“Mountain” may be an exaggeration, but Sugarloaf is a hill that rises prominently above the bucolic farmland of central Maryland. It’s private land, but it’s open to the public, and it offers several well-established hiking trails. With a little (or a lot of) effort, you can check out some nice viewpoints and enjoy a relaxing walk in the woods.
I met up with a friend at Sugarloaf for a few hours of hiking. Since we weren’t sure how far we wanted to go, we started with a very simple goal: hike to the summit.
There are three trails that lead to the top of Sugarloaf: orange, green, and red. The orange trail begins at the East View parking area, and it’s a steep and somewhat treacherous climb. I had parked at the West View parking area, so I was at the foot of the green trail.
As you follow the green blazes, you’ll soon figure out that this trail is mostly one long staircase. You’ll gain more than 300 feet in about a quarter-mile, as you make your way to the top.
It’s a nice sense of accomplishment, once you’ve reached the top of the stairs…
… and even more satisfying, when you arrive at the summit. Sugarloaf Mountain tops out at 1,282 feet, more than 800 feet above the surrounding land.
Don’t expect solitude here. The trails to the top are very popular, and everyone grabs a rock and enjoys the view for a while, once they get here.
The third trail to the summit, the red trail, will take you down the north side of the hill.
The red-blazed trail ends at McCormack View, which is somewhat overgrown and less spectacular than the view from the top.
From here, a quick hike on the blue trail would circle back to the west view parking area, but my friend and I weren’t ready to quit.
Okay, it might look like Shannon was ready to quit, but she still had a few miles to go.
We took the blue and white trails towards White Rocks, a viewpoint on the northwestern side of Sugarloaf Mountain.
The blue trail is a 5-mile loop, and we just as easily could have used it as a loop trail, but instead, we decided to hike out and back, making the hike to White Rocks shorter.
We could have made the hike to White Rocks much shorter, by driving out Ephraim Road to this parking area. The blue trail loses elevation, then meets up with this road for a short while, before turning back into the woods and climbing again.
Watch for the huge wasp nest, hanging over the road! (I’m fairly certain that it’s no longer active.)
All of the trails at Sugarloaf are easy to follow. In addition to the color-coded blazes, you’ll also find numbered posts along the trail. While we were hiking, I assumed the numbers were mile markers, but they’re actually placed at roughly half-mile increments — which means I thought I was hiking about twice as far as I really did.
When you finally emerge from the woods at White Rocks, there are two viewpoints, labeled “South View” and “North View”. These do not refer to the direction you’ll be looking.
Both viewpoints look to the west. It’s a great view, even on a humid, hazy day like this one.
Looking west, you can see the Lily Pons Road bridge over the Monocacy River, which feeds into the Potomac, just to the south. Mar Lu Ridge, and the mountains surrounding Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, are in the distance.
The south viewpoint is a good place to find someone to take your picture. If you hike on up to the north view…
… you’ll be more likely to find some solitude. This spot offers a similar view…
… with an interesting little tree to place in the foreground of your photos.
Click on the photo for a larger version
After you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the view, you can either backtrack to your car on the blue trail (the short way), or follow the blue trail in the opposite direction, to make the loop back around (the long way).
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a great place to hike, that’s not far from Leesburg, Virginia or Frederick, Maryland, it’s worth the drive out to Sugarloaf Mountain. Access is free, and there are a variety of trails that range from easy to moderate.
Sugarloaf Mountain is located south of Frederick, Maryland, and just slightly north of the Potomac River. If you drew a triangle between Frederick, Gaithersburg, and Leesburg, Virginia, and Sugarloaf would be right in the middle.
The primary entrance is located off of Sugarloaf Mountain Road. There are two parking areas near the top of the mountain. You can also access a parking area along Mount Ephraim Road (dirt), which provides easier access to the White Rocks overlook, on the western side of the mountain.
Once you’re on the mountain, you’ll need a map of the trails. You can usually find a printed version at the trailheads. You can also download it here.