At a Glance

Hours: 8 am – sunset, April – October; 10 am – sunset, November – March. No parking after sunset.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Copperheads and timber rattlesnakes are occasionally seen. Black bears are common, but rarely seen. ◾ The Houck/lake area is popular during the summer and holidays and closed when full; no additional cars will be allowed in. ◾ Some sections of the park may be closed in winter; check the Official Website at link below for updates. ◾ Hiking boots are recommended on the trails, which may have steep and rocky sections. ◾ Hunting is permitted in designated areas of the park; be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.

Best Seasons: Year-round, but spring and fall migrations are most productive. Summer is difficult because of crowds.

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Blue Ridge Summit SW, Catoctin Furnace NW, Catoctin Furnace NE, Catoctin Furnace CW

Local MOS Chapter: Frederick Bird Club

Cunningham Falls State Park

14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, MD 21778
(301) 271-7574

One of Maryland’s most popular state parks, Cunningham Falls State Park is located in northern Frederick County in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains. The park totals over 6,000 acres, of which 4,397 have been set aside as a State Wildland, with protections that restrict usage to passive recreation.  The park features a 43-acre lake, sparkling streams, rock outcroppings, extensive hiking trails, and the highest cascading waterfall in Maryland.  Cunningham Falls State Park is divided into two separate and distinct areas: the William Houck area includes the lake, Cunningham Falls, camping, and trails; and the Manor Area includes the Scales & Tales Aviary, the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace and additional camping.  The two areas are joined by the Catoctin Trail and Bob’s Hill Trail.

Cat Rock and Bob’s Hill have been designated as a Natural Area by MD’s Department of Natural Resources.  Although no one knows for sure, Cat Rock got its name either from its resemblance to a cat or from the fact that bobcats have been seen there. At Cat Rock’s peak, the quartzite outcrop is extensive and spectacular, featuring jagged cliffs with a jumble of giant boulders below, with an intricate network of caves and deep crevices. The dry, exposed rocks support little vegetation, but do feature a variety of colorful lichens and mosses.

The expansive forests surrounding these geologic wonders are maturing second growth. Historically, the trees were cut to support charcoal production at the Catoctin Furnace between 1776 to 1903. The Cunningham Falls Natural Area is embedded within the largest contiguous tract of forest remaining in this part of Maryland. Large unbroken forest tracts are critical for a wide variety of species that are otherwise uncommon in the State. These forest-dwelling species include American black bear, bobcat and North American porcupine. The combination of a large forest tract with an extensive boulder field also provides core habitat for the Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister), listed as Endangered in Maryland. The large wooded expanse also support a wide variety of Forest Interior Dwelling Birds.

The park offers many visitor amenities and activities, including swimming, fishing, hunting, boat rentals and boat launch (no gasoline motors), camping (cabins, tent sites, and RV sites), and picnicking.  There is a Nature Center in the William Houck area, and a Scales and Tales wildlife education program.

Site Addresses:

  • PARK OFFICE: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788
  • LAKE & FALLS: 14274 William Houck Dr, Thurmont, MD 21788
  • HOUCK CAMPGROUND: 5783 Campground Dr, Thurmont, MD 21788
  • MANOR AREA CAMPGROUND: 6709 Cunningham Falls Park Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788

Birdlife:

Over 120 species have been reported on eBird from Cunningham Falls State Park. The park has breeding populations of Worm-eating and Kentucky Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Wood Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager. Regularly seen are most woodpecker species, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, Common Raven and small woodland birds. In migration, the park is a good place to find a variety of additional warbler species, migrating hawks and thrushes. In the winter, Purple Finch and kinglets can be seen.

Parking:

Paved parking is available throughout the park; see Trail Map at link at left. Roadside parking is not permitted, and parking after sunset is not permitted outside the camping areas.

Special Features:

Birds from the Scales & Tales program can be seen during park hours in the Manor Area. Check the Official Website for special events. ◾ The Historic Catoctin Iron Furnace, located along Route 806 in the Manor Area of the park, 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. Maple Syrup Demonstrations are held by the ranger in March. ◾ Cunningham Falls State Park is contained within the Maryland Blue Ridge Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Frederick Bird Club, which hosts fields trips and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.

Directions:

To reach the William Houck Area: from MD Route 15 in Thurmont, take MD Route 77/Foxville Road west for about 3 miles, turn left (south) onto Catoctin Hollow Road to the park entrance. To reach the Manor Area: from Thurmont, drive south 3 miles on MD Route 15; the park will be on the right. It is also possible to reach the Manor Area from the Houck area by using Catoctin Hollow Road. See map at link below.

Nearby Sites:

Gambrill State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park, Greenbrier State Park.

Habitats:

HedgerowsUpland Deciduous Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams

Features:

BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingNature Education ProgramsOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsSwimmingWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Audubon Important Bird AreasPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsState Natural Areas & WildlandsState Parks