Maryland Waterfalls: Catoctin Mountain Park

We had a wonderful time on a weekend vacation hiking to see Cunningham Falls at Catoctin Mountain Park. We were planning to spend the weekend in Washington DC and googled Maryland Waterfalls. Catoctin Mountain Park came up and boasted that it had the tallest waterfall in Maryland at 78 feet.

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Catoctin Mountain Park

Catoctin Mountain Park is about an hour and a half drive from Washington DC. Once we got about a half hour out, it was a fairly easy drive. I am not a fan of city driving so the first part of the trip was stressful for me.

The website for the Catoctin Mountain Park advises to use 14707 Park Central Rd, Thurmont, MD in the GPS. We were a little confused because when we arrived at the visitors center, our GPS told us we still had another 20 minutes to go. If yours does the same, then make sure to stop at the Visitor Center when you see it. Especially if you are there to hike the Cunningham Falls Nature Trail.

Visitor Center

The rangers at the visitor center are very helpful. They went over the map with us and gave us the options that we can hike Visitor Centerto get to Cunningham Falls. We decided to do the moderate trail because it was easier and shorter. The additional option required a lot of uphill climbing and rock scaling and we aren’t quite ready for that.

We decided to take the Cunningham Falls Trail from the visitor center to the falls. Round trip is about 2.4-2.8 miles out and back. We also added the Blue Ridge Mountain Vista trail which is a .6 mile out and back. This trail takes you out to a scenic overlook.

While in the store, I found this great book called Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein. I’m about half-way through the book and love it. He is a great storyteller.

GET YOUR COPY OF: Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein

Cunningham Falls Trail

The beginning of the trail for Cunningham Falls Nature Trail starts in the parking lot across from the visitor center. The trailCunningham Falls Trail starts off fairly easy. The path is a dirt, compact path that is easy to walk. There are many roots along the way that can be tripping hazards. There are a few inclines on this trail, if you are in shape they are probably no problem, but we are not so we took our time with them.

The great part about this hike is that it is not a zig zag up a mountain. It is a pretty much a straight hike that slowly increases in elevation.

We went during the end of March so it was a bit cold but we did warm up quickly. The trees and land were still in the winter stage so it did appear stark, yet still beautiful. While we were out, it did start to snow. Strangely, we did not realize it was snow and thought it was just something dropping from the trees. It was when it started snowing harder that we realized, nope, this is snow chunks, almost like super mini snowballs.

Be prepared for a muddy trail if visiting after a rainy day. Also, bring your hiking sticks. Due to some ascents/descents, the hiking sticks will really help with your knees.


When you get to the end of the Cunningham Falls Nature Trail, you will need to cross over the road to get to the boardwalk that goes to the waterfall. There is a parking lot next to the boardwalk but is marked for Handicap parking only.

The boardwalk crosses over a stream and is an easy walk. The waterfalls is about 1000 ft from the parking lot. When we arrived at the waterfall there were a couple of benches. We sat down and enjoyed some snacks while listening to the waterfall and watching people break the rules. We hung out for about 20 minutes and enjoyed the peace and quiet. There were several people who came and went while we were there, it was a busy day for hiking.

A few quick notes for this trail. You can bring your leashed dog on this particular hike. If taking any other of the Catoctin Mountain Park trails, please check if pets can go on those. Wear good hiking shoes/boots. There were a few areas that were slippery on the trail. Finally, really think twice before breaking the rules.

Breaking the Rules

While we were hanging out, we noticed several people outside of the boardwalk walls, which clearly stated do not cross over boardwalk.

For the most part, many folks were just taking pictures and hanging out at the bottom of the falls. There was one couple who was picking up trash and sadly, it was a lot of trash. Just a reminder to always bring trash out with you, i.e whatever you bring in, bring out.

Now, there were some folks climbing on the rocks. I’m not sure what their thought process was however, one person in a white jacket almost fell. We saw them slip and catch themselves but it was a close call and frankly not worth it. Please mind the signs and stay safe.

Blue Ridge Mountain Vista Trail

Blue Ridge Summit Overlook

This was a fun, quick trail to finish out our trip. The middle portion of this trail is uphill and, after hiking the Cunningham Falls Trail, we found it very exhausting. However, we made it to the top and the overlook is stunning. I am sure that it would Overlookbe even more beautiful in the spring or fall when the trees are full and vibrant.

You do need to drive to the trail from the visitor center. It is the road to the left of the center and the drive is about two miles. There is a parking lot on the right and the trail heads are located in that parking lot.

Make it a Weekend

We had a great time hiking at Catoctin Mountain Park. We also enjoyed a few wineries along the way. One of our favorites was the Red Heifer Winery. Check it out if you have time.Red Heifer Winery

Overall, I definitely recommend hiking in the Catoctin Mountain Park. They do have hikes that range in easy to strenuous, and it’s beautiful area.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, I would love to hear about. Please comment below.

Happy Hiking,

Michelle Louise


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