swallow falls state park muddy creek falls 1
Maryland State Parks

Trip Report: Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland

on
May 13, 2022
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Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland boasts the state’s tallest free-falling waterfall at 53 feet, as well as its oldest hemlock trees. The park features a small campground and three more waterfalls along a scenic hike. 

hazel posing at sign at swallow falls state park

History and Location

Swallow Falls State Park in Oakland, MD, sits along the Youghiogheny River and is just two hours from Pittsburgh and three and a half hours from Washington, D.C. Deep Creek State Park is only 10 miles away.

The land for the park was originally donated by two brothers from Baltimore for a state forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the area the 1930s as two separate parks: Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor. A 5 1/2 mile hiking trail connects the two.

civilian conservation corps at swallow falls state park

Campground

Swallow Falls State Park campground has 65 campsites. You’ll want to book early for your visit if you’re hoping to plug in, because only 6 of those sites have electric. 

swallow falls state park campground map

We reserved site #42 in the Garrett Loop, which has electric and water. The site is slightly tilted, so we used a few 2x4s to even us out.

Oddly enough, there were no other RVs in the campground that Friday night! We only saw one van that was at a cabin.

I found the situation to be peaceful, while Russ found it to be more like the beginning of a horror movie…

swallow falls state park site 42

Empty to the right, empty to the left, but the campground was clean and seems to be well-laid out. Here were our views: 

swallow falls state park site 42 to the left
swallow falls state park site 42 to the right

The small cabins (where we spotted the lone van during our weekend escape) have electric, a double bed, bunk beds, a small refrigerator, and a microwave. 

swallow falls state park cabins

The bath house for the loop has several trails from all directions leading to it, and we found it to be quite clean.

swallow falls state park bath house

Since I’m always concerned with clean showers, hot water, and timer buttons, I figured I better start documenting them a little better this season!

I am happy to report the showers at Swallow Falls State Park are clean and hot and THANKFULLY do NOT have timer buttons! 

swallow falls state park showers 1
swallow falls state park shower 2

PRO TIP for the Campground

We visited on a very, very wet weekend. Drainage is not optimal in the campground. If you have an older, thicker outside rug to take on this RV trip, do it, and don’t forget your shoe tray and super-absorbent dog towels!

Trails

Swallow Falls State Park does not have miles upon miles of hiking trails – but the ones it does have are spectacular! 

In addition to the 5 1/2 mile trail that connects Swallow Falls State Park to Herrington Manor State Park mentioned above, you will not want to miss Canyon Trail, coming in at a very manageable (even in the rain!)  1 1/2 miles long. 

swallow falls state park trail head entrance
swallow falls state park trail map

If you are coming with your furry friends (as we always are!), you’ll want to time this visit well.

Turns out that even though pets are welcome in the campground any time, Canyon Trail only welcomes pets on the trail before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, like some beaches. 

swallow falls state park pet policy

Fortunately, we timed our visit well, and Franklin and Hazel got to join in the hike this time!

hazel at swallow falls state park

Be sure to wear some real hiking shoes that grip, because this trail can be slippery and muddy in spots. You’ll be scrambling over rocks and climbing stairs to observation areas, so get a good hold on your leashes, too! 

canyon trail in swallow falls state park

If you are looking at the trail map, we started at Muddy Creek Falls. Due to some torrential rain for the previous 24 hours, it was in rare form.

swallow falls state park muddy creek falls 2

As I mentioned, the hike is rocky and can be slippery, but Franklin and Hazel took it in stride!

swallow falls state park canyon trail hazel
swallow falls state park canyon trail franklin

The trail is full of interesting rock formations and fantastic river views, including two more waterfalls along the Youghiogheny River. 

swallow falls state park rock formations
swallow falls state park rock formations 2
swallow falls state park danger sign
swallow falls state park waterfalls 2
swallow falls state park waterfalls 3

The last waterfall traveling south on Canyon Trail is Tolliver Falls. While it’s the calmest of them all, it’s overflow unfortunately blocked the rest of the trail that day.  

The underwater portion is to the right in this pic:

swallow falls state park tolliver falls

If the loop is blocked, you can take the staircase back to the parking lot area to complete your hike. 

franklin and hazel up the steps at swallow falls state park

Wildlife, Fauna, and Fungi

During our extremely wet weekend, we saw a few deer, many chipmunks, and heard a story at the gift shop about a bear sighting. 

Along the trail, you’ll encounter some wild tree roots, and we even found one cool set of mushrooms.

cool tree roots in swallow falls state park
cool tree roots in swallow falls state park 2
swallow falls state park mushrooms

The Last Word

Swallow Falls State Park might be small, but its waterfall views and rocky hiking are mighty for a quick weekend trip! 

Take care to plan around the pet restrictions if you are traveling with your four-legged friends, and watch your step along those trails. 

swallow falls state park main entrance
Another state park in Maryland has lake views and even features a casino! Check out Rocky Gap State Park. 
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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Marty Janney

    May 13, 2022

    Thank you so much for your descriptive, clear, and concise writing. I look forward to more of your Road Trip Tails.

    • Reply

      Jill & Russ

      May 16, 2022

      You’re welcome! Glad to have you along.

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