It wasn’t easy to find Swallow Falls State Park. This is, perhaps, the most rural part of Maryland, and the roads weren’t well marked. After a wrong turn and a u-turn, I was headed the right direction.
Swallow Falls State Park is north of Oakland, Maryland. From town, take Liberty Street — it will turn into Herrington Manor Road. There are signs in town to point you in the right direction. However, if you’re following my route, you’ll arrive in the area via Cranesville Road. You can either turn on Maple Glade Road, or drive to the end of Cranesville Road and turn left — the park’s main entrance is about one mile away from that “Y” intersection — but there are no signs for the park.
Swallow Falls State Park offers several waterfalls. Surprisingly, its namesake falls aren’t the most impressive cascades in the park.
At the parking area, head downhill. The path descends to the Youghiogheny River.
When you arrive at the river, you’re at the upper cascade of Swallow Falls. If it’s a warm day, there’s a very good chance that more than a few rednecks will have ignored the “no swimming” and “danger” signs, and waded out into the middle of things. There’s also a good chance you’ll be tempted to join them. The falls form a natural waterslide of sorts, so if you don’t end up sucked into a hole or slammed against a rock, you’ll probably have a lot of fun.
The riverside path heads downstream, to the lower cascade of Swallow Falls. Just try to take a picture that doesn’t have a redneck in it, I dare you.
At this point, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the park. The falls were okay, but not everything I had hoped they would be. For some reason, they didn’t fit the image that was in my mind, as I thought back to my pre-trip research. I thought about bailing out, and heading back to the parking lot, but thankfully, I decided to continue my hike to Muddy Creek Falls.
It’s a good thing I did. Muddy Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, and it’s the one that’s pictured on every brochure. It made me wonder why they didn’t call this Muddy Creek Park.
The trail allows for good views of Muddy Creek Falls from its base, and as you climb up the side.
Once you’re at the top, you can walk out onto the rocks, next to the brink of the falls, and look downstream. In the distance is where Muddy Creek mingles with the Youghiogheny.
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.