A Sugarloaf Mountain hike delivers great views of the Maryland countryside and a convenient network of trails that allow very short or longer hikes. A road leads to two parking areas about three-quarters of the way up the mountain. Picnic tables near the parking areas are perfect for non-hikers or folks with limited mobility who want to enjoy nice views.
Short Sugarloaf Mountain Hike Options
When our kids were young, or grandparents were in town, we generally chose shorter trails and allowed more time on the summit. The rocky summit has lots of spots with nice views that are great for picnicking. Keep in mind that the best views are near the edge so keep a close eye on little ones.
Toward the middle of the summit area (away from the edge) are more rocks that are fun to explore. There's even a little “cave” perfect for a photo opp. Here are our twins enjoying one of their favorite hiking spots. Now in their 20s, they still like to hike Sugarloaf Mountain.
There are two short trails to the summit that start from the parking areas. The easier trail is from the West View lot, the second parking area you'll encounter on your drive up the mountain. The Green Trail is a 1/4 mile hike up a series of steep stone steps cut into the rock.
Create a short loop trail by hiking up the Green Trail, across the summit, down the Red Trail, then left on the Blue Trail to return to the West View parking lot.
A second option for a short hike to the top is to park in the East View parking area and follow the 1/4 mile Orange Trail. This trail is very steep and somewhat washed out, so don't try this one unless you have good footwear.
To extend your hike to a loop: continue across the summit, down the Red Trail, right on the Blue Trail, and right again on the White Trail for the return to your vehicle.
The trails are well marked but intersections and overlapping segments can be a little confusing, so download the Sugarloaf Mountain hike trail map to take along. Printed maps may also be available at the base of the mountain.
Extend Your Sugarloaf Mountain Hike
If you're interested in a longer hike, the Blue Trail is an excellent option. The trail meanders around the top section of the mountain, connecting with summit trails. The Blue Trail loop is a five-mile hike, but you can adjust your distance by combining it with other trail segments.
Our favorite circuit is to park in the West View lot and combine the Green, Red, and Blue Trails for a nice mix of views, woodlands, and rocky hiking. The trail is moderate with some nice up and down sections that will give you a little workout.
Other options are the 2.5 mile White Trail loop, which passes near both parking areas and the entrance, and the 7 mile Yellow Trail around the base of the mountain.
Tips for Your Sugarloaf Mountain Hike
The entrance gate is at the intersection of Comus Road and Sugarloaf Mountain Road in Dickerson Maryland. The mountain is easy to reach from Interstate 270. In the past, we drove to Sugarloaf from Northern Virginia by crossing the Potomac River on White's Ferry. Sadly, the ferry is currently closed.
Here are a few tips to increase the fun-factor on your hike:
- The Sugarloaf Mountain gate is open 8:00 until one hour before sunset.
- Check the Sugarloaf Mountain website for updates on closures and restrictions.
- The park requests a $5 or more donation to help maintain the mountain roads, parking, and facilities. Pay in cash at the donation box by the entrance.
- Trails are mostly dirt and rocks through forest. They will be slippery and muddy if it's been raining.
- As with all Virginia hikes; the woods are humid and buggy in the summer. The best seasons for the Sugarloaf Mountain hikes are late spring, early summer, and fall.
- Hike in early June to enjoy beautiful mountain laurel in bloom.
- Avoid the mountain or arrive early on warm Saturdays and holidays. We once arrived at 10:00 for a Mother's Day hike and parked easily. By the time we left at 2:00, every road and space was packed with cars and people.
- For minimal walking with great views, stop at the East View parking area and have a picnic.
- There is a small lookout platform near the West View parking area which is worth a visit.
- Portable restrooms are available near both parking areas; plan to take your trash home with you.
- The road is one-way and passes the Stronghold Mansion. Louise and Gordon Strong created a non-profit that keeps Sugarloaf Mountain available to the public and maintains the roads and trails.
- Leashed dogs are allowed, so bring your furry buddy along.
Sugarloaf Mountain stands alone in the Maryland countryside, a monadnock that remained after surrounding land eroded. With no surrounding mountains, you won't find the spectacular views of the Blue Ridge. But on a clear day a Sugarloaf Mountain hike offers pleasant hiking and lovely views, just an hour from Washington DC and Northern Virginia.
Explore more great Northern Virginia and Washington DC area trails in our Hike and Bike archives.