What to do in Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park is part of the forested ridge that forms the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains in Maryland. This mountain park has sparkling streams and panoramic vistas of the Monocacy Valley. It is located in the Catoctin Mountains and is known for its history and scenic beauty, as well as its 78-foot cascading waterfall. The Falls is located one half mile from the lake in the Houck Area via the Falls Trail.

Before the first Europeans arrived, many small Native American tribes farmed, hunted and fished the area. Tradition says the name Catoctin came from the tribe, the Kittoctons, who once lived at the foot of the mountains near the Potomac River. By the time the settlers began to arrive in the Monocacy River Valley, Native Americans were seldom seen.

Early settlers used timber from the forests to make charcoal to fuel the Catoctin Iron Furnace. Too many years of clear-cutting and unscientific farming practices contributed to the overuse and destruction of the land.

In 1954, the area was divided into two parks, divided by Maryland Route 77. The northern 5,000 acres is now Catoctin Mountain Park, a unit of the National Park Service. The remaining 5,000 acre parcel was named Cunningham Falls State Park. There are two main developed areas in the park, the William Houck Area and the Manor Area.

The Maryland State Forest and Park Service along with the National Park Service preserve the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains in Maryland. Nearly 6,000 acres give the public and our nation's highest public officials an outdoor haven for refreshment and relaxation. Catoctin Mountain encompasses both state and federal land. Camp David, the Presidential retreat along with Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park provide outstanding recreation.

History enthusiasts enjoy viewing the Catoctin Iron Furnace, once a part of the booming industrial era beginning as far back as 1776 and continuing until 1903. The site may be view off MD State Route 806, three miles south of Thurmont.

If you love to swim, Cunningham Falls offers several options. Three designated areas exist around Hunting Creek Lake. Summer lifeguards are provided Memorial Day through Labor Day. Unsanctioned swimming is enjoyed at the base of the 78-foot high cascading Cunningham Falls. There are numerous cold pools for cooling off but caution is warranted. The huge boulder can be very slippery and are not recommended for children.

Hunting Creek Lake is a popular destination with anglers. The lake supports thriving populations of largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, and rainbow trout. A boat ramp is located off Catoctin Hollow Road ($). During the summer months, several types of paddleboats are available for rent. The lake does not permit gasoline-powered motors and electric motors are limited to 1 hp or 33 lbs. of thrust. Anglers also find success in Big Hunting Creek, found along MD State Route 77. This is a catch-and-release site limited to artificial fly fishing only. Another site is Little Hunting Creek, located in the Manor Area. It too, is a catch-and-release site.

Hiking is thoroughly enjoyed in both Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. Nine scenic trails are limited to foot traffic only. Mountain bikes are prohibited on all trails.

Hunting is permitted within a restricted area of the park. Disabled hunters can hunt in a special area by reservation.

The park offers a recycled tire playground in the Manor Area. The tire playground was crafted from 3,000 tires with volunteer labor.

Picnicking opportunities exist in both the Houck and Manor areas of the lake. Each area offers tables and grills. Shelters are available via a permit obtained through the park office. A concession and beach store operate during the summer months.

Pets are welcome at Cunningham Falls State Park. Restrictions apply. They are permitted only in the wild areas. They are prohibited from both the Houck and Manor parcels including the lake, the falls, and the campground. Within the wild areas, they must be leashed.

Handicapped facilities at Cunningham Falls State Park exist throughout the park. The ADA sites include a fishing pier located near the boat ramp, a 300-yard long trail to the falls from MD State Route 77, several restrooms, several campsite and cabins, picnic areas, parking lots, the Catoctin Furnace historic area, the Houck Area amphitheater, the Manor Area visitors center, and the children's playground.

The park offers two camping areas: the Houck Area with 140 campsites situated in five camping loops and four cabins, and the Manor Area with 31 campsites.

Each year the park offers maple syrup demonstrations in March. The giant sugar maples found on the park yield about 25 gallons of sap each; however 40 gallons of sap are required for just 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Recreation
Outdoor recreation at the state park include hiking, camping, fishing, picnicking, hunting, boating, swimming, and viewing historical sites. Pets are welcome in the wild areas only.

Location
Cunningham Falls State Park rests on the southern border of Catoctin Mountain Park, a NPS property. It is in Frederick County, about 15 miles north of Frederick. There are two areas of the park: The Manor Area, on U.S. Highway 15 and the Houck Area, three miles west of Thurmont, off MD Route 77, on Catoctin Hollow Road.

Climate
Maryland has four distinct seasons with spring and fall being particularly pleasant with low humidity and mild temperatures. The average January temperature ranges between 30 and 34 degrees F (-1 to 1 C) with July averages ranging between 74 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Typically, coastal temperatures are slightly warmer then the western Appalachian Plateau area. Travelers should be aware that winters can become miserably cold and summers can be hazy, hot and humid with afternoon thundershowers.

Address
14039 Catoctin Hollow Road
Thurmont, MD 21788

Phone: 301-271-7574

  • Cunningham Falls State Park Travel Q&A

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