5.1.2021 – East View – Mountain Loop trail (white) – Saddleback Horse trail (yellow) – Purple trail – Northern Peaks trail (blue) – Mt. Ephraim Rd. – Saddleback Horse trail – Mountain Loop trail – Noname path shortcut to parking
Elevation gain: 1467 ft
Location: 7902 Comus rd. Dickerson, MD 20842
Originally I’ve planned to hike around Harpers Ferry but parking is inconvenient so I’ve decided Friday evening to change our plans. I wanted to see my hubby and the gang at Summit Point Racetrack after our hike. It didn’t seem too far to hop back in the car and drive out. Plans can change tho….
It took us an hour and change to get to Sugarloaf with lovely scenery from I70. Make sure you have at least $5 on you before entering the property, visitors encouraged to contribute to the nonprofit corporation which owns the land. Stronghold Inc. was organized in 1946 by Gordon Strong. He and his wife purposefully gained ownership of the many tracts making up the present property prior to their death. Sugarloaf has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark supported by a modest trust fund, membership dues and gifts from visitors after entering the gate. I took a very helpful map of the trails and a welcome template as well.
The drive to the spacious (175 spaces) East parking area is about a mile, through a one way serpentine road. Drive slow, there are several trail crossings and hairpin turns.
Get here early enough to beat the crowds and in the summer months, and the even more annoying flies. Starting out from the East view parking I made sure to take at least a few shots of lovely Monocacy Valley below. The mountain’s highest point is at 1282 ft.
We quickly hop on the white trail or Mountain Loop and take the first right towards South just after about a hundred feet to hike the longest route. While approaching our turn I eavesdrop on two girls behind us mentioning Budapest and get into a small conversation with them. Turns out one of them also have a page and I make a mental note to check it out. Hikers/bloggers unite!
The surroundings are already reminding me of Catoctin Mountain (blog post 4/25/2020). Steep downhill, with lots of rocks and roots bordered with the now almost bare Mountain Laurel bushes, just before flowering.
Where the white trail crosses Sugarloaf Mountain rd. we continue down (left) on the paved surface through the hairpin turn. The yellow trail starts from out of nowhere and we have to proceed this way to get to it. Since it’s after 9 am, cars are more frequent and I am sure filling all 3 parking areas quickly.
Saddleback Horse trail or yellow trail is a very spacious beautifully shaded path starting out parallel to Sugarloaf Mountain rd. There are lots of hidden treasures on the ground so don’t just get mesmerized by the beauty of tall trees.
We don’t encounter any but these woods are also home to the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead as well. Look but do not touch!
A Pileated woodpecker however is easy to be heard from a mile and even tho they’re harder to spot, their “handy work “ is all around us.
One of these mohawked, magnificent birds is teasing me yet again with his loud “laugh” on our right then flies across in front of us and lands on the other side of a tree, staying out of my sight.
Further up the road we have to stump through a few muddy patches and a small brook. It is lazily moving along to join other small streams in the area to get to Little Bennett creek. I almost step on a gorgeous green frog and make him cancel his sunbathing session, splashing into the water.
We encounter the first fellow hiker at around mile 3 with her miniature schnauzer. It’s easy for her to pick up the small dog before he starts yapping. I need chicken to distract Mag before he shows his Dr. Jekyll side.
Through our hike we come across several funky looking trees….
…and pretty little hearts for my ongoing art project, heART by Eva.
We are at about elevation 500 ft at the lowest and after climbing the hill we are at about 820 ft. Even flying creatures take a brake after an ascend like this.
While another woodpecker hammering a tree close by we walk out to an open area. A Red Shouldered Hawk takes off from a low stump and disappears into the woods. On the other side of the clearing modest downhill starts, leading us to a five trail intersection. Slackers (😉) cutting through Northern Peaks trail to White Rocks towards the west meanwhile we leave the crowds behind, following the Purple trail.
This 1.6 mile detour to White Rocks is relaxing and serene until a huge boom sounds somewhere. I don’t know if there’s a quarry nearby or a shooting range. It startles both of us a bit until my attention turns towards shooing away many annoying horseflies. Trying to speed them off propels us to the overlook in record time but we don’t make it out to see the view. I don’t count but about 30 people are already on the rocks. I pass on the opportunity to see the panorama and we quickly proceed to the blue trail.
Encounters with other fellow hikers are more frequent from here to Mt. Ephraim rd. (6.8 miles into the loop) where taking a short break at Bear branch is a must to refuel Mag.
Following the paved road for a few hundred feet until the trail divides into blue and yellow. We keep marching on the yellow to our right. I have removed my hoodie long ago but I am glad I was wearing another long sleeved shirt underneath. We hit another swarm of small, biting flies.
After crossing Mt. Ephraim rd. once more we come across a sign for a Stewardship Demonstration Forest. Within this pretty big area are several other markings providing visitors with a visual representation of common forest harvest practices.
The alley of trees on this long stretch is just wonderful.
Coming across another pitstop at Furnace branch to Mag’s delight. Drinking and splashing in streams are his favorite things when hiking. After the brook, the path becomes wilder with rocks and boulders. We get another destruction in the form of a chopper, it sounds like it’ll land on top of our heads. Trying to look on my flight radar app to see what’s going on but no avail.
We have been also chasing a couple with a dog. They been slowing us down. Thankfully just in time I notice this Pink Lady Slipper. My day is absolutely made!
Right next to the slipper was two skinny stems with these flowers. It seems like some sort of azalea….
After my delightful discovery and a sudden left turn we merge with Mountain Loop trail. The bottom of it runs parallel to the main, one way road exiting the property. Close by is the private Strong Mansion and Westwood Mansion. While passing a small picnic area and the entrance building, Mag takes several rolls in the cool grass.
I make him hurry up a bit since there are people behind us. We quickly get back on the last portion of the white trail even tho there is always time for a photo.
On the last small section we follow an unofficial portion to cut through to the parking area. It is a bit steeper but drops us off almost at our car. Parking is packed to the gills and cars are still pulling in even so it’s already 1:30 pm. By the time I wipe off Mag and check him for bugs it’s 2 o’clock. I am hungry and tired….
Here is our recorded map:
I know I won’t be able to get hold of my hubby while he is on the track so I txt him that we are heading home. It would take me another hour to get to Summit but in that time I could be home eating some lunch. It settled then….we are heading home.
Highly recommend this gorgeous and long hike. Get out there and do some exploring. Take care!
Thank you for reading!