October 9 2023: Sugarloaf – closed following an attempted break-in at the Stronghold property in August – will be reopened on October 10. There are some new conditions. More details are provided here.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a small 1,200 monadnock outlier of the Blue Ridge which rises from the rolling hills about 10 miles south of Frederick, MD. The private Stronghold Foundation owns the land and welcomes many hikers and climbers to their wooded peak each year. Roads allow visitors to drive most of the way up the mountain and allow for remarkably short approaches to many climbing areas. Sugarloaf offers local climbers some of the closest traditional lead climbing to the Washington Metro Area. It is also notable for some excellent difficult top-rope routes, as well as numerous boulder problems scattered throughout the forest.
Sugarloaf offers the following climbing areas:
- Devil’s Kitchen:
Parking is the roadside area, about 40 yards to the left of the East View. When you see the East view to your right, you’ll keep going, don’t turn into the East View lot. You’ll immediately see some picnic tables on the right, with the cliffs right behind them. That’s Devil’s Kitchen. Long approach, about 1 1/2 minutes, so bring all the toys you want. You don’t have to worry about weight.
- Middle Earth:
The trail to Middle Earth, marked with green blazes, starts by the port-a-potties and shack as you enter the West View parking lot. Follow the trail for 100 yards or so to the stairs. Middle Earth area is up through the woods to your right.
One of the best places for trad is Middle Earth area. Some of the best trad routes are; A Flake Called Lee, 5.5; Seven Wishes, 5.6; Cording Traverse, 5.7 (can pull overhang up finger crack, too); White Quartz Wielder, 5.8.
Best top rope is Bloodguard, 5.10a, You need gear and/or a long piece (75′) of static line to set it up right. (You can use two pieces of static rope, getting two separate trees involved.) Nice thing about this set up is you can also top rope White Quartz Wielder and Cording Traverse (and its variations) with it, too.
Though there are no bolts, a standard trad rack will suffice for most climbs. Some climbers have commented on the softness of the rock, so try not to take whippers.
Top roping may be accomplished using only trees or boulders as anchors; however a number of climbs require fairly long lengths of static to reach large enough anchors. NOTE: Sugarloaf is a popular destination for hikers who have been known to interfere with anchor setups. Always observe and check your anchors before depending on them, especially if they have been left alone for a while, or you see hikers atop the cliffs.
Various free topos abound of various quality…
Real books include:
- Mark Indy Kochte’s Climb Maryland!
- Eric Horst’s Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland
Cell Phone Coverage/Internet Access
Cell Coverage can be farily spotty; however, you may be lucky enough to find a place which has a line of sight down to a cell tower.
Sugarloaf lies in a fairly rural area, so your best bet is a shop closer to the city such as REI in Rockville.
From DC area:
Take I-270 to exit 22. At bottom of ramp, turn right onto Md. 109. Go about 3 miles, then turn right on Comus Road for about 2.5 miles to the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. Take the one-way road up the mountain to the large West View parking lot.
Where to Eat
- Roys Place in Gaithersburg, Maryland