Situated on the West Bank of the Youghiogheny River, less than ten miles north of the small town of Oakland, Swallow Falls State Park is every outdoor enthusiast’s dream and a must-see destination for your next RV excursion. This small state park showcases Maryland's 53-foot Muddy Creek Falls, the highest free-falling waterfall in Maryland, as well as hemlock trees dating back more than 300 years. Outdoor activities are endless in this natural paradise. Biking, hiking, horseback riding, and rock climbing are some of the wide variety of adventures that await you at Swallow Falls State Park. The breathtaking views of Muddy Creek Falls are spectacular, crashing down at 53 feet. The river air will delight you while you enjoy the rocky gorges, sensational rippling rapids, and majestic hemlock trees. History enthusiasts will appreciate reading about the adventures of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone when they camped along Muddy Creek Falls for two weeks in August 1918, before it was established as a state park. Once you have parked your camper at Swallow Falls State Park, you are free to roam along the one-and-a-quarter-mile trail that takes you through Swallow Falls. This trail offers all the spectacular scenery Western Maryland has to offer. For mountain bike enthusiasts, set your eyes on the five-and-a-half-mile trail that sits between Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Park. Swallow Falls State Park is a great destination any time of the year, offering both sunny summer days and cool, brisk winters. While the park itself is open year-round, overnight camping is only available mid-April until mid-December, with the camping peak season being Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Swallow Falls State Park is easily accessible by RV or car, as it is nine miles north of Oakland, Maryland, off of Mayhew Inn Road and Oakland Sang Run Road. Local, paved roads will take you throughout the park, from the Ranger Station to the campground, and into nearby Herrington Manor State Park. There are no driving restrictions for RVs or trailers inside the park; however, many of the roads are relatively narrow, and the road that leads to the campgrounds has a few twists and turns, so some of the larger rigs and those towing trailers may find navigation and pulling into the camping sites a bit challenging.
There is plentiful parking at Swallow Falls State Park. You can find parking lots to accommodate your vehicle near the Deep Creek Lake Power Plant, at Sang Run Bridge, and near the day-use area, as well as a few spots for parking smaller vehicles all along the trail routes.
Swallow Falls State Park offers 65 pet-friendly campsites suitable for either RVs or tents. Campsites can be reserved from Memorial Day weekend up to Labor Day, although the park reverts to first-come, first-served outside of those months. Campsites are divided into two loops. The Garrett Loop is at the top of the campgrounds, and the Toliver Loop at the bottom. Most of the campsites are primitive, but three of the sites in the Garrett Loop offer full electric, water, and sewer hookups, and three of the sites on the Toliver Loop offer electric and water, but no sewer. Amenities at each campsite include a fire ring, picnic table, and lantern post on a stabilized pad. There are bathhouses with hot and cold running water centrally located at each loop as well as a playground near the center of Garrett Loop. Generators are allowed at this campsite during the daytime hours. During the park’s quiet hours, between 10 PM and 7 AM, only self-contained generators can be used on the condition that they do not disturb others. The length of each site varies, although some can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 30 feet long. There is a two night minimum for weekends and a three-night minimum stay on holiday weekends.
For youth groups, there are three youth group sites for you to rent during the camping season. Nightly service charges are applicable, and an unexpired Maryland DNR Youth Group pass is needed for you to reserve a Youth Group Camping Area. The Youth Group campsites are pet-friendly and offer picnic tables and a fire pit. A maximum of 25 people can stay at each site.
If you prefer to stay in a cozy cabin, Swallow Falls State Park offers three camper cabins that include a bunk bed, one double bed, mini-fridge, and electric heat. From mid-April, until mid-December, reservations are required. The cabins are pet-friendly and feature fire pits and picnic tables. You’ll enjoy the privacy of the cabin, as you relax under the shady trees of the woodlands.
If you take an RV excursion to Swallow Falls State Park during the winter, you’ll want to be sure that your snowshoes are packed in the campervan. This state park becomes resplendent when covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow, and you’ll love trekking out into this winter wonderland to explore the gorgeous waterfall-lined trails on snowshoes. The park frequently sees snow from around early November until February or March, and there are around ten miles of trails suitable for snowshoeing that can be accessed during the winter months. The snow-capped hemlock trees and frozen rivers, streams, and waterfalls will surround you as you soak in their serenity.
Even during the off-season, Swallow Falls State Park is a prime spot for nature photography, so make sure to pack your camera in your trailer. Muddy Creek Falls is an excellent spot to capture amazing shots of the water that cascades down from 53 feet above. Muddy Creek Falls is not the only notable waterfall in the area, however. The park’s namesake, Swallow Falls, is often frozen over in the winter, making for amazing snapshots. Tolliver Falls is another beautiful natural phenomena you’ll want to capture on film. This smaller waterfall features an enchanting view of free-falling water that flows down layers of rock.
The Swallow Falls State Park picnic and pavilion area is the perfect spot to take a break while you are outside exploring the day-use area or the playground. The picnic pavilion is a beautifully shaded stone building that has open-stone windows and broad walkways that help to generate a cooling effect when the wind passes through the building. Before leaving the picnic area, be sure you properly dispose of your trash. Since this park is a natural habitat for black bears, you don't want to leave any trace of food out to tempt a hungry bear.
If you are a birding enthusiast, you will want to be sure that your birding kit is in your trailer. Birding at Swallow Falls State Park is an exciting experience because over 135 different species of birds have been spotted in this park. Some of the common avian species that live and breed in this forest include grouse, wrens, thrushes, vireos, and warblers. Warbler species are more diverse here than in most areas, and the Blackburnian warbler population is particularly active. If you are lucky, you may even see a few broad-winged hawks flying overhead.
The Catch and Release Trout Fishing Area starts at the Dry Creek Lake Power Plant, ending at the Sang Run Bridge. This four-mile area is cooled by the power plant in the summertime so that the trout stay acclimated to the colder water. Be sure to check the river conditions before heading to the water. The river can rise quickly when this cooling takes place. Low to moderate gradient waters, deep pools, shallow riffles, and long runs are all located along these four miles, all of which provide habitat for the healthy population of brown and rainbow trout that inhabit this area. Smallmouth bass can also be found here, and they can give you a run for your money when captured using light trout tackle. This beautiful river flows south to north, and the cobble, limestone, rocks, and boulders that are found in and around this creek add to the beauty, making this a unique spot for fishing during your RV road trip to Maryland.
Swallow Falls State Park is an excellent place to bring your bike and head out for a mountain-biking adventure. Park your RV and head to the 5.5-mile trail that runs between Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Park. This trail is an easy to moderate level trail that has just a few spots that are challenging because there are areas scattered with rocks, or roots are growing across the path. Along your ride, you will see breathtaking scenery, as well as a sign, noting where the Maryland Bicentennial Tree once stood. The Bicentennial Tree was certified as the largest and oldest northern red oak in the state in 1976. Since the sign is a historical marker, plan to stop for a water break and a rest, and snap a photo of this interesting location.
Pack that great pair of hiking boots you just purchased so that you can enjoy the two hiking trails at Swallow Falls State Park. A 1.25-mile hiking trail that goes through an old-growth forest takes you by numerous waterfalls including the highest one in Maryland, Muddy Creek Falls. Another hiking and biking trail can be found between Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Park. This 5.5-mile trail also crosses into Garrett State Forest. Securely leashed pets are permitted on trails that are connected to the state forest, although they are not allowed in the day-use area between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Adrenaline seekers will enjoy running the rapids of the Youghiogheny River, which runs through Swallow Falls State Park. There are several notable areas with boatable rapids on this river. Some of the most prominent rapids include Swallow Falls, which is a long slide into a hole, Swallow Tail, a six-foot-wide river ledge, and Suckhole, a long technical rapid with a sieve at the bottom. While these are all beautiful, scenic runs, they are also quite challenging and can be dangerous. Boaters should be confident that they are up to the task of a fast-paced, somewhat technical river ride.