Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
230.00 ft (70.10 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
1.25 mi (2.01 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Spring

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Waterfalls. Views. Easy access.

Cons

Crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)

Highest point

1,250.00 ft (381.00 m)

Net Elevation Gain

230.00 ft (70.10 m)

Features

ADA accessible
Near lake or river
Waterfalls
Family friendly

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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