Among all wonders of nature, waterfalls in Maryland are among my favorites.
I’m a passionate hiker and I just love to walk in nature, no matter the destination. My best friend on the other hand has to know that at the end of a strenuous trail there’s something truly breathtaking to look at or snap a photo at.
Well, if you need some extra motivation, nothing beats a gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike, and waterfalls in Maryland are worth it.
The 6 Most Picturesque Waterfalls in Maryland
1. Muddy Creek Falls at Swallow Falls State Park
For some nice and relaxing hiking, completely immersed in deep woods, you’ll love the trail to Swallow Falls.
Swallow Falls State Park is blessed with natural scenery that will leave you speechless, and the main trail is fairly beginner friendly.
We travel down to Deep Creek at least once or twice per year and head to Swallow Falls State Park every trip.
This is one of the most popular state parks in Maryland, and the waterfalls are the main draw.
With Youghiogheny River running through the park’s vertical cliffs and rock ledges, it’s not surprising that the park counts numerous small and large waterfalls.
Muddy Creek Falls is the tallest in the park, boasting over 53 feet in height, and it’s also the easiest to reach since it’s located close to the main parking lot.
On the trail, you’ll encounter four waterfalls, without having to walk more than 1.4 miles. While the hike is beginner-friendly, accessibility is not a strong point, as it’s very rocky and requires good mobility.
I recommend bringing walking sticks to facilitate the hike and make the trickiest passes easier.
If you want to spend the weekend in a gorgeous location, camping at Swallow Falls State Park is possible.
There are campsites available for the more adventurous, but if you’re looking for some more comfort, you can rent a cabin.
The cabins are spacious and perfect for families with children or groups of four or five people.
The campground is fully equipped with a clean bathhouse, dishwashing station, picnic benches, fire rings, and more, while the store sells everything you might need for camping from firewood to snacks, camping gear, and ice.
Cunningham Falls is among the most popular waterfalls in Maryland and can be found within the same named state park, located just a 5-minute drive from Thurmont.
The state park is simply picturesque and covered in scenic hiking trails that run through it from side to side.
While it’s worth exploring the whole park, if you’re on a time crunch I recommend checking out only the William Houch Area, which includes the Cunningham Falls as well as the lake and campgrounds.
People love to visit the park and stay for a few days, as there are plenty of activities available, especially during the summer. Boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking are among the most popular activities.
At Hunting Creek Lake it’s allowed to swim from Memorial Day to Labor Day, however, it is prohibited to swim at the falls for safety reasons.
There are two main ways to reach the falls.
The most direct hiking trail is the Cunningham Falls State Park Lower Trail, which is just half a mile long and not too strenuous. It’s the shortest and most comfortable option as it directly leads to the fall.
The second choice is the Cliff trail, which is much more challenging as it’s covered in rocks and requires some climbing.
Both hikes have their endpoint at the falls, which is why I recommend picking Lower Trail on the way to the waterfalls and taking Cliff Trail on the way back to create a loop.
This way you’ll get to see more of the park, and you won’t have to hit the same trail twice.
Both trailheads are complete with a designated parking lot.
It’s possible to camp at Cunningham Falls at the William Houck Area Campground, which is open from April to October. There are over 100 basic campsites available and around 30 campsites with electric access.
3. Great Falls – Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
There is no better name for these waterfalls than Great Falls since they are massive and impressive.
Especially after heavy rain, when the falls are at full capacity, the views are breathtaking, however, be sure to check out weather conditions in advance, as sometimes flooding means trails are closed to the public.
The Great Falls are located on the border between Maryland and Virginia, on the Potomac River.
While Great Falls Park is officially located in Virginia, there are plenty of hiking trails leading to the Falls on the Maryland side.
You can get on the Great Falls Overlook Trailhead, which is accessible from the Canal Path. This is not a trail for just anybody, as it requires some climbing.
I strongly advise only getting on this trail with the right equipment (forget the tennis shoes at home and bring trekking gear).
While in the beginning, the trail is mostly gravel, the last portion of the hike is a steep rock face with a big crack you can climb on. There is no other way to get to the overlook point, so you’ll need to be ready for a climb.
The Billy Goat Trail is also fairly challenging, but super scenic and worth the struggle. The trail follows the riverside, so you’ll get wonderful views along the way.
You can get on this trail from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, in Potomac, and run along the river for as long as you want. The whole trail is around 4 miles long but is divided into sections to make it more accessible.
Despite being small, Cascade Falls is a special place because of its natural surroundings and the fairytale atmosphere.
Visiting Cascade Falls feels like entering another world, as the falls resemble a magical place where fairies might reside.
You’ll find the trailhead to Cascade Falls Trail past the Swinging Bridge at Orange Grove. Crossing the suspended wooden bridge is quite an experience in itself, as it is safe and adventurous at the same time.
The bridge is also one of the best photo opportunities in the area, as you’ll get some great views over the Patapsco River.
The trail to the falls is well maintained and moderately easy, good both for hiking and mountain biking.
The whole hike is moderately long back and forward and will take you approximately one hour and a half.
The path can be a bit steep at times (lots of ups and downs), but overall there’s little elevation.
Because the trail is quite rocky and can get slippery after a rainy day, I recommend bringing good mountain shoes.
5. Kilgore Falls – Rocks State Park
Ready for the second tallest vertical drop waterfalls in Maryland? Kilgore Falls drop for 17 feet, creating a gorgeous pool surrounded by woods.
The waterfalls can be reached through a beginner-friendly and kid-friendly hike.
A perfect destination for a family outing or a day trip with friends, Kilgore Falls is perfect for splashing and diving.
Note that these falls sometimes are known by the name of Falling Branch Falls.
You can find the trailhead at the parking lot on Falling Branch Rd, which is very conveniently located but has very few available parking spaces.
I recommend coming early and booking your entry passes beforehand.
As the area around the natural pool can get crowded fast (even with the passes), come early in the morning.
The parking lot opens at 8.00, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a peaceful morning beside the rushing water before people arrive.
This is a great location for a 1-day getaway, however, you cannot sleep at the falls, and it’s not allowed to barbeque or use fire.
Picnicking is still possible nearby, so if you’d like to eat at the falls, you can check out the picnic area in Rocks State Park.
Gilpins Falls is mostly famous for the historical covered bridge at the Trailhead, so after a quick visit to the bridge, you can get on the trail that leads to the falls.
The trail is not well signaled, and not that very well maintained. It can be quite challenging to reach the falls, not because of the trail difficulty level, but because it can get overgrown.
For this reason, I recommend checking out the trail on Alltrails to avoid getting lost.
Following the water is another great way to be sure to arrive at the falls.
When it comes to preparation, good hiking gear is the way to go, as the trail can get muddy and is rocky in some parts.
While the hike can be a bit of a pain, it’s truly breathtaking once you’ve reached the falls.
The rock formations at the waterfalls are interesting and worth getting in the water to observe up close.
Smaller Waterfalls in Maryland That are Still Worth a Visit
Gunpowder Falls State Park is huge and follows the course of the Gunpowder River.
The park is divided into 6 different areas that are each worth exploring. In general, this state park is great to spend time in nature, hiking, boating, camping, fishing, and more.
The river and its tributaries often create little waterfalls and rapids along the way, making this state park also a great spot for kayaking, especially in the Hereford Area.
8. Amos Falls
Amos Falls are strictly seasonal, meaning you need to come after a long week of rain to be able to witness the waterfalls.
People love to come here to hike and relax by the water. It’s a great location for picnicking and spending time in nature, but you should expect real waterfalls, as these are more similar to rapids.
Tolliver Falls are the lesser-known falls at Swallow Falls State Park. You can check them out on your way back from Muddy Creek Falls and make the whole day waterfall-themed.
Tolliver Falls are not more than 5 feet tall, but their very scenic and surrounded by gorgeous nature.
Especially for a colorful Fall hike, I recommend visiting Tolliver Falls and enjoying the foliage that frames the waterfall for a picture-perfect setting.
More Stunning Waterfalls & Nature-Immersed Hikes
If you’re looking for the very best waterfalls to visit this year, check out my guide on my favorite waterfalls in the US.