Share:

Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls State Park

Greater Washington D.C., Maryland

Start Exploring
Cunningham Falls

Share:

Advertisement
  • To reach the falls, you can park in either the parking lot dedicated to the hike or you can park at Cunningham Falls State Park. There is a $3 entrance fee to park in either lot between Memorial Day and Labor Day.- Cunningham Falls
  • The Lower Falls Trail is the less strenuous of the two hikes that you can choose.  - Cunningham Falls
  • Cliff Trail offers a bit more variety and elevation on the hike. For those looking for a change in scenery, hikers can make a loop out of the two.- Cunningham Falls
  • The trail is well marked.- Cunningham Falls
  • The park has several different instructional plaques to inform hikers about the geological importance of the area.- Cunningham Falls
  • Cliff Trail is a little rocky.- Cunningham Falls
  • Be ready for some rocky portions on the Cliff Trail.- Cunningham Falls
  • Cunningham Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so it is unlikely there will be solitude at the site.- Cunningham Falls
  • Unfortunately, despite several signs requesting that hikers stay on the boardwalk and trails, many visitors fail to heed the guidance.- Cunningham Falls
  • The base of the falls.- Cunningham Falls
  • Lower Falls Trail is much easier and smoother than Cliff Trail.- Cunningham Falls
  • After finishing the hike, spend some time in the picnic area at Cunningham Falls State Park. There are several sites available, including some with fire pits.- Cunningham Falls
  • A view of Hunting Creek Lake.- Cunningham Falls
  • A view of Hunting Creek Lake.- Cunningham Falls
  • For those disabled hikers, there is a parking lot on Route 77 in Catoctin National Park right out of the boardwalk.- Cunningham Falls
  • For those hiking to Cunningham Falls from the Catoctin National Park Visitor Center, you will reach the boardwalk after a 1.4-mile hike. You will then cross Route 77 to reach the boardwalk.- Cunningham Falls
  • The boardwalk is a short, leisurely, beautiful stroll to Cunningham Falls. Please note, however, that this boardwalk does not connect with the boardwalk from Cunningham Falls State Park.- Cunningham Falls
  • The boardwalk is a short, leisurely, beautiful stroll to Cunningham Falls. Please note, however, that this boardwalk does not connect with the boardwalk from Cunningham Falls State Park.- Cunningham Falls
  • There are benches along the boardwalk to sit and enjoy the scenery.- Cunningham Falls
  • The boardwalk helps protect the surrounding environment from human impact.- Cunningham Falls
  • Cunningham Falls in the background.- Cunningham Falls
  • Cunningham Falls.- Cunningham Falls
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Waterfalls. Views. Easy access.
Cons: 
Crowded.
Advertisement
Region:
Greater Washington D.C., MD
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Highest point: 
1,250.00 ft (381.00 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
230.00 ft (70.10 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Park entrance fee
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Fall, Spring
Total Distance: 
1.25 mi (2.01 km)
Total elevation gain: 
230.00 ft (70.10 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
Advertisement
Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Cunningham Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Maryland, both for its beauty as well as its accessibility. Cunningham Falls is within the Catoctin Mountain area, although it rests in its own state park. The hike is beautiful and very well marked, making it an ideal hike for all age groups and levels. As an added bonus, there are three separate trails that reach Cunningham Falls, two of which can make this a round-trip hike.  The round-trip option starts off at the Cunningham Falls State Park parking lot, which has a $3 dollar parking fee during peak season, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Another option is to park at Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor Center; this offers you a slightly longer out-and-back trail, but it also provides an alternate view of the falls.

For the most popular option, park at Cunningham Falls State Park. There is a separate parking lot specifically for the hike, though you can also reach the trail from the park's regular parking lot. If you park at the regular parking lot, you can take advantage of the different amenities there, including swimming in Hunting Creek Lake as well as playgrounds and day use picnic areas after your hike. To reach Cunningham Falls, there are two choices; Lower Trail, which is a relatively easy 1-mile hike out-and-back hike, or Cliff Trail, a rockier, more technical path with a higher elevation that is about 1.5 miles out and back. For those who are looking for a change in scenery, hikers can make the two trails into a loop by walking to Cunningham Falls via one path and returning on the other for a 1.25-mile loop.

At 78 feet, Cunningham Falls are the largest cascading waterfalls in Maryland. They are beautiful, but if you go at peak hours, be prepared to share the view with many people. Unfortunately, many of the visitors fail to abide by the numerous signs requesting that all hikers stay on the marked walkways in order to preserve the fragile wildlife. To avoid seeing this, it is recommended that you get to the falls early to avoid most of the visitors.

For another option to visit the falls, you can park at Catoctin Park Visitor Center. From there, it is a 2.8-mile there-and-back trail to the falls. The trail is hilly and rocky in some places, making it a little more challenging to hike to the falls from the Cunningham Falls Parking lot. It also provides an entirely separate boardwalk to reach Cunningham Falls. Note that the two boardwalks do not connect, and there is no easy or safe way to get from one boardwalk to the other. As a bonus, this boardwalk is ADA approved. In fact, there is a small parking lot right outside of the boardwalk for vehicles with valid disabled passes, thus allowing visitors of all abilities to experience the beauty of Cunningham Falls. 

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Adventures

(6 within a 30 mile radius)

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
4 Members
Who's Done It
4 Members
Submission by
Contributor
17 Adventures Explored
12 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info