Cunningham Falls State Park is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains. It is divided into two separate but unique areas. The William Houck Area located three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77 has the lake area, falls and camping area. The Manor Area off Route 15 three miles south of Thurmont has the Scales and Tales Aviary, camping and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace.
Outdoor activity is everywhere at Cunningham Falls State Park. Leisure opportunities like swimming, hiking, fishing and canoeing are available. For those who wish to get away for either a night or longer there are campsites and camper cabins available for rental from April through October.
The staff and volunteers at Cunningham Falls State Park strive to make your visit a pleasant one. If you have any questions or concerns please let us know.
A trip to Cunningham Falls State Park would not be complete without a visit to the scenic 78-foot waterfall, for which the park is named. Cunningham Falls are the largest cascading waterfall in the state. The falls, locally known as McAfee Falls, can be accessed via a short trail from the lake area or a boardwalk from Route 77 for those visitors with mobility impairments. This trail terminates at the falls from either access point and is not a through trail.
Cunningham Falls State Park Trail Map
A new map of the trails at Cunningham Falls State Park can be downloaded for free from this website. Please make sure to read the printing instructions and information for how to download the file to cell phones. The map is in a PDF format that requires Adobe Reader. To get the free Adobe Reader go to Adobe.com.
- "Click" here to view the Cunningham Falls State Park Trail Map
- "Click" here to view the instructions for printing and downloading the Cunningham Falls State Park Trail Map
Swimming is allowed in three designated areas of Hunting Creek Lake, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Lifeguards are on duty daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day. Lifeguard coverage may be adjusted during periods of inclement weather. For your safety and the protection of the natural resource swimming is not allowed at the Falls. Please remember to arrive early as the park often reaches capacity by mid to late morning on weekends and holidays. If the park reaches capacity, visitors will be turned away.
Reservations are required for buses and vans (vans containing 15 passengers or more) at Cunningham Falls. There is a non-refundable reservation charge, plus a day use service charge. There is a maximum of 8 buses/vans permitted per day (depending upon staffing levels). If you do not have a reservation and arrive at the park, entry into the area may be denied. There are special supervision requirements for youth groups. No buses/vans are permitted on summer weekends and holidays. To make a reservation, call 1-888-432-CAMP (2267). For more information, call the park directly at (301) 271-7574.
- Cunningham Falls Campgrounds: Pets are allowed in Addison Run, Bear Branch, and the Manor Area camping loops. Pets must be attended and on leashes at all times.
- Houck Area: Pets are not allowed on the Lower Falls Trail, from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day. Pets are not allowed in the lake area, from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day. Pets are not permitted on the sandy portions of the swimming beaches. Pets are allowed year round on all trails except the Lower Falls Trail. Pets are allowed in the lake area from the day after Labor Day until the day before Memorial Day Weekend. Pets must be attended and on leashes at all times.
- Manor Area: Pets are not allowed at the Visitor Center or Aviary. Pets are allowed in the day-use area and trails. Pets must be attended and on leashes at all times.
The Cunningham Falls State Park trail system varies in terrain from short, flat hikes to steep and rocky ascents that will challenge even the experienced hiker. Trail distances vary from .5 mile to 7.5 miles.
- Lower Trail--red blaze (one half mile) This easy to moderate trail is the shortest and easiest access to the Falls. Interpretive signs and benches along the way. Return to the lake by this trail or Cliff Trail. This trail terminates at the Falls.
- Cliff Trail--yellow blaze (3/4 mile) Rough terrain offers strenuous hiking past rock outcrops that lead to the Falls. Return to the lake by this trail or Lower Trail.
- Campground Trail--orange blaze (3/4 mile) This strenuous trail gives campers access to the Cliff Trail.
- Old Misery Trail--orange blaze (2 miles) This steep, strenuous trail with many switchbacks and scenic views connects with the Cat Rock Trail.
- Cat Rock/Bob's Hill--yellow blaze (7.5 miles) This strenuous trail crosses the mountain and passes two scenic rock outcrops with scenic views.
- Cat Rock Trail--yellow blaze (1.5 miles) This steep, strenuous trail leads to Cat Rock (elevation 1560') and scenic views.
- Bob's Hill Trail--yellow (1.5 miles) This steep, strenuous trail leads to Bob's Hill (elevation 1765') and two short spur trails with views north and south.
- Catoctin Furnace Trail--No blaze (1/4 mile) A self-guided trail which leads to Catoctin Furnace. Crosses U.S. 15 via elevated foot path (46 steps up the stairway).
- Catoctin Trail--blue blaze (27 miles) This strenuous trail leads from Gambrill State Park through Frederick City Watershed, Cunningham Falls and Catoctin Mountain Park. Nine miles of trail are in Cunningham Falls. Camping permitted only in designated campgrounds.
Horseback riding is permitted only on that part of the Catoctin Trail that is located between the park boundary with the Frederick City Municipal Watershed and the Manor Area. Horseback riding is not permitted in the Houck Area that includes the lake and the falls.
Picnicking at the William Houck Area
Picnic tables and grills are available near the lake area on a first come, first served basis. There are no cover pavilions or shelters in this area. Please remember to arrive early as the park often reaches capacity by mid to late morning on weekends, holidays and even some weekdays during the summer swim season.
Picnicking in the Manor Area
Picnic tables and grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A picnic shelter is available by reservation only. The shelter holds 150 people. The shelter was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) out of native stone many years prior to the installation of Route 15. It is recommended that you visit the shelter prior to making your reservation due to its proximity to the highway.
A boat ramp for launching private watercraft onto Hunting Creek Lake is available for a small service charge. Only electric motors are permitted, no gasoline motors. A boat concession on Hunting Creek Lake rents boats during the summer season. Please contact the Park Office in advance as staffing levels may affect availability.
Hunting is permitted on 3500 acres of wildlands in accordance with statewide hunting regulations. The hunting area consists of forested terrain with steep access routes.
A reservations only deer hunting area is available for hunters with a Hunt from the Vehicle Permit. Reservations are required. Reservations are taken starting the day after Labor Day at 8:00 am. Reservations can be made either in person at the Park Administration Office or by calling 301-271-7574. Reservations can be made for Deer Firearm Season and the first week of Muzzleloader Season.
Be sure to consult your Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping for season dates and bag limits.
Hunters may enter / remain on park property outside of the regular posted hours provided that they are engaged in legitimate, authorized hunting activity.
Cunningham Falls State Park has several opportunities for fishing. A Maryland Freshwater Sport Fishing License is required for all fishermen over 15 years old. Be sure to consult the Maryland Freshwater Sportfishing Guide for creel and size limits prior to your fishing trip.
Hunting Creek Lake is a put and take trout area. An accessible fishing pier is located off of Catoctin Hollow Road next to the boat ramp. Fishermen can also fish for bass, bluegills, sunfish, crappie and catfish.
Big Hunting Creek along MD Route 77, as well as its tributaries within Cunningham Falls State Park, is a catch and release trout stream limited to artificial fly fishing only. Use of conventional fly fishing tackle and artificial flies must be used.
Little Hunting Creek in the Manor Area is a catch and release trout stream limited to the use of artificial lures and flies only. Spinning gear may be used.
Cunningham Falls State Park has campsites in both the William Houck Area and the Manor Area.
The William Houck Area Campground has 107 basic sites, 33 sites with electric hook-up. The William Houck Area campground is open April through October. Click here for map and site descriptions.
CAMP OFFICE HOURS: The Camp Office is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. Check in during other times is subject to change. Please call 301-271-7574 to verify during other times.
The Manor Area Campground has 23 basic sites and 8 sites with electric hook-up. The Manor Area Campground is open April through October. Primitive camping at the Manor Area Campground is available from November 1 through the second weekend of Deer Firearms season. This means that the bathhouse is closed for the winter, but a portable toilet is available. Click here for map and site descriptions.
Each site is approximately 23’ X 23’ made of stone dust and has a picnic table and fire ring. There is a bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets centrally located in the middle of each camping loop.
Reservations are recommended for both areas, since they often fill weeks or months in advance.
Campground Check In Hours:
Beginning August 18, 2013 through September 2, 2013, hours for checking into a camper cabin or campsite will be: Sunday through Thursday 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Beginning September 3, 2013 through end of the 2013 camping season, hours for checking into a camper cabin or campsite will be: Sunday through Thursday 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.
The William Houck Area Campground has 9 four-person camper cabins and 4 six-person camper cabins. Each cabin site has a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern post. All cooking must be done outside the cabin. The cabins have no heat. Campers may bring an electric heater or fan. Heat sources should not be left on while the cabin is unattended. No propane heaters are allowed. Campers must provide their own linens.
Reservations are recommended since the camper cabins often fill weeks or months in advance.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in all State Park areas, including campgrounds. The only exception at Cunningham Falls State Park will be the Manor Area Shelter if you purchase an alcohol permit, upon making a reservation.
- Scales and Tales Program -- Scales & Tales is an environmental education program. This is an educational and entertaining program. Live birds of prey and reptiles that cannot be returned to the wild are shown to your group. Using stories or "tales" of how these animals came to be in the care of Cunningham Falls State Park, naturalists talk about important environmental issues. The Scales & Tales animals are on display in the Aviary in the Manor Area. Click here for a more detailed description of the Scales and Tales Programs available.
- Historic Catoctin Iron Furnace -- The historic Catoctin Iron Furnace, located along Route 806 in Frederick County, Maryland was a site for iron-making for 127 years from 1776 to 1903. This landmark on the National Historic Register is a place where visitors can step back in time. Click here for more detailed information on the Historic Catoctin Iron Furnace.
The William Houck Area, located three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77, has the lake area, falls and camping. The Manor Area three miles south of Thurmont off Route 15 has the Scales and Tales Aviary, camping and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace.
Cunningham Falls State Park
14039 Catoctin Hollow Road
Thurmont MD 21788
Contact Cunningham Falls
Hours of Operation
8 a.m. to Sunset, April-October
10 a.m. to Sunset, November-March
By regulation, vehicles are not permitted to be parked after sunset. Certain activities are permitted outside of the regular park hours (e.g. fishing, boat launch, hunting where permitted). Please check with the park before your visit if you plan to engage in an activity which requires you to be in the park before or after the posted hours.
Contact the Park Service
- Toll Free: 1-800-830-3974
- Reservations: 1-888-432-2267
- Park Watch: 1-800-825-7275
- Email Us