Fort Frederick State Park – Amazing Hidden Gem In Maryland

Fort Frederick State Park

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Looking to immerse yourself in some US history? Need a place to camp? Then Fort Frederick Maryland State Park is the place to stop. Fort Frederick tours are FREE. The grounds and hiking trails are breath-taking. Campers pay no more than $16 a night per campsite and the Fort Frederick rangers are incredibly helpful and friendly to boot!

Fort Frederick Maryland State Park

Activities

Before visiting, check with the Fort Frederick visitor center for current schedule of fort activities.

Fort Frederick Visitor Center
Fort Frederick Visitor Center

The fort itself is open for visitors daily. To engage in demonstrations or the interactive activities held at Fort Frederick its best to visit from Thursday through Monday. These demonstrations and interactive activities permit you to immerse yourself within the history of the fort. From musket firing demonstrations to guided tours.

Walking the fort grounds, we were able to view a replication of the soldiers’ quarters, women’s quarters, kitchen, armory, and storage room, along with the meeting rooms and those quarters of the higher officers.

A self-guided Park Quest is available to complete as well. The information for this is located just to the left of the visitor center. Learning about and identifying local trees to discovering how women played a role in the conservation and development of the Fort Frederick State Park, there’s something to do for the whole family during the Park Quests.

Park Quest at Fort Frederick

Grounds

The state of Maryland acquired the fort in 1922. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began repairing and rebuilding the fort and developing the state park. The current wooden structures within the fort enclosure are not original but were recreated to show how they once stood. However, most of the fort walls are original and nearly 300 years old.

Fort Frederick Entrance
Entrance to Fort Frederick

At one side of the fort you will notice what appears to be a stone pattern on the ground. This was the foundation of the general’s house. A reenactor at the fort informed us that not much is known about the general’s house. However, it is believed to have had intricate woodworking details and beautiful archways.

Foundation of General's House at Fort Frederick
Foundation of the General’s House
Fort Frederick Museum
Fort Frederick Museum
Playground at Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick Playground

Outside of the fort walls you will find flush toilets and outdoor showers. Fort Frederick’s museum was closed while we were there but you are able to peak in the windows. On a trail behind the fort leads to picnic tables and a playground for the kids.

Our Experience

During our visit to the fort on the last Monday in August, there were only a few other visitors. We were able to freely view each room at our leisure. Which was a bit more fast-paced than we would have preferred with a Kindergarten in tow, haha.

Us walking into Fort Frederick to view the barracks

The kids had a great time viewing all of the rooms. We all learned about the history of Fort Frederick and explored how soldiers used to fight and live during that time. The adults even learned some things too!

After we walked through, one of the reenactors walked over to us and offered to answer any questions we had. He patiently answered all questions we had. Then he asked us if we’d like to watch him perform a demonstration of a musket firing. We eagerly agreed!

Musket Firing Demonstration

The kids watched as the reenactor demonstrated the basics of loading and firing a musket. He also taught the commands the general would issue to the soldiers to get them ready to shoot their muskets.

Musket Firing Demonstration at Fort Frederick
Musket Firing Demonstration at Fort Frederick

After which, the kids were instructed to shout the commands to direct the reenactor to load and fire his musket. The first blast of the musket startled all of us! However, by the second firing, we were ready (Lea, our kindergartener, with her ears covered). The reenactor gave each kiddo a replica of a shilling for their hard work during the demonstration.

After the musket firing demonstration, Lea mentioned that the ropes and fences kept her from exploring the rooms. The reenactor jumped at the opportunity to take us “behind the scenes.” Not sure how often this occurs so it’s not something to count on. However, if the fort isn’t busy and your reenactor is as friendly as ours was you may be able to ask for a personal tour of the rooms.

Lea with a Fort Frederick re-enactor “behind-the-scenes”

Fort Frederick Campground

We stayed at the Fort Frederick State Park campground from late August to mid-September in 2021. We took a small break in between to camp at Big Run State Park for labor day weekend.

Campground Amenities

Toilets and Showers: There are several vault toilets within walking distance of each campsite. Closer to the fort, there are flush toilets and outdoor showers available as well.

Trash and Water: A dumpster and potable water are available beyond the fort but prior to entering the campground. This makes it easy to dump your trash as needed and fill up your fresh water tanks and jugs. They are located right before the train tracks. If you are lucky, you may get to witness a train going by as you fill up on water. Make sure to use a water filter as you never know what is coming through those pipes! In another blog we outline other RV items you may need as well.

Amenities Outside of this Maryland State Park

Fuel and Snacks: A fuel station with both diesel and gas is located just outside of the park entrance. This makes it easy to fill up your fuel tanks and grab last minute snacks and bottled water as well.

Dump Station: The nearest place to dump your tanks is about 5 minutes away at the Big Pool AC&T fuel station. The cost was $10 to dump your tanks or free with the purchase of 40 gallons of fuel. Our truck only holds about 38 gallons at most, so we just paid the $10 fee each time.

Grocery Stores, General Shopping, and Laundry Facilities: Some of the closest stores and laundry facilities are actually located in West Virginia. You’ll find a Walmart, Food Lion, and plenty of fast food places to eat as well. Most places are still a bit of a trek at 20-35 minutes away.

Fort Frederick Campground Grounds

When camping in the campground, you will notice there are several trails that lead directly to the Potomac River. There are life savers located at the entrance of each of these trails. Signs state you are permitted to enter the river but at your own risk as there are no lifeguards present.

On the opposite side of the campground, there is a trail that leads to a natural pool called Big Pool. It is located just a few minutes’ walk from the campground. This natural pool is approximately 1.5 miles long. You are permitted to fish at Big Pool but are not permitted to enter the water due to “known hazards.”

Big Pool in Maryland
Despite the name, Big Pool is NOT for swimming

There are several small trails from which to access the water for bird watching, fishing, and nature viewing. There are also signs for a beaver colony but we didn’t have a chance to find them. If you are not staying at the campground, there is a small parking area where you can get out to see the Big Pool sights.

Big Pool at Fort Frederick in Maryland after a storm
Big Pool after the residual rainstorm from hurricane Ida

Our Campground Experience

This was our first camping spot as full-time RVers. We plan to primarily boondock or “dry camp” so this was a good first break into that, given the amenities listed above.

During are entire stay there were never more than 2-3 other occupied campsites during our entire stay. Actually, at one point during the week we discovered we were the only ones at the campground. When we left for labor day weekend, we noticed the campground begin to fill up but it was rather sparse upon our return.

Empty Campground at Fort Frederick
Can you spot our RV at the only occupied campsite?

Park rangers drove by frequently and checked on us a few times during our initial stay – primarily due to the rainstorms coming in from Hurricane Ida. A flash flood warning was issued for the area we were staying, and the rangers encouraged us to relocate to another spot in the park due to the possibility that the road out of the campground might become flooded.

After reviewing the weather forecast and state of the roads, we decided to stay put knowing we had reservations for a few more days after the storm anyway. We stocked up on fuel and supplies the day prior just in case. Fortunately, the road did not flood but the steps leading down to the Potomac River sure did…

Potomac River the day after Ida storms passed through
Potomac River after the Ida rainwaters dissipated

Our Campsite

We stayed at campsite #3. We highly recommend this site for tents or small types of campers.

Our Grand Design fifth wheel parked at campsite #

The currently low hanging branches and trees adjacent to the campsite driveway make it difficult to back-in larger vehicles and trailers. We still managed to get our (just under) 35 foot fifth wheel into the spot but it took several adjustments, including temporarily removing a couple of campsite markers from the ground. A Fort Frederick groundskeeper informed us that we were more than welcome to drive off the gravel path in order to back into the spot. He even offered to back the rig in for us!

The nearest vault toilet is just 2 campsites away. Making the toilet close enough for emergencies (haha) but far enough away to not be bothered by other campers using it.

Additionally, one of the better trails to the Potomac River is just 1.5 campsites away from campsite #3. Again, close enough to access easily but not so close that campers are walking directly next to the campsite in order to gain access to the trail.

Potomac River at Fort Frederick in Maryland
View of the Potomac River from the trail near campsite site #3

We had a great time at Fort Frederick’s campground and would absolutely camp here again. Even though we stayed for several nights we feel there was still more to see. It’s certainly a park worth multiple visits!

If you’ve been to Fort Frederick, what was something about we missed that we should check out in the future?

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