OverviewBuzzard Knob is a minor high point on the long South Mountain ridge in Maryland. The nearest town is Smithburg. Buzzard Knob happens to be just a few miles west of the presidential retreat at Camp David, which lies atop Catoctin Mountain. My estimation is that Buzzard Knob would be of little interest to all but shameless peakbaggers, and those who climb something just because they like its name. However, it is indeed a local high point, and it offers somewhat of a view. And to make it sporting, reaching the summit requires a brief amount of scrambling.
The summit of Buzzard Knob actually reminds me of Wolf Rock, a very popular destination in Catoctin Mountain Park, which is just a few miles to the east. However, Buzzard Peak is not in a park, and no trail leads to the top. It is not even visible from the nearby Appalachian Trail (AT), due to dense vegetation. But, if you know where it is, there is some fun scrambling to be found, and some (limited) views. The best views are probably the partial views to the northwest from the northern part of the summit area.
Getting ThereFrom Washington, DC:
Take 270 north, continue onto 15 north, then turn west onto MD 77 (Foxville Road) and go about 7.5 miles.
Parking is available on the south side of the road, near the AT crossing point. The AT crosses MD 77 between Hopkins Lane and Pleasant Valley Road. This parking area happens to be about six miles west of the trailhead for Cat Rock.
RouteThis route approaches Buzzard Knob from the south via the Appalachian Trail.
Cross MD 77 (Foxville Road) and head north on the AT. At first the trail heads straight across an open field, but within a few minutes it enters the woods and becomes sinuous, with moderate ascents and descents. The hiking is pleasant, and in the summer it is much cooler in the woods than in open areas.
When you sense something higher to your left, leave the AT at a point of your choosing and scramble to the top of Buzzard Knob. A more gradual ascent can be performed by circling around Buzzard Knob to the south and approaching the summit from the southwest or west. This approach is less steep and the vegetation on the west side seems to be less dense and less thorny. From Warner Hollow Road to the summit is only about 0.4 to 0.5 miles, depending on the approach taken. Thus, this route is about four miles round trip.
There is a summit candidate on the south side of the rock formation, and also one on the north side. Both are easy to surmount. There are limited views from the top, mainly to the west and northwest.
Red TapeThere is no red tape. This is just a hike along the AT, with a brief detour to the west.
When to ClimbBuzzard Knob can be climbed at any time of year. Winter is best for the least-obscured views and for minimizing annoying vegetation.
CampingCamping is available at nearby Catoctin Mountain Park, a few miles to the east.