Let’s start with a S24O primer. A S24O, aka a sub twenty four hour overnight is just that. A camping trip that takes under 24 hours to complete. The short time means you can knock em out over the weekend, or on short holidays. A more traditional bike tour takes lots of planning and time to execute. The other hip phrase for these trips is ‘swift campout’, but we’re curmudgeons, so we’ll stick with S24O. Frederick is more or less surrounded by great camping, some cool dirt roads, and random opportunities for adventures. This list is by no means a complete one, we left out Greenbriar State Park, Michaux State Forest, private camp grounds, and other stuff that I can’t remember right now. These are a few starter ideas, places we have been to a number of times and like.
Gambrill State Park
This route leaves from the shop (ditch the car in our side lot) and heads up through country roads to the foot of the mountain. A long winding climb on a beautiful dirt road (trout streams and a swamp on your right) takes you to the ridgeline of the mountain. Following the ridgeline takes you into Gambrill State Park, where a big overlook lets you see how far up you climbed. In the morning, break camp and hit some hiking trails. We like the Black Trail, which goes to a North West facing overlook. After the hike, head down the blazingly fast Shookstown Road and be back in town in less than an hour. This ride has all of the hard riding on the first day. There is a big mountain climb and it’s dirt. It’s hard but worth it. Call ahead at 1-888-432-2267 to make reservations.
Route map here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/9802596
Cunningham Falls State Park
Cunningham Falls is a gem of a park up near Thurmont, Maryland. It’s fed by tiny trout streams that Fly fishing oriented presidents have been known to fish outta. It is overrated as a waterfall (only go if you have never seen a waterfall and don’t mind crowds), but there is a nice little lake that you can rent canoes on and swim in. I like the smaller 2nd beach, which is usually quieter, but it lacks the concession stand for hot dogs and canoes and all that. Swim at beach 2, rent and eat stuff at the other one. It’s a longish (50 miles), semi hard ride from Frederick, but that’s only about 25 miles a day, which isn’t too bad at all. If you can do 25 miles in one day, you can get up and do it again in the morning. The ride up to the park is pretty, rolling farms and country living. You ride through the Utica Covered Bridge, and down some pretty small B roads. The real climbing starts in Thurmont, where you have to grind up Route 77, task slightly ameliorated by the gurgling trout stream tumbling next to the road. Right after all of the climbing, you can camp out at the park, get a quick dip in and then get to roasting some hot dogs. The next day’s ride is still challenging, with a few shorter but difficult climbs and two dirt roads, including a 4 mile descent down our favorite: Gambrill Park Road. Call ahead to make campground reservations. (301)271-7574
Download and print the cue sheet here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/9802724
Little Bennett Regional Park
Little Bennett is just south of Frederick, and it’s a pretty easy ride through rolling country roads to get there. The return trip is equally scenic, and both directions have stream crossings, dirt roads, singletrack, and forgotten old roads. Little Bennett has a hike in (we think its ok to bike in too) camp spot that’s far away from the rest of the camp spots. No water, just a portapot and a field and some fire pits with benches around them. This is a semi advanced ride, mainly in the sense that you havta do some basic woods navigating with a map. Print out the map before ya go so you are not staring at it on a tiny smart phone screen.
Start here at the shop, and head southish out of the city, quickly entering farm fields and dense woods. There’s a pretty cool rustic road with a stream crossing in the middle of it, some singletrack, fire roads and then your in a wide meadow, the camping spot. In the morning, heading out of the park, navigate down abandoned gravel roads and pop out next to a good Latino breakfast joint. We dig the tamales and a hot cup of coffee. From there the route winds north of Sugarloaf Mountain, drops down next to the Monocacy and heads thru Buckeystown before returning to Frederick.
Route here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/9802930
The C&O canal is a classic place to camp and ride. It’s also the easiest to plan and execute. Bonus: it’s free. Camping along any of the unmarked camp spots that line the canal is legal any time of year. They all have water, porta johns, fire pits and picnic tables. The water is potable, and even though it tastes funky (iodine) you can drink it no problem. We like to start at the Canal parking lot in Point of Rocks and head upstream just past Brunswick. In the morning, head into Brunswick itself and grab coffee and breakfast at Beans in the Belfry, a great coffee shop located in an old church. You can tailor canal camping trips to just about anyone, and ambitious types can log serious miles pretty easily. We say ride less, spend more time around the fire, and have fun.