Sugarloaf Mountain, which sits on the border of Fredrick and Montgomery counties in Maryland, is the closest real mountain to D.C. At 1,283 feet it just barely makes the cut off to qualify as an actual mountain. Mount Kilimanjaro-type exhibitionists may scoff, but for your little outdoorsmen it’s perfection. Here’s the 411 on hiking this super-fun peak with kids in tow.

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Choose Your Lane
Depending on how old your kids are, you can either hike the whole thing, or drive three-quarters of the way up and pick a trail. The six hike options range in distance from 1/4 mile to 7 miles, and are each distinguished with color-coded tree markers (so your little one can channel her inner Dora the Explorer to help keep everyone on the right path). All of the trails intersect, in case you start one, but want to switch to another. Pick from the Red, White, or Blue trails, which are the most kid-friendly of the bunch.

  • Red: Tots will ace this gentle slope (aka Monadnock Trail)—the 1/4 mile jaunt is mostly flat all the way up. 
  • White: Mountain Loop Trail does a cool 2 1/2 mile circle around the summit, making it one of the best trails for your flower child. At any given time, Sugarloaf boasts more than 500 species of plants on the ground.
  • Blue: Great for sporty sprouts with a little more stamina, Northern Peaks Trail goes for 5 flat and gorgeous miles. 

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Park It
There are four small parking lots (that rarely fill up) with direct access to the trails. When you get to Sugarloaf, just start driving around the mountain and stop when you run into the parking lot that’s closest to your desired trail (the red and blue trail starts are closest to West View parking, and the white trail start is closest to the main entrance parking).

Take a Breather
Views of the Potomac and Monacacy Vallies from the summit are breathtaking, and make great backdrops for a family photo. Keep your eyes peeled for wild deer, fox, owls, and turkeys. And don’t forget to bring water and snacks (there’s nowhere to get them once you’re on the trail). Plus, there’s nothing more enjoyable than chowing down on a picnic at the top!

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What About Potty Breaks?
Hit the loo at home, or be prepared to use the port-o-potties sprinkled along the trails (hello, extra roll of T.P. and hand sanitizer!).

Peak Perks
You’re welcome to bring Fido, as long as you keep your furry friend is on a leash. Another bonus to this sweet, family-friendly set of trails is that there’s a vineyard at the foot of the mountain—stop and pick up a bottle of red on your way home!

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Sugarloaf Mountain
7901 Comus Road (Dickerson, Md)
Open: Daily 8 am to sunset
Online: sugarloafmd.com

Where do you take your kids hiking? Tell us in the comments section below.

—Besa Pinchotti

Photos courtesy of Jonf728 via Flickr, tienvijftien via Flickr, ZanyShani via Flickr, queennluciabella via Flickr