 1015, halfway between markers B6 and B5.

Trail section

Headed uphill again; more rocky trail near marker B4.

Trail section

A particularly rocky trail section, going uphill between markers B3 and B2. The high ground of Hilltop 1071 is to the right.

Ferns along the trail

An inviting carpet of ferns on the forest floor, in the saddle between Hilltops 1071 and the main peak (1282).

McCormack Overlook

McCormack Overlook, on the northwest side of the main peak, at the intersection of the Blue and Red Trails. With the leaves on the trees, you have to stand on tiptoe for a view.

Red Trail

You want to see the main peak, right? Starting uphill on the Red Trail, near McCormack Overlook.

Red & Orange Trail junction

Just short of the top is the junction of the Red and Orange Trails. Continue straight ahead along the Red Trail to the top.

Survey marker

Here’s what you’re looking for! The survey marker at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

View from the topThere are a couple of rocky outcrops at the top offering views to the south and west. This is the one immediately in front of the survey marker.You can see the curve of Potomac River just right of center and below the skyline.

From here, turn back and to the left to pick up the Green Trail. In just a few feet it hooks sharply back to the southwest down a flight of stone steps with handrails. (The entrance to the stairs is marked with a couple of big arrow signs pointed down.) The Green Trail is very well marked and roughly paved with stones in some sections, and ends at West View parking area, immediately next to the covered pavilion shown in the fourth photo above.

In summary, this is a moderately difficult hike. There are no scrambles; i.e., places where you have to go on all fours to crawl up or over obstacles. The main challenges are the many elevation changes and the fact that the trail is strewn with rocks and roots. Boots or sturdy trail shoes are recommended, and you must constantly pay attention to your footing and pick up your feet to avoid stumbling.

Aside from the challenges, this is a very pleasant and rewarding hike; most of the route is in the shade, the views are spectacular, and this time of year, the bugs just aren’t happening. What’s not to like?!

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10 Responses to Sugarloaf – a photo hike

  1. Thanks for taking me along your beautiful hike. Sigh. All that lush green and the clematis (?) shot at the beginning of your trek is gorgeous.

  2. seeker says:

    No bugs you say, no ticks either? Then it’s a good place. Wooded area with filtered light makes it cooler to hike around. Are you creating a hiking website?

  3. Why am I not there? I didn’t even know about this place, and I don’t live that far away!!

    • John M says:

      True enough, it’s a drive of only about an hour and a half for you. Despite being closer, I hadn’t visited in a couple of years! It’s well maintained and marked and there is no fee to hike, which makes it an attractive alternative to the Shenandoah National Park.

  4. Jet Eliot says:

    Such an incredible park, John! It’s so lush with greenery and big shady trees, wild trail flowers are beautiful, and then awesome views once you reach the top. Thanks so much for this vicarious hike. 🙂

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