Adventure Pet-Centric

Mother-Son-Pups Sugarloaf Hike

Sugarloaf Mountain, a 1,283-mountain located near Barnesville, Maryland, is no Blue Ridge Mountain. But it also isn’t a three-hour drive to Shenandoah National Park.

I had only one goal in mind. I wanted a morning hike with my son Byron with our two Golden Retrievers. But the last time we hiked together at Shenandoah, he wore high tops and messed up his knee.

As any mother knows, bribery works so I dangled the promise of a new pair of hiking boots.

Fortunately, adidas offered to send me a track jacket plus a pair of men’s waterproof hiking boots which Byron tested on the rocky terrain and cliffs. When you have a 7-month-old energetic puppy pulling you in all directions, you don’t want to slip on wet leaves and pointy rocks.

I also brought along new socks because I didn’t want him to get blisters (again).

Sugarloaf Mountain History

Gordon and Louise Strong wanted the public to enjoy Sugarloaf Mountain. So they created a private organization called Stronghold, Inc. in 1946 “to ensure that the mountain would continue to serve their purpose of making natural beauty available to all.”

Sugarloaf is associated with two wars. According to the historical records, “General Braddock, commander of British troops during the French and Indian War, marched his men past the mountain in 1755.” The mountain also served as a lookout for Northern as well as Confederate troops during the Civil War. A log cabin that still stands at the mountain’s foot was temporarily used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

“Sugarloaf Mountain has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark because of its geological interest and striking beauty.”

Stronghold Sugarloaf Mountain

Popular Visitor Site

My son and I are not the only families who love to hike here. According to Stronghold, “nearly a quarter-million men, women, and children visit Sugarloaf Mountain annually to enjoy its scenic vistas, to picnic at its overlooks, and to hike and ride horseback along its miles of trails.”

Note: We didn’t have a horse, but we did bring two rowdy Golden pups. And the Vista Overlook turned out to be a perfect location to eat our breakfast bagel sandwiches.

Hiking Trails

There are two main trails to reach East and West vistas. While you can drive a car and park, we prefer to start at the base of the mountain.

I recommend you take a printed map which you will find at the base. This is also a great time to deposit a $5 donation for Sugarloaf Mountain’s upkeep.

You will start off on a paved road that winds past the Strong Mansion and outbuildings. Then you start your hike on the path. Watch for signs directing you to separate trails for the East View, West View, and Potomac Overlook.

Autumn Splendor

If leaf-peeping is your gig, you can’t find a better locale than Sugarloaf Mountain. Red, orange, and golden hue leaves will rustle under your feet as you climb the trails.

Oaks from the red and white groups are Sugarloaf’s dominant tree species. But the mountain is also home to black gum, tulip poplar, black birch, and eastern hem fir.

Abundant Wildlife

While our Golden retrievers didn’t get to see any white-tailed deer on their hike, they are abundant on Sugarloaf — along with “flying squirrel, red fox, eastern cottontail and raccoon.”

Watch out for snakes!

Birders might spy on the great horned owl, pileated woodpecker, wild turkey or red-shouldered hawk. “During the spring and fall, many migratory species of songbirds can be found,” according to Stronghold.

Five Fun Facts

I learned five cool facts about Sugarloaf Mountain.

The mountain’s shape reminded the settlers of a “sugar loaf,” which is why it was named Sugarloaf.

The earliest known map of the mountain dates to 1707. A Swiss explorer sketched it.

Geologically, Sugarloaf Mountain is known as a monadnock, which is a mountain that remains after the erosion of the surrounding land.

This process took approximately 14 million years. (Whoa!)

The predominant type of rock on the mountain is quartzite, which we saw on the rugged cliffs at the summit.

Recharge Batteries

When your kids are young, they beg you to take them to the playground. But as adults, their time-squeezed schedules mean leisurely weekends devoted to free time outdoors can be difficult to arrange.

But I put a priority on spending time in nature, and luckily my son agreed to our morning hike at Sugarloaf Mountain. We were both elated to scramble after the pups. As we gazed out on the vista of Monocacy Valley and the green mountains below, we hugged each other. (And of course, the Goldens wanted to jump up and hug us too!)

Fresh air and exercise recharged our batteries. We already are planning to hike again next month.

Gordon Strong believed that “… those who appreciate natural beauty will be better people, people who treat each other better.”

Post-Hike Meal

I can highly recommend Comus Inn and Sugarloaf Winery as great places to visit for a post-hike meal. Both are dog-friendly. We were happy to rest our tired bodies in comfortable chairs at the Comus Inn patio while enjoying a view of Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. Now worn out, the dogs took a snooze under the table.

You Might Also Like

  • Emily
    September 23, 2023 at 4:26 am

    Looks like a lovely place! Glad you got to enjoy it with your son & doggies!

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:54 pm

      This is a regular destination to walk our pups because they love the mountain hike.

  • Bejal
    September 23, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Ahh Terri I really enjoyed reading about your hike at Sugarloaf and I had no idea there was one outside of Brazil. It looks a lot of fun and how super special you got to do it with your son too. Thanks for putting a new place on my radar.

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:56 pm

      Our Sugarloaf is much smaller than Brazil’a but it is much more convenient lol! I think it is great to make family memories with local mountains to hike.

  • Adéle Land
    September 23, 2023 at 6:51 am

    What a beautiful place to go for a hike. My dog would love it too!

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:56 pm

      I bet your dog would love it. It is sniff heaven for pups.

  • simplyjolayne
    September 23, 2023 at 7:51 am

    Sounds like a great hike. When do the trees start to change and pop with fall color?

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      This year has been so hot in DC so we may start to see the leaves changing by mid-October.

  • Mayi
    September 23, 2023 at 8:56 am

    Sounds liek a great hike, even better when doing it with special people!

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      Agreed! I love to hike with my family and our dogs.

  • Carly
    September 23, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Any hike that ends with a winery lunch gets a 👍🏽 from me!

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:58 pm

      It was the biggest inducement to going hiking – the reward of a winery lunch at the end (plus snacks for the dogs.)

  • Sara Essop
    September 23, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Beautiful hike. I visited Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro and didn’t know there was another one elsewhere 🙂 .

    • Terri
      September 23, 2023 at 4:59 pm

      I have just learned that there is a Sugarloaf mountain in Brazil. I had no idea.

  • Stephanie
    September 23, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    WOW, looks like such a great spot to hike and for numerous reasons! I’d love to do the hike in the fall. I bet that awesome view is full of brilliant fall colours!

    • Terri
      September 24, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      I can’t wait to hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in October when the leaves start to change colors. Leaf peepers heaven!

  • Tara | Silly Little Kiwi
    September 24, 2023 at 2:43 am

    The photos with the dogs have me sold haha! Looks like a gorgeous fall hike.

    • Terri
      September 24, 2023 at 12:36 pm

      The dogs had the time of their life. I would go back to Sugarloaf repeatedly just to make them so happy!

  • Cosette
    September 24, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Yes, when they’re little they like to go to playgrounds, then comes puberty…. Love that you got out with your son and your dogs!

    • Terri
      September 25, 2023 at 10:06 am

      We always took hikes in our forest when my kids were little so now we hike together with the dogs. It is still a great family activity.

  • Pam
    September 24, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    What a great hike to do together. Would your dogs have chased the deer if there were any? We may be going to Shenandoah for the Perseid Meteor Shower next year so definitely going to save this in case we go!

    • Terri
      September 25, 2023 at 10:03 am

      Parker doesn’t chase deer so I wasn’t worried. But I think my son’s puppy might.