Cunningham Falls State Park in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains

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    Cunningham Falls State Park

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    ••• Cunningham Falls State Park. © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

     

    Cunningham Falls State Park, located near Thurmont, Maryland, in the Catoctin Mountains, encompasses a beautiful 78-foot cascading waterfall, a 44-acre lake, campsites, playgrounds, picnic areas, and plentiful hiking trails.

    Located about 18 miles north of Frederick, the park includes the William Houck Area 3 miles west of Thurmont on Route 77 where you can find the lake, falls, and a campground. Head to the Manor Area 3 miles south of Thurmont off Route 15 to access the Scales and Tales Aviary, additional camping, and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace, a landmark on the National Historic Register.

    Park Hours: Cunningham Falls State Park welcomes visitors from 8 a.m. until sunset from April through October, and from 10 a.m. until sunset from November through March.

    Camping: The William Houck Area Campground contains 107 basic sites, 33 sites with electric hook-up, nine four-person cabins, and four six-person cabins. The Manor Area Campground has 23 basic sites and eight sites with...MORE electric hook-up. Both areas remain open from April through October. Reservations are suggested. For details, visit reservations.dnr.state.md.us.

    Park Passes: Maryland Park Service Season Passports can be purchased at park headquarters or at the contact station at the park entrance. You can also purchase them online at www.dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/parkpass.asp.

    Of Note: Cell phones are unreliable in the park due to spotty service throughout the Catoctin Mountains. Leashed pets are permitted in all day-use area, with the exception of on the sandy beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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    Cunningham Falls

    ••• Cunningham Falls. © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The main attraction at Cunningham Falls State Park is its namesake 78-foot cascading waterfall, the largest in the state. You can view the falls from a boardwalk or climb up the rocks on the right side of the falls. The easy out-and-back half-mile Lower Trail from the lake leads to the falls. The Boardwalk Trail provides access for wheelchairs. Swimming at the falls is prohibited.

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    Hiking Trails at Cunningham Falls State Park

    ••• Cunningham Falls Hiking Trails. © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    There are a variety of hiking trails at Cunningham Falls State Park ranging in distance and difficulty from easy half-mile strolls to more challenging 7.5-mile treks. The most strenuous, the combined Cat Rock/Bob's Hill trail, crosses the mountain and passes two scenic overlooks with a top elevation of 1,765 feet. It's not a loop trail, so you would need to either double the distance to return to your starting point or arrange for a pickup at the end.

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    Hunting Creek Lake

    ••• Hunting Creek Lake. © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Cunningham Falls Park has a recreation area with a 44-acre lake, Hunting Creek Lake, for swimming, boating, and fishing. You can dip in the lake at three designated swimming areas between Memorial Day and Labor Day; lifeguards are on duty daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The narrow sandy strip at the lake's edge and the grassy slopes leading down to it fill quickly on summer weekends, so arrive early to stake a spot. Park staff turn away cars after they reach the daily visitor quota.

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    Canoes and Boat Dock at Hunting Creek Lake

    ••• Canoes and Boat Dock. © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    You can rent canoes at the boat dock at the lake at Cunningham Falls State Park. Boaters with private crafts can launch for a small fee, but note that the park does not permit gasoline-powered motors on the lake.