Swallow Falls State Park offers a variety of outdoor highlights in a relatively short hike, from multiple waterfalls to some of the oldest forest in Maryland and a historic camping site of famous Americans. The round-trip hike is a little over 2 miles, including the less visited Tolliver Falls. For an interesting experience, start at Tolliver Falls and follow the Canyon Trail along the river until you get to Muddy Creek Falls. The trail between Swallow Falls and Muddy Creek Falls is very well marked, although it's not as well marked between Tolliver Falls and Swallow Creek Falls.
From the parking lot, a large sign will greet you at the beginning of the trail. The first thing you will see to your left is a sign describing the area as the last virgin hemlock and white pine grove of its kind in Maryland. The trees are estimated to be over 300 years old. You will soon reach a fork where a left goes toward Muddy Creek Falls and a right toward Swallow Creek Falls. Taking a right will allow you to include Tolliver Falls in your hike, which is past Swallow Creek Falls. Although this part of the trail isn't as well marked, continue to follow the trail, without turning left on the other paths, until you reach the Youghiogeny River. Once you reach the river, turn left along the Canyon Trail path. You will soon come upon Tolliver Falls, a small waterfall with a peaceful pool at its base.
To reach upper Swallow Falls, continue along Canyon Trail, which follows the river. The trail is not steep, but it can be slippery, especially in the winter months, so watch your step. The next falls you reach are the upper Swallow Falls. You can get fairly close to the edge of the falls, but signs warn you to watch your step. Take a moment to enjoy the beautiful view of the Youghiogeny River, including a small island right off the river bank. From the upper falls, there are stairs to take you back to the parking lot, or you can continue down the Canyon Trail to the lower falls.
Along the trail to the lower falls there are opportunities to get closer to the river. Once you get to the lower falls, stairs lead down to the viewing area for the lower falls. Once again, be careful of your footing on these steps and trail, especially during the winter, because they can get slippery. After viewing the lower falls, return to Canyon Trail to reach the final, and largest, of the falls on this hike, Muddy Creek Falls.
Muddy Creek Falls is one of the the tallest waterfalls in Maryland, standing at around 53 feet of continuous drop. Saving these beautiful falls for last provides a sort of climactic satisfaction to the hike, as they are much taller than all the other falls. Once again, there are numerous viewpoints to take different pictures of the falls, and all provide a unique perspective. Climb the stairs to reach the top of the falls. At the top of the falls, don't miss taking the short trail to a spectacular bird's-eye view of the Youghiogeny River. Along the way you will find a historic sign that informs you that Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs, and company camped on that same cliff. After taking in the view and history, follow the trail, which will lead you back to the parking lot.