Three Road Trips Under Three Hours
Perfect road trips abound around Baltimore. Here are three to tempt the traveler in you. Each is under three hours away—perfect for a romantic getaway, family vacay or just because. What are you waiting for?
One hour away: Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park, Thurmont, Maryland
Need a break from the Beltway? Hike the trails, fish, birdwatch and soak in nature’s splendor in Maryland’s breathtaking Catoctin Mountains. Part of the National Park Service—read: free—Catoctin Mountain Park offers both challenging hikes and meandering trails (NPS.gov). Cunningham Falls State Park ($3/car entry fee with Maryland plates) has the waterfall, lake and more. It’s crowded on weekends, and parking can be frustrating, but the views are spectacular. Both parks offer many activities including camping. Reservations are a must at Recreation.gov for Catoctin Mountain Park and ParkReservations.Maryland.gov for Cunningham Falls State Park. Beyond the parks, check out the Amazon parrots, alligators, jaguars, etc. at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, CWPZoo.com. If nature makes you thirsty, visit Springfield Manor Winery & Distillery, SpringfieldManor.com, and the Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, CatoctinBreeze.com. Don’t expect any VIP sightings, though. President Donald Trump isn’t frequenting Camp David near Thurmont as much as his predecessors.
Two hours away: Lititz, Pennsylvania
Being named “America’s Coolest Small Town” by BudgetTravel.com in 2013 is heady stuff. Lititz, Pennsylvania, embraces the title and then some. It’s hard not to be charmed by the historic hamlet’s 18th-century architecture and quaint park—with a naturally occurring spring, of course. History abounds in this bed-and-breakfast-packed town just 8 miles north of Lancaster but so does cool. There are more than 70 local shops, eateries and lots of places to grab a craft beer, including the Appalachian Brewing Company, ABCBrew.com. And Lititz’s factory tours give yummy samples. Twist pretzels and eat a few on the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery tour, the nation’s first pretzel factory, JuliusSturgis.com, and eat some sweets on the Wilbur Chocolate Museum tour, WilburBuds.com. The second Friday evening of each month is “Lovin’ Lititz Every Second,” and there’s a full calendar of events from the July Fourth parade and fireworks to the Lititz Craft Beer Fest on September 29 and Chocolate Walk with samples at 32 locations on October 7. Check out LititzPA.com for more.
Three hours away: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
If the town is not familiar, the name should be. At the 1912 Olympics, Native American athlete Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon, only to have his medals revoked for violating amateur eligibility rules (the records were restored in 1982). He later played professional baseball and football, was named in 1950 by The Associated Press as the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century and was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in “Jim Thorpe – All-American.” Interestingly, the town of Jim Thorpe, formerly Mauch Chunk, received his remains in exchange for renaming the town and erecting a memorial in his honor.
Mauch Chunk was a thriving coal transportation town in the 19th century, with the nation’s second oldest railway, the Switchback Railroad, carrying coal from the mines to the Lehigh River along an 18-mile track. By the early 20th century, tourists replaced coal cars on the roller-coaster train ride up and down the surrounding hills at top speed. In fact, Mauch Chunk was second only to Niagara Falls as a tourist destination.
Today, the charming town of Jim Thorpe garners constant media nods as one of the most beautiful and romantic small towns in America. The breathtaking beauty of the Lehigh River Gorge and Glen Onoko Falls still thrills visitors. An outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with Lehigh Gorge State Park, the Delaware & Lehigh Trail, Mauch Chunk Lake Park and more, Jim Thorpe offers year-round activities. The restored Mauch Chunk Opera House hosts nationally known jazz, rock and contemporary entertainment, and in June, hosted the first-ever Jim Thorpe International Film Festival. The town boasts quaint historic houses, funky and fun shops and lots of options for history buffs. Fancy a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway or a visit to one of the oldest jails in America? Try a ghost walk or sightseeing in what just may be the most unusual way to tour a town: in the sidecar of a vintage BMW motorcycle with Jim Thorpe Sidecar Tours.
Family or couple, there are many lodging options from historic inns and bed-and-breakfasts to hotels and vacation rentals. Whatever you do, just make sure you come thirsty and hungry. Jim Thorpe has three wineries and numerous pubs and restaurants. For more information, visit JimThorpe.org.