Catoctin Mountain Park | BROWN’S FARM TRAIL

Start of the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Start of the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Length:  .5 mile loop (Brown’s Farm Trail only) and 1.5 miles when hiking out and back to Camp Round Meadow.
Time: 30 minutes for the Brown’s Farm Trail if you read the information in the trail brochure. Add an hour for the hike to Camp Round Meadow and time to walk around the complex.
Difficulty: Brown’s Farm Trail is easy. The hike to Camp Round Meadow is somewhere between easy and moderate.


The Brown’s Farm Trail is a half-mile nature trail that begins at the Owens Creek Picnic Area on the west side of Catoctin Mountain Park. It covers an area once occupied by the Brown Family in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The land was purchased by the federal government in 1936. Who the Browns were, I have no idea. Park literature only identifies the property owners as the Brown Family.

The Brown’s Farm Trail is a loop, and when you get to the far end of the loop there is an option to hike south to Camp Round Meadow. This is an out-and-back hike that adds a little over a mile to the journey, making the overall hike 1.5 miles long. If you want some additional exercise, you might want to tack on this side trip, but other than that, unless you are staying at Camp Round Meadow there’s no reason to hike to it.

The first part of this report covers the Brown’s Farm Trail. The second part covers the hike to Camp Round Meadow.

One word of warning about hiking ANYWHERE in Catoctin Mountain Park during the summer: there are a ton of gnats. I highly advise wearing a hat and mosquito net on your head—I had one in my bag just by chance. I saw dozens of people with mosquito nets during my four-day visit to the park, so it appears that the locals know to come prepared.

BROWN’S FARM TRAIL

The Brown’s Farm Trail begins at the Owens Creek Picnic Area parking lot just past the first group of picnic tables that you pass once the road becomes one way. There is a Kids In The Park TRACK Trail sign at the start. Attached are two boxes that hold a TRACK Trail brochure and a brochure that goes with the Brown’s Farm Trail. Being a typical nature trail, there are stops along the route marked with signs that identify points of interest. The trail brochure gives information about each stop. Most are nature oriented, but there are two at the foundations of some of the former farm buildings. If you want to learn something, pick up a brochure. If you don’t need it after the hike, be sure to return it to the box.

First stop on the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

First stop on the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Nature trails are typically short and family friendly, meaning they are easy to hike. The Brown’s Farm Trail is no exception. The only safety concern is when walking on a wet boardwalk. Signs state that the boardwalks are slick when wet, and this is no understatement. As careful as you might be, it is still very possible for your feet to slip out from under you, like you just stepped on a banana peel in a cartoon. I saw two kids riding scooters on the wet boardwalk, and they both went flying as soon as they attempted a turn. As Marv says in Home Alone, “Kids are stupid,” and sure enough they both got back on their scooters and wiped out again. After that, they walked.

Boardwalk on the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Boardwalk on the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

At .3 mile into the hike is the intersection with the trail to Camp Round Meadow. It is a little confusing because the intersection is 4-way, and if the layout of the land was just the Brown’s Farm Trail loop with a trail to Camp Round Meadow branching off of it, the intersection should be 3-way. There is a directional sign, but it only addresses two of the destinations: Camp Round Meadow (stay straight) and back the way you came to Owens Creek Picnic Area. If you want to continue on the Brown’s Farm Trail, take a left. A right leads out to a small roadside parking area on Foxville Deerfield Road.

Intersection of the Brown's Farm Trail and the trail to Catoctin Mountain Park's Camp Round Meadow

Intersection of the Brown’s Farm Trail and the trail to Catoctin Mountain Park’s Camp Round Meadow

The reason I knew that left was the correct way to go to stay on the Brown’s Farm Trail is because the trail is marked with white triangular blazes, which are paint splotches on trees and rocks that you follow like Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs so that you don’t get lost. The trail to Camp Round Meadow is marked with white rectangular blazes. Thus, if you look left, you’ll see the triangles on the trees along the trail.

No sooner do you turn left than you’ll be at Stop 7, an old well and part of the foundation of the Brown’s farmhouse. This is where the Brown’s used to get their water, but today it is filled with brush. The foundation is next to the well.

Remnants of the Brown Family's farmhouse along the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Remnants of the Brown Family’s farmhouse along the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Location of the Brown Family's well along the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Location of the Brown Family’s well along the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

The next stop on the Brown’s Farm Trail is at the foundation of the family’s former bank barn and a concrete watering trough. A bank barn is similar to a house with a basement, only the basement is exposed on one side and covered with earth on the other. This is accomplished by building the barn into the side of a hill. On the hill side, the entrance is on the middle floor. On the other side, the entrance is on the ground floor. The Brown’s barn had an upper floor as well.

Bank barn (from the National Park Service's Brown's Farm Trail brochure)

Bank barn (from the National Park Service’s Brown’s Farm Trail brochure)

Remnants of the foundation of the Brown Family's bank barn along the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Remnants of the foundation of the Brown Family’s bank barn along the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Drinking trough for animals near the Brown Family's Bank Barn ruins at Catoctin Mountain Park

Drinking trough for animals near the Brown Family’s Bank Barn ruins at Catoctin Mountain Park

There are four other stops on the way back to the parking lot, three of which are nature oriented and one at a stone wall, though I couldn’t see it due to it now being covered with vegetation. The trail remains relatively flat with a smooth surface. There is an overgrown patch here and there, but overall the Brown’s Farm Trail is well maintained. The trail comes back out at the picnic area parking lot, but at a different location.

Typical terrain on the Brown's Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

Typical terrain on the Brown’s Farm Trail at Catoctin Mountain Park

TRAIL TO CAMP ROUND MEADOW

For those who want some additional exercise when hiking the Brown’s Farm Trail, you can get in an extra mile by making a side trip to Camp Round Meadow. As mentioned, the turn comes roughly halfway around the Brown’s Farm Trail loop and is marked with a sign. The sign gives the distance to the camp as .4 mile, but my two GPS units measured a half mile, so expect a mile round trip, plus whatever ground you cover walking around the camp.

Intersection of the Brown's Farm Trail and the trail to Catoctin Mountain Park's Camp Round Meadow

Intersection of the Brown’s Farm Trail and the trail to Catoctin Mountain Park’s Camp Round Meadow

The trail to Camp Round Meadow is not as family friendly as the Brown’s Farm Trail. It is narrower and has plenty of sections that are much rockier than the nature trail, but it’s not too bad and certainly far from the worst of the rocky trails within Catoctin Mountain Park. The trail passes some boulder fields where you can see Catoctin Greenstone.

Typical terrain on the trail to Camp Round Meadow at Catoctin Mountain Park

Typical terrain on the trail to Camp Round Meadow at Catoctin Mountain Park

Catoctin Greenstone

Catoctin Greenstone

The hike proceeds uphill most of the way to Camp Round Meadow, and thus downhill on the way back, but the majority of the climb is gradual and barely noticeable. The steepest section, which is only 500 feet long, comes just before the trail crosses Park Central Road .3 mile from the start.

When you reach Camp Round Meadow, you can either turn around and head back or take time to walk around the complex. If you do some exploring, make a note of where the trailhead is because the complex is large and it’s easy to get discombobulated. I don’t see much reason to walk around, as it’s just buildings, but if you came all this way, might as well check it out.

Entering Camp Round Meadow at Catoctin Mountain Park

Entering Camp Round Meadow at Catoctin Mountain Park

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on February 3, 2023
Share this article