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).
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.