[Gambrill State Park Trail Guide]
Gambrill State Park Trail Guide
Biking * Camping * Hiking

Welcome to Gambrill State Park. Situated on the ridge of Catoctin Mountain, Gambrill State Park offers visitors dramatic views of farmland and forest from stone overlooks, as well as a host of recreation opportunities and facilities. Two recreation areas -- Rock Run and High Knob -- provide camping, picnicking, 16-miles of wooded trails and a unique stone lodge for family and group gatherings. Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians enjoy the beautiful blooms of dogwood trees and abundant mountain laurel during spring and early summer.


Gambrill State Park had its beginnings when public-spirited conservationists of Frederick County purchased this tract of land on Catoctin Mountain and donated it to the City of Frederick as a municipal park. On September 7, 1934, the City presented the 1,137 acres to the State for use as a state park. The park was named in honor of the late James H. Gambrill, Jr. of Frederick, a leading conservationist.

Most of the recreational facilities still in use at the park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The CCC was a Federal program that put unemployed young men to work in public and private land around the country to reclaim natural resources for conservation and recreational purposes. The park's Tea Room, a stone lodge available for public use, is a particularly fine example of the type of recreational structures built by the CCC.

Wildlife and Nature Appreciation

Three native stone overlooks, strategically located on the 1,600-foot summit of High Knob, midway between the Mason-Dixon Line and the Potomac River, offer dramatic views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, looking north, a visitor can see the rugged, forested mountains of the Frederick City Municipal Forest. Looking south, Crampton's Gap, a Civil War landmark preserved at Gathland State Park comes into view, as well as the Middleton and Monocacy Valleys. South Mountain, where many engagements between Confederate and Union Troops took place during the Civil War, can be seen to the west.

Gambrill State Park comes alive in the spring, with the flowering of a diverse array of trees and shrubs. Bring your camera and capture the blooms of dogwood trees in late May and the large, beautiful flowers of abundant mountain laurel, which decorate the mountain in early June.

From salamanders that inhabit the nutrient-rich soils of the forest to white-tailed deer and black bear that feed on nuts and fruit from trees, a wide variety of creatures call Gambrill State Park home. Songbirds, woodpeckers and birds of prey fly through the forest canopy. Snakes and coyotes help keep rodent populations in check. Walking quietly, listening carefully and looking for signs of wildlife can add an inspiring dimension to any hike.

Be aware that Maryland is home to two venomous snakes, the northern copperhead and the timber rattler. Use caution when hiking in rocky areas or near creeks and streams. As a part of our natural world, snakes should be left unharmed. They effectively control populations of small mammals, like mice and rats, as well as provide an important food source for hawks and other predators. The Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act protects all native snakes in Maryland. Please respect all creatures of the forest. They are essential to maintaining the natural balance of the ecosystem.

Rock Run Area - Camping and Cabins

The Rock Run area is located at the park entrance and offers family-style camping, including a modern bathhouse with showers, laundry tubs and hot water. The camping area accommodates up to 31 family units and includes four camper cabins, which have beds, tables and electricity. Reservations are required.

To make picnic, pavilion and camping reservations spring through fall, call Park Reservations at 1-888-432-CAMP (2267). Or, make your reservation on the Internet: reservations.dnr.state.md.us

For Youth Group camping reservations call the park office at: 301-271-7574.

High Knob Scenic Area - Overlooks, Picnicking and Nature Center

Up the road from the Rock Run Area is the High Knob Area, which provides dramatic views of the valley from the top of Catoctin Mountain. Facilities include picnic tables, grills, shelters and the Tea Room, which is available for day use rental April through October. Constructed of native stone, the building accommodates 75 people and has a kitchen. Visitors enjoy a stone balcony facing beautiful vistas, while a huge stone fireplace dominates the interior.

A nature center is also located in the High Knob area, offering scheduled nature walks and evening campfire programs periodically throughout the summer season. Schedules are posted at various locations within the park.


Please Play Safe!
Gambrill is a natural area with certain hazards, such as poison ivy, rocky and slippery trail surfaces, poisonous snakes and insects. Remember, you are responsible for having the necessary skills, knowledge and equipment for a safe and environmentally sensitive visit.

Gambrill has over 16 miles of wooded trails, many of which are generously maintained by local organizations and businesses. All trails begin and end at the Trailhead parking lot, which is located on the right-side of Gambrill Park Road, about half-way up the mountain between the Rock Run Area and the High Knob Area. Some trails can also be accessed from the Rock Run and High Knob areas, as well as from the North Frederick Overlook.

The park's trails are open for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding with the exception of the White Oak Trail, which is restricted to hiking. All trails are day-use only -- there is no overnight parking! Please lock your valuables in your vehicle trunk or glove compartment; thefts have occurred in this area. Please respect other trail users.

  • White Oak Trail 1 mile - easy
    This easy trail is open to hikers only (no mountain bikes), and is a good choice for families with small children.

  • Red Maple Trail 1 mile - moderate
    Fairly easy to walk, this trail connects the campground with the rest of the park. One short section of the trail is somewhat steep. The Trail House, an outdoor store in Frederick, maintains this trail.

  • Green Ash Trail 2 miles - moderate
    Visitors seeking an adventure love this trail. There are several steep slopes and very little level ground, making this trail a challenge. Wheel Base, a bike shop in Frederick, maintains this trail.

  • Black Locust Trail 3.3 miles - difficult
    This trail truly showcases the beauty of Gambrill State Park, from its wooded slopes to the breathtaking views of both Frederick to the east and Middlwtown Valley to the west. The trail passes through the High Knob Scenic Area, mixing several steep slopes with fairly level areas. The Sierra Club Catoctin Chapter maintains this trail.

  • Yellow Poplar Trail 7.1 miles - moderate
    The longest of the Gambrill trails, this trail is only moderately difficult. Visitors who have several hours can hike up the mountain and out into the far reaches of the park. Enjoy the view from North Frederick Overlook as you continue north along a moderately sloped ridgeline walk. The Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts maintain the entire Yellow Poplar Trail.

  • Catoctin Trail 3 miles - moderate to difficult
    This trail traverses Gambrill State Park. For a longer hike, continue north 23.5 miles through the Frederick City Watershed, Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain National Park. The trail ends at Mt. Zion Road, 1.3 miles north of Owens Creek Campground in Catoctin Mountain Park. The Appalachian Trail may be reached by traveling west on Mt. Zion Road for two additional miles to Raven Rock Road.

    Backcountry camping on the Catoctin Trail is not permitted. Camping is available at Gambrill State Park, Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains this trail.

Trail Stewardship

You can help support trails at your favorite forest or park by volunteering on trail projects or purchasing a tax-deductible Trail Stewardship sticker. Your support helps maintain and construct trails to protect the environment and benefit trail users. For more information, contact the park headquarters at Cunningham Falls State Park at 301-271-7574.

Gambrill State Park is enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year. Please help us protect the park's natural and historic resources by following these Leave No Trace ethics. For more information on Leave No Trace, visit their website at: www.lnt.org Leave No Trace logo

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Remember that all of Maryland's State Parks are Trash-Free, so pack out what you pack in! Thanks for being a good steward of Maryland's outdoors.


Pets are welcome in the campground and on the trails. For the safety of your pet, other visitors and the park's wildlife, please comply with the park's requirement that all pets remain on a leash. Thank you!

Park Watch

The State Forest and Park Service's Park Watch program encourages visitors and neighbors to take an active role in protecting personal property and preserving the park. If you observe suspicious activities, vandalism or safety hazards, please report these problems to any park employee or call: 1-800-825-PARK (7275).

Guides and Outfitters

As part of DNR's Nature Tourism program, the park office can provide information on commercial guides and outfitters or organizing group outings. Call the park's headquarters at 301-271-7574.


Gambrill State Park is approximately 51 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. and 53 miles west of Baltimore on Catoctin Mountain. From I-70, exit on to U.S. Route 40 at Frederick. Travel approximately six miles. Turn right onto Gambrill Park Road and follow it approximately one mile directly to the park.

Direct inquiries to the park manager stationed at:
Cunningham Falls State Park
14039 Catoctin Hollow Road
Thurmont MD 21788

Gambrill State Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset, April to October, and 10 a.m. to sunset, November to March. Service charges are in place for use of the picnic shelters, Tea Room, campsites and High Knob Scenic Area.

This trail guide, complete with a topographical map of the multi-use trails, is available for sale from park headquarters by calling 301-271-7574.

Back to the Gambrill State Park page