“Yeah, there aren’t any views over there.” said the ranger at Catoctin Mountain Park. She, the ranger, said this to Bag Lady and me last Saturday after we asked her about the other side of Catoctin…the side with Owen Creek. Oh, no views, we thought…but what we thought that meant was less elevation, a more even terrain, and possibly, since there is a shelter one can reserve, a beginner backpack for the Trail Dames.
With the excitement of a kid at Christmas I headed out to check out this trail on a Thursday afternoon after work. Sidekick Pauli came along…she is invaluable at scouting a new trail! That nose of hers keeps us on the path!
The trail head was a little confusing to find. Park at the Owen Creek picnic area. There are two trails that leave from here, a short interpretative trail leaves to the right of the picnic area and an unmarked trail that after a short walk intersects with a horse trail leaves to the left. Take the unmarked trail!
We found the horse trail and headed to the right and up the hill.
Even though it is a horse trail the walking was decent. It was not rutted and uneven like some overused horse trails can be! However, it was a steep climb up to where the horse trail intersects with the Catoctin Trail (blazed in blue). This trail already failed the test for a beginner hike…not to mention a beginner backpack!
Following the Catoctin Trail, we descended back down to cross the road and enter Owen Creek Campground (closed when we were there). About a hundred feet after crossing the creek the trail cuts off to the right and again heads up to the opposite ridge steeply.
The trail continues to wind its way up to the ridge for quite a while. Once at the top, there are no views…just a slight decrease in elevation until the Catoctin Trail again intersects with the horse trail. The first intersection with the horse trail heads to the right and down to the aforementioned shelter that can be reserved through the NPS. We passed by this and turned left at the next intersection with the horse trail as it was now late afternoon and I wasn’t exactly sure how long the loop was and whether I would be hiking in the dark back to my car! I wanted to minimize that possibility…thus taking the shorter loop!
Sidekick Pauli was having a great time and happily trotted along checking out the trail. As we rounded through some bushes she went on high alert. I heard a rustling in the underbrush and of course, remember, at that very moment that I had not let anyone know where I was hiking or even that I was hiking…good Lord. So of course, I had a momentary anxiety attack that I would end of dead leaving Sidekick Pauli to fend for herself on the wilds of Catoctin…
Well, I think it was just some wild turkeys…
Soon we descended again and found a creek we needed to cross…a little tricky when holding a leash…but not too bad.
Made it back to my car in one piece and with plenty of daylight left! Judging by the time, it seems we hiked about 5 miles. It was a great hike…but not a beginner hike.
If you want to hike somewhere that has solitude and good ridge climbing then this is a nice place! When I have more time I plan on coming back to check out the longer loop and the shelter.