Cunningham Falls – Guest Post from Patti Lalley

For my husband and I, it’s not truly the fall season until we make a visit to the Cunningham Falls State Park. This Maryland State Park is a beautiful wooded park located off US Route 15 between Frederick and Thurmont in the Catoctin Mountains. This area’s main claim to fame is the presence of Camp David. Since we did not have the special invite needed to enter the presidential retreat, we headed to the Falls. The 78 foot high Cunningham Falls are the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland.

There are nine trails ranging from easy to difficult to hike to the waterfall. Maps of the hiking trails are available from the park ranger stations. Here’s a complete trail guide.

In our pre-baby days, my husband and I would hike the Cliff Trail. This ¾ mile trail to the falls had us climbing over rocks on the way to the falls. This time we hiked the mile Lower Trail which provides the shortest and easiest access to the waterfall. My 6 year old son really loved exploring the rocky wooded terrain, pointing out the birds or animals he saw. For families that need a stroller or a wheelchair there is a ¼ mile Boardwalk Trail that ends at the base of the waterfall. (Note that the parking lot right by the Boardwalk Trail is open only to vehicles displaying the handicap symbol.)

After exploring the Falls, we ambled over to the beach area at the lake in the Houck Area of the Park. Now that summer is over, we had the place to ourselves. The 44-acre man-made Hunting Creek Lake offers swimming in three designated areas with lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Canoe and paddleboat rentals are available during the summer season. (Directions to Cunningham Falls.)
There is lots more to do in the Thurmont area. The 45th annual Catoctin Colorfest will be held this upcoming weekend, October 11 and 12, 2008. Over 300 arts and crafts will be on display in the town of Thurmont and admission is free! (Directions to the Colorfest.)
Finally, we always end our Thurmont area daytrips with a stop to Catoctin Mountain Orchard . They offer fresh fruits, vegetables, jam and jellies but our favorites for this time of the year are their juicy apples.

Patti Lalley is a native Silver Spring-er and mom to a son in kindergarten. Her interests include finding fun, local activities for elementary school age kids.

Photo courtesy sudama on Flickr and a gracious Wikipedia user

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