A Complete Guide To Visiting Washington Monument State Park MD in 2023
Everyone is familiar with the iconic Washington Monument in D.C., but the Washington Monument Boonsboro MD was the first monument to be erected in honor of George Washington.
This amazing stone structure still sits on the mountaintop where it was built almost 200 years ago.
I recently made the short drive from Gettysburg PA to the Washington Monument State Park on South Mountain in Maryland. After a short hike, I was rewarded with stunning panoramic views from the top of the 30-foot stone tower.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the original Washington Monument Boonsboro, Maryland.
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Table of Contents
The First Washington Monument History
It all began in 1827 when the 500 residents of the small town of Boonsboro, Md. decided to celebrate Independence Day in a big way.
To commemorate American independence from Britain, they held a large event that included a fife and drum corps, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a three-round gun salute fired by three Revolutionary War veterans.
Just about every resident of Boonsboro then hiked two miles up South Mountain and began constructing a stone monument in honor of George Washington. By the end of that day, the structure reached a height of 15 feet on a 54-foot diameter base.
In September of that year, the people returned to finish the monument, raising the height to 30 feet.
Some people say the Washington Monument Maryland is in the shape of a “milk bottle,” while others compare it to a Winnie-the-Pooh beehive. According to the Maryland Historical Trust, it’s supposed to be modelled after a Revolutionary War cannon.
In any event, the original dry-laid construction reflected a rugged stone tower that exuded a resilient charm due to its handmade design.
Though not as big as other memorials to our first president, this one is the first Washington Monument to be completed in the United States and offers views like no other.
Washington Monument History During The Civil War
On September 14, 1862, as Confederate Robert E. Lee and his staff entered Boonsboro during the Battle of South Mountain, Lt. Col. E.P. Alexander observed “a small party of people on what seemed to be some sort of tower on the mountain top.”
Thinking they were Union signalers, Alexander led a squad of eight men up to investigate, but found them to be local Boonsboro citizens trying to get a better view of the combat.
Federal signalmen did use the monument afterward, as well as during the Battle of Antietam three days after.
The two armies returned to this valley in 1863 during the Confederate retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg, clashing all across Washington County.
From July 5-14, the two sides collided at Boonsboro, Funkstown and Hagerstown.
There is a lot of Civil War history in the area, including in nearby Frederick, Md., where you can visit the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
There are also plenty of things to see and do in Gettysburg, PA, which is less than an hour away.
Mountaintop Memorial Falls Into Disrepair
After the dedication and enthusiasm in building the tower in the early 1800s, the residents of Boonsboro seemed to forget the monument in the following years.
The stone monument was left to crumble to the ground, but was restored in 1882 by the Odd Fellows Lodge of Boonsboro, a non-Masonic fraternal organization. The restoration was financed by both the Odd Fellows and with the help of a public donation drive.
Monument Restored A Second Time
After the restoration in 1882, the first Washington Monument fell victim to neglect and vandalism. Believe it or not, this included being damaged by dynamite at least once.
In May of 1916, the Hagerstown Daily Mail reported that the monument had been vandalized by “mountaineers.” It is this incident that most likely reduced the monument to half its original size.
In 1934, during the Great Depression, the Washington County Historical Society deeded the monument to the Maryland State Department of Forestry.
Shortly thereafter, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) rebuilt the monument. After nearly a year-and-a-half of labor, the Washington Monument was rededicated for a third time in a grand ceremony on July 4, 1936.
Washington Monument State Park
Located near Boonsboro, Maryland, Washington Monument State Park is a historical and recreational park whose centerpiece is the first “completed” monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington.
The beautiful state park is equipped with picnic pavilions, a comfort station and has a small museum.
The park is a great place to get a history lesson while you are getting your exercise. As you ascend the trail to the monument, signs highlight important dates in Washington’s life in chronological order.
The first sign reads: 1732 Born in Westmoreland Co., Va.
The others are:
🔷 Surveyor of Culpeper, VA (1749)
🔷 Officer in the French and Indian War (1753-1758)
🔷 Marries Martha Custis (1759)
🔷 Member VA House of Burgess (1758-1774)
🔷 Virginia Delegate to the Continental Congress (1774)
🔷 Appointed Commander in Chief (1775)
🔷 Loses NY to the British and Declaration signed (1776)
🔷 Winter at Valley Forge (1777)
🔷 British Surrender at Yorktown (1781)
🔷 British Recognize American Independence (1783)
🔷 Federal Constitution Recognized Becomes President (1789)
Things To Do At Washington Monument State Park
The Washington Monument Boonsboro is just icing on the cake if you’re planning a visit to Washington Monument State Park in Washington County, MD.
The Appalachian Trail passes through the state park so you can pick up the trail or just do the Monument Trail, which is a 1.4-mile loop.
There are plenty of other things to do as well. Here are a few ideas:
Hiking: In addition to the Appalachian Trail, there are several hiking trails in the park that offer scenic views of the surrounding countryside. The most popular trail is the Monument Trail to the stone memorial. The trail is moderately strenuous, but the panoramic views from the top are worth it.
Picnicking: There are picnic areas in the park where you can relax and enjoy a meal with family or friends. Picnic tables and grills are available for use.
Birdwatching: The monument makes it an ideal site for spotting migratory birds such as hawks, eagles and falcons, especially in mid-September.
Wildlife Watching: This Maryland state park is home to various wildlife species, including deer, squirrels and wild turkey. I met a doe on the trail on my way up, and was surprised after about a half hour of taking pictures at the Monument, to turn around and find her casually watching me from a few dozen feet away.
Historical Interpretation: The park has interpretive displays and signs that provide information about the history of the monument and its significance. You can learn about the construction of the monument and its historical context.
Photography: The beautiful trails and the views from the tower provide lots of opportunities for photography. Panoramic views allow you to see four states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Learn About History: The park operates a small museum dedicated to the monument and to the Civil War-era Battle of South Mountain.
The Washington Monument museum contains displays and artifacts about the history of the monument.
Exhibits also include a summary of the 1862 Maryland Campaign and a fiber-optic map presenting an overview of the Battle of South Mountain. The museum is open in the spring, summer and fall.
The main office for South Mountain State Battlefield is located in the Washington Monument State Park as well. You can learn about the first major Civil War battle fought in Maryland.
FAQ’s About Washington Monument State Park
When Is Washington Monument State Park Open?
The Washington Monument State Park is open 8 a.m. to Sunset (April to October); and 10 a.m. to Sunset (November to March).
Are Pets Allowed At Washington Monument State Park?
Yes, pets are permitted as long as they are leashed.
Other Washington Monuments
The first Washington Monument in Boonsboro is nothing like the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
That memorial to George Washington is a 555-foot-tall obelisk that stands as an iconic landmark on the National Mall. It was started in 1848, but did not open to the public until 1888. The monument was the world’s tallest structure until the erection of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889.
Another major obelisk, the Bunker Hill Monument, had been dedicated in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1825, it was also not finished until 1844.
The Washington Monument in Baltimore (Mount Vernon Place) was actually the first big monument to George Washington to be started. The cornerstone was laid in 1815, not even two decades after Washington’s death, however it was no finished until many years later.
Philadelphia and New York both have beautiful ornate statues of George Washington on horseback. And Milwaukee, Wis. has a bronze statue of the figure of Washington.
There are many historical destinations to explore throughout the United States that you may want to put on your bucket list.
Visiting The Washington Monument
The monument sits along the Appalachian Trail near the summit of South Mountain’s Monument Knob. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is a National Historical Monument and a Maryland Historic Monument.
The park is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Washington Monument Parking
There is plenty of free parking at the Washington Monument State Park as well as restroom facilities.
Directions To The Washington Monument South Mountain
The address is 6620 Zittlestown Road, Middletown MD 21769
From the East:
Take Interstate 70 westbound to Exit 49, MD Alternate Route 40. Turn left on Alternate 40 for approximately 9 miles. At the top of South Mountain, turn right on Washington Monument Road. After 1 mile, the road intersects with Zittlestown Road at a four-way stop. Go straight to enter the park.
From the West:
Take Interstate 70 eastbound via Exit 35, MD Route 66. Turn right on Route 66 and travel about 6 miles to MD Alternate 40 in the town of Boonsboro. Turn left on Alternate 40 and drive about 4 miles to the top of South Mountain. Turn left on Washington Monument Road. After 1 mile, the road intersects with Zittlestown Road at a four-way stop. Go straight to enter the park.
Things To Do In Nearby Boonsboro
The Monument on South Mountain is located about halfway between Frederick and Hagerstown and there are lots of things to do and places to eat and stay in both towns.
If you like Bed and Breakfasts, check out Antietam Overlook Farm.
Turn The Page Bookstore (Owned by famous author Nora Roberts)
Wrap-Up Of The Washington Monument Boonsboro
While the Washington Monument on South Mountain is modest in size, it is of enormous historical interest in highlighting how the country commemorated America’s first president.
The stone tower is a historical landmark that offers visitors a chance to take in breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including forests, rolling hills and distant mountains.
The monument also features informational plaques and exhibits that provide insights into Washington’s life and legacy.
A visit to the Washington Monument is a unique opportunity to connect with America’s past and appreciate the significance of Washington’s contributions to the nation’s history.