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Enter a gateway to the mountains, more in Thurmont

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The most famous attraction in Thurmont is one the general public will likely never see for themselves. United States presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have been coming to Thurmont for rest and relaxation at Camp David, the official presidential retreat.

Built in the Catoctin Mountains outside Thurmont, Camp David is off limits to the average citizen. But the chance to glimpse the commander in chief - or at least a famous member of his staff - has brought tourists to the town for more than 60 years.

For the past 40 years, visitors have also flocked to Thurmont for one weekend every October. This weekend, more than 100,000 people are expected to descend upon this quiet mountain town for the annual Catoctin Colorfest.

Begun as a nature walk, Colorfest now includes 360 juried artisans, food and entertainment. The festival takes over the entire town. Money raised by the festival board is used to fund municipal projects and scholarships for area students.

Camp David and Colorfest are not the only reasons to come to Thurmont, however. The Catoctin Mountains are home to two parks. Two of the few remaining covered bridges in Maryland still stand outside town. There's a zoo. And in the fall, a nearby farm offers a moonlight corn maze.

Attractions

41st Annual Catoctin Colorfest (Community Park at Frederick Road, activities grounds and middle school on East Main Street, www.color fest.org): From hand-milled flour to watercolor paintings, smokestack birdhouses to wind sculptures, there's something for everyone at Colorfest. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - rain or shine, Colorfest offers free admission and ample parking for a nominal fee. Visitors are urged to take the free shuttle bus. Everything is within walking distance, but wear comfortable shoes because there's a lot to see.

Catoctin Mountain Park (Park Central Road off Route 77, 301-663-9388): Developed to show how poor quality land could be rehabilitated, Catoctin was a Works Progress Administration project during the Depression. Historic exhibits include a former "moonshine' whiskey still. Current activities include bird watching, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, fly-fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing with permit and horseback riding trails (bring your own horse). "Fall Color Walks" start Sunday and continue on weekends through Oct. 23.

Cunningham Falls State Park (off Route 15, 301-271-7574): The highlight of the park is the 78-foot waterfall and 44-acre lake. The park is also home to the remains of a historic ironwork dating to 1776. The park offers picnic areas, fishing, canoeing, cabins, camping, hiking, hunting by permit, a visitors center and a playground made from recycled tires. Oct. 15-16 a three-hour "Spirits of the Furnace" Night Hike is planned. The park also has a "Creepy Campers" program this month, awarding prizes for the best Halloween-decorated campsites.

Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo (13019 Catoctin Furnace Road, 301-271-3180): More than 350 animals, including lions, tigers and bears. Hands-on activities for kids focus on hibernation.

Covered Bridges (Old Frederick Road, Roddy and Roddy Creek roads): Two of the few remaining covered bridges in Maryland are just outside the Thurmont city limits. The Loy's Station Bridge is on Old Frederick Road, south of Route 77. The Roddy Road Bridge is at Roddy and Roddy Creek roads, north of Thurmont. Pedestrian visitors use caution - it's difficult for drivers to see a person standing inside the bridges and there's not much space to get out of the way once a vehicle enters.

Lawyer's Moonlight Maze (13001 Creagerstown Road/Route 550, 301-271-4826): The Oriole Bird swings one out of the park at this corn maze, which features seven miles of trails over 35 acres. Open some daytime hours, but mostly evenings so flashlights are required. Take your best shot with the pumpkin cannon.

Pryor's Orchard (13841-B Pryor Road off Route 15, 301-271-2693): This family-run orchard has been a local favorite for decades. Apples, pears and other fall produce.

Where to shop

Gateway Market (off Route 15, 301-271-2322): Well-kept roadside market offers bulk candy, including treats you haven't tasted in years, candy-making supplies and produce.

7th Heaven Alpaca (5B Main St., 301-271-0320): Rugs, apparel, yarn and more - all woven from alpaca wool.

Leo's Gameroom Treasures (2 E. Main St., 301-271-4200): Pinball machines, arcade games and jukeboxes ready for your basement.

The Shoppes at Cozy (Frederick Road): "Village" of shops offer gift items, flowers, antiques, furniture, collectibles and a beauty salon.

A Whimsical Place (5 E. Main St., 301-271-2462): Unique home decor with antiques and collectibles mixed in. Afternoon tea on scheduled dates.

Where to eat

Cozy (103 Frederick Road, 301-271-4301): Don't miss the photos of presidents and politicos past. This inn/restaurant has long been a media circus when U.S. presidents are alone or with other world leaders at Camp David. Menu offers standard home-style dinners, a buffet and "Fondue Hideaway."

Mountain Gate Family Restaurant (133 Frederick Road, 301-271-4373): Known for its various country buffets, including breakfast and seafood versions. Bus tours stop frequently, so be prepared to wait.

Shamrock Restaurant (7701 Fitzgerald Road off Route 15, 301-271-2912): American cuisine in a white-tablecloth atmosphere with Irish overtones.

Getting there

Take Interstate 70 West toward Frederick. Follow to Route 15 North. There are two exits for Thurmont, Route 77 and Route 550. Some Thurmont-area attractions are right off Route 15.

For more information

Visit www.thurmont.com, www.thurmont.net or www.co lorfest.org. To reach city government, call 301-271-7313.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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