Trails and Treasures Home Page Hiking
Pen Mar to Caledonia State Park, PA
Over the weekend of August 11-13, 2006, my friend Barbara and I hiked the Appalachian Trail between Pen Mar and Caledonia State Park in three segments. We were extremely fortunate with the weather--no rain, highs around 80, and cool nights.
Between 1877 and 1943, Pen Mar was the site of a summer resort in the Catoctin Mountains, north of present day Catoctin Mountain Park. Today it is a little known park with a picnic pavilion, playground, and lookout pavilion. The scenic lookout can, from its grand height of 1,400 feet, provide a view of the valley below--on a clear day.
Caledonia State Park is named after the Caledonia Iron Works operated by Thaddeus Stevens from 1837 until it was destroyed by the Confederate cavalry in June 1863. In contrast to Pen Mar, it is exceedingly popular. The 184-site campground was approximately 90 percent full on Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon there were so many picnicers, we had to park our second car at the far end of parking lot 3.
We hiked the first segment north to south, starting at the Old Forge Picnic Grounds. The 7.4 miles took us 4 hours, including a 1/2 hour lunch stop where the trail descended to Buena Vista Road.
On Saturday we hiked north from Old Forge to PA 233, a distance of almost 6 miles. Near Buzzard Peak, we took a short 120-yard spur trail to an overlook. Like Wolf Rock and Cat Rock in Catoctin MP, acquiring the view required some scrambling up onto a rock formation. However, here there were no fields, roads or other traces of civilization cluttering the view of the forest. Except for a reservoir and pipeline cuts, the view consisted entirely of lush green tree tops.
We saved the shortest segment for Sunday when we hiked from Caledonia south 5.5 miles to PA 233, but it was also the most difficult. Several miles were along a ridgeline where the trail meandered up, down and among the rock formations.