Cat Rock, Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, and Thurmont Vista Loop, Catoctin Mountain Park

The weather was dry and sunny and I had new shoes again as we tackled Cat Rock, Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, and Thurmont Vista Loop.

We left the West Friendship Park and Ride at 70 and 32 at 8:35am and arrived at the trail at 9:30am after a pit spot at a very nice Wegmans en route (really, there’s no such thing as a mediocre Wegmans). There was plenty of parking. We finished around 1:15pm, and there were still parking spaces in the upper lot where we parked, but the visitor center and along the side of route 15 outside the visitor center were all parked up. 

Total distance: 7.72 mi
Max elevation: 1545 ft
Min elevation: 814 ft
Total climbing: 2136 ft
Total descent: -2136 ft
Average speed: 2.65 mi/h
Total time: 03:40:18

You drive past the visitor center on the way to the trail. The visitor center has indoor plumbing, so this is the ideal spot for your pre-hike pee.

The trailhead parking lot is well-shaded when the leaves are out. The trail is mostly well shaded with a few brief sunny spots. 

Going counter-clockwise, you’ll walk by the visitor center within the first two miles, another opportunity for indoor bathrooms or a portapotty. The foliage is generally too sparse for peeing on the trail, except on the approach to Cat Rock.

The trail surface is mostly quite rocky interspersed with some soft stretches of dirt.

The easiest way up and down the Cat Rock talus field (see Dar climbing it in 2018) is in the area of the elevation sign, not on the immediate approach. It’s still a boulder scramble, but much more straightforward and less likely to blow out a knee tendon.

Cat Rock looks like it’s going to have a vista, but when you get to the the top and look over, it’s just another talus field descending.

Chimney Rock, which has the best vista, was very crowded on a summer Saturday. A group of selfiers was holding it hostage. We skipped Wolf Rock with the expectation that it would also be crowded (and we’ve hopped around over its fissures and struck yoga poses before. Thurmont Overlook was lame.

Thurmont Vista


Distance7.65 miles
Elevation Gain1660 feet
Moving Time3 hours, 28 minutes
Total Time3 hours, 40 minutes
Average Pace28 minutes per mile / 2.2 mph
Water Consumed0.9 liters
Food Beforeoatmeal with berries
Food During2 savory seed bars, 1 veggie muffin
Temperature Range62 to 73°F


PackCamelBak Blowfish hydration pack
NavigationiPhone 11 with AllTrails Pro
ShoesLa Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoes
Used Poles?No
ClothesSocks: Wigwam Ironman Triathlon running socks
Bottom: quick dry running shorts
Shirt: short sleeve wicking tee
Shirt: long sleeve wicking tee


See my current gear, clothing, and thoughts about it on the Hiking Gear page.