Updated on May 18, 2021
Winter Hiking to Cat Rocks, Cunningham Falls State Park
Mid-December, 2020, heavy snow fell in the Washington DC region. With not much snow during the previous winter, I was looking for some winter fun this time, and I chose to hike Cat Rocks trail in Cunningham Falls State Park.
Generally I thought of winter hiking among lifeless trees as boring, that is, unless there was snow to decorate the landscape. This time, it’s the first serious snowfall in the Washington DC region in almost two years (who could foretell that there were a couple more snowstorms lined up later this winter), and I was eager to hike some new trails. Another motivation being that I would love to try out the new pair of snowshoes that I got for my trip to Lake Tahoe in a few days’ time, it just turned out that the few inches of snowfall wasn’t enough to warrant their usage.
With a few crashes along I270 the previous day, most drivers on the highway were meticulous, I included. Apart from that, the proximity to Christmas and fear of icy surface meant there was little traffic on the roads. With some errands to run along the way, I arrived at the northern trailhead of Cat Rocks at 2pm. The trailhead parking lot wasn’t plowed, but across the road the small lot at Catoctin Mountain Park Headquarters was, that’s where I parked.
The trail to Cat Rocks was just over 1 mile one-way, with noticeable but minimal elevation gain. So I set off despite being less than 3 hours from sunset.
Here’s GPS tracking:
The trail’s well-marked and easy to follow, except for one small section towards the start where I lost the trail for about 100m. (It shouldn’t be a problem in absence of snow cover.) Even more surprisingly, portions of the trail had cellular coverage, which probably came from the nearby town of Thurmont.
Finally, about an hour after I started (I moved a lot slower than expected in snow), I was at Cat Rock.
In summer this should be a short class 2 scramble, nothing difficult. Driven by an adventurous spirit, I made an attempt to climb it, but stopped short of the top.
After that, I traced my footsteps back.
By the time I got back to the trailhead, it’s 4:15pm. There was still some time left before sunset, so I decided to pay a visit to the nearby Hunting Creek Lake.
That concluded my day of expedition into this world of snow.