What to do in Fort Frederick State Park

Fort Frederick is the site of Maryland's frontier defense during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Park lands adjoin the Potomac River and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal passes through park acreage.

The stone fort, named in honor of Maryland's Lord Proprietor, Frederick Calvert, Sixth Lord Baltimore, was erected by Governor Horatio Sharpe in 1756 to protect English settlers from the French and their Indian allies. Fort Frederick was unique because of its large size and strong stone wall. Most other forts of the period were built of wood and earth. Though the fort was never attacked by the French, it served as an important supply base for English campaigns.

Fort Frederick saw service again during the American Revolution as a prison for Hessian (German) and British soldiers. In 1791, the State of Maryland sold the fort. For the next 131 years, the fort and surrounding were farmed.

In 1922, the State of Maryland repurchased the fort. Throughout the 1920s, the State began development of Maryland's first state park. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a company of the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to the park to reconstruct the dilapidated stone wall and locate the foundations of the original interior buildings. Restoration continued in 1975, in preparation for the nation's bicentennial.

The visitor center is an excellent place to orient you to Fort Frederick. It offers a 17-minute orientation film, "Fort Frederick," upon request. Exhibits / historic displays are in the Fort, barracks and the visitor center. The park annually holds military reenactments and other special events. Interpretive maps are available in several locations at the park.

Concession items, including souvenirs and food, are offered at Captain Wort's Sutler Shop. Canoes and rowboats are rented through the Sutler Shop. Boats can be used on Big Pool only.

Fort Frederick State Park offers two easy trails for hikers. The Plantation Trail, a 0.75-mile trail for intermediate users, passes through various stands of experimental trees. The trees were planted from 1925 to 1942 to demonstrate the adaptability of various forest plantings to the climate and topography of Western Maryland. The trail is accessible only to hikers. The novice Wetlands Trail, 0.3 miles in length, passes along a wetlands area behind the campground. Hikers can see several species of turtles, waterfowl, birds, as well as white-tailed deer and other wildlife.

Located just one-half mile west of Fort Frederick is the Western Maryland Rail Trail, a ten-mile long paved path that follows the former Western Maryland Railroad line.

Camping is available on 29 unimproved sites from the last Friday in April through the last Sunday in October.

There is a service charge to tour the fort on weekends (April, May, September, October) and daily Memorial Day to Labor Day. There is a service charge on selected special event weekends to enter the park.

Recreation amenities at Fort Frederick State Park include America's premier stone fortification from the French and Indian War, boat launch, boat rental, cross-country skiing, campfire programs, campsites, camp store, concession, fishing, flatwater canoeing, hiking trail, picnic area, picnic shelters, a children's playground and a visitor center.

Fort Frederick State Park is located in the Cumberland Valley, 18 miles west of Hagerstown and one mile south of Interstate 70 near Big Pool (Rt. 56, Exit 12). The park is 88 miles from Baltimore and 81 miles from Washington, D.C.

Maryland has four distinct seasons with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. The average January temperature ranges between 30 and 34 degrees F (-1 to 1 C) with July averages ranging between 74 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Typically, coastal temperatures are slightly warmer then the western Appalachian Plateau area. Travelers should be aware that winters can become miserably cold and summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.

11100 Fort Frederick Road
Big Pool,, MD 21711

Phone: 302-842-2155

  • Fort Frederick State Park Travel Q&A