Cunningham Falls State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Home to the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland and more than a few picturesque views, Cunningham Falls State Park is the perfect stop for your next RV vacation. This vast park stretches for over 6,000 acres in the city of Thurmont, Maryland, and offers plenty of recreation. Since the park is so large, there are two campgrounds to choose from during your stay. When you aren't relaxing at your campsite, you can get lost in the endless acres of forest, figuratively speaking. Maps are available to help you navigate the park and see all of the points of interest, including the large 43-acre human-made lake and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace. The many miles of hiking trails vary in difficulty and length, so double check before you set off that you and all members of your party can handle whatever trail you select. Visitors also enjoy fishing, hunting, picnicking, boating, and wildlife viewing. If you happen to visit the park during March, make sure to check out the annual Maple Syrup Festival, where you can learn all about making syrup, watch demonstrations, and even sample the sticky, delicious treat. The park is open year-round, even though the campsites at the William Houck Area are only available from April through October.

RV Rentals in Cunningham Falls State Park

Transportation in Cunningham Falls State Park

Driving

Cunningham Falls State Park can be found 65 miles northwest of Baltimore, just off US-15, and you’ll also be only 33 miles from Michaux State Forest, which has some impressive parks and campgrounds as well. Once you are inside of the park, it should be easy to get around, although some rounds are a bit curvy. There are several parking areas around the park, including at the campground and near Cunningham Falls.
Whether you choose the William Houck Campground or The Manor Area for RV camping, both are easy to locate, resting just a few miles south of Thurmont. The William Houck Camping Area is considerably bigger than the Manor Area, but both have paved roads that you can get your RV through. Some people prefer the Manor Camping Area because the roads are a little bit easier to navigate and not quite as winding. Plus, the campsites have more space between them. Both camping areas have wider main roads going through them with narrower roads leading to the individual campsites, but they aren't too bad to get around.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Cunningham Falls State Park

Campsites in Cunningham Falls State Park

Reservations camping

Manor Area Campground

The pet-friendly Manor Area Campground has 31 camping sites, 10 of which are equipped with electrical hook-ups and are large enough for RVs and trailers up to 30 feet long. Each site features a picnic table and grill so you can enjoy some delicious meals on-site. You'll have access to water within walking distance. Some visitors prefer the Manor Area Campground because it is smaller than the park's other campground, and it provides more privacy. It's also open year-round, making it perfect for an RV trip any time of year. The campground has a centrally located bathhouse that has hot showers and flushing toilets. The Manor Area is popular among history buffs because it is close to the famous Catoctin Furnace. Not all services may be available if you want to camp from November through March, but all campground amenities are available April through October.

William Houck Campground

The William Houck Campground has 139 camping sites, 33 of which have electrical hook-ups that are suitable for RVs. The campgrounds feature water faucets and bathhouses located in the center of each camping loop, as well as a camp store near the parking lot. Dumpsters are located nearby for convenience, but not close enough to stink up your campsite. The William Houck Campground can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. This campground is open from April through October. The William Houck area is near the 43-acre Lake and a convenient trail to the falls, which is why many people choose this as their camping spot. You'll be close to all the aquatic action, including boat rentals and the boat launch. You can also bring your furbaby with you because your pets are welcome here.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Cunningham Falls State Park

In-Season

Horseback Riding

There are quite a few equestrian trails in and around Cunningham Falls State Park. One such trail is the 4.7-mile Cunningham Falls Manor to White Rock on the Catoctin Trail. This path is a moderate-rated trail that has an elevation gain of 1,072 feet and is mostly uphill. You can see lots of wildlife in the woods here, including black bears, so stay bear aware. You can continue along the Catoctin Trail for another 10.7 miles if you like, but the trail gets increasingly more difficult with a total elevation gain of just over 2,500 feet.

ATV Riding

The trails for ATV riding are not numerous, but you can find them if you look hard enough. Try the 11.3-mile Frederick Watershed Trail in Frederick, which is a loop trail starting and ending on Mountaindale Road by Fishing Creek Reservoir. However, since you are camping at Cunningham Falls, you can jump on the trail by Fishing Creek near Gambrill Park Road. The entire trip is in the 7,000-acre Frederick Municipal Forest, and you can find 12 ponds in the area, two of which are stocked full of trout, so bring along your fishing pole on your ride.

Seeing Cunningham Falls

The 78-foot cascading waterfall seems to be a magnet for people from all over the state and beyond. Even if you don't get to see everything in the park, the waterfall is worth taking a special trip. The picturesque landscape will have you reaching for your phone to take pictures as soon as you arrive. How much water is actually in the waterfall will depend on what time of year you go, but the natural rock formations are pretty impressive in and of themselves.

Swimming

Swimming is not allowed in the Falls, but you will still have plenty of room to swim in the three designated areas of Hunting Creek Lake during the summer months. The lake provides hours of fun for thousands of people a year and is a great destination for families of all sizes. Just be sure to get there before the water reaches the maximum capacity set by park staff. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the sandy parts of the beach, but they can still explore the trails with you. Make sure to pack your swimsuit in your camper; you won't want to miss out on swimming.

Fishing

Fishing is allowed in various parts of Cunningham Falls State Park, but everyone over 15 needs a fishing license to drop a line in the water. You should also brush up on all the fishing regulations to make sure you don't break a state fishing rule. For example, most of the areas where fishing is allowed are available for catch and release, and only certain types of lures are permitted. Fishing is allowed at Hunting Creek Lake, Little Hunting Creek, and in the many tributaries of Big Hunting Creek that flows through Cunningham Falls State Park.

Off-Season

Hunting

Cunningham Falls State Park has about 3,500 acres of land for the public to hunt on. You will need a valid hunting license from the state of Maryland and a vehicle permit. You’ll find woodcocks, foxes, raccoons, crows, and rabbits as well as grouse, squirrels, turkeys, and whitetail deer. Most of the hunting areas are posted with red and white triangular signs that say, Managed Hunting Area. For more information or to learn where you can hunt, visit the Cunningham Falls State Park website.

Bouldering

By the junction of Hog Rock and Falls Nature Trails, one of the best bouldering spots in the park is just north of MD-77 (Foxville Road). From the visitor center, it is a 1.4-mile hike to get there, and it is worth the walk. There is a plethora of outcroppings, slab faces, overhung flake, and sharp fins to explore. You can also find some excellent bouldering sites along the Cliff Trail by the Houck area and the Lower Trail.

Boating

If you love boating and own your own boat, you're in luck. A boat ramp is available to the public to put your boat in the water on Hunting Creek Lake, although you will pay a small fee. But it's completely worth it, considering you can go out on the lake and relax at any time of year, especially during the cooler months when the lake isn't as busy. Keep in mind no gasoline motors are allowed, only electric motors or boats without motors can cruise Hunting Creek Lake.

Attending Wildlife Educational Programs

Visitors of all ages will love the popular wildlife educational programs, Scales and Tales. These programs allow you to get up-close and personal with wildlife in a way that you would never otherwise get to do. During these programs, you will be able to see and learn more about birds, reptiles, as well as learn about the special adaptations that animals make to survive in the wild. Knowledgeable workers put on a fun show that is also educational and teaches visitors about important environmental issues.

Bicycling

Don't forget to bring your bike with you. During the off-season, some campsites and services are closed, but the trails are still open and are perfect for bicycling. The trails are especially good for bicycling during the off-season because they're less busy and you don't have to worry about other people as much. With several miles of trails to explore, there's no faster way to get through the park without missing anything than taking a bike. It is especially beautiful during the fall months when the leaves on the trees are changing colors.

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