Swallow Falls State Park: Kid Friendly Guide

swallow falls state park guide

Swallow Falls State Park is EPIC! Seriously, this is now my favorite Maryland State Park! There are 4 (!!!!) amazing waterfalls in a very kid friendly hike that is less than 2 miles long! Check out this kid friendly guide to Swallow Falls State Park!

Related: 20 Best Maryland State Parks for Families

Swallow Falls State Park Overview

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Swallow Falls State Park is not a super large park, but wow does it pack a punch! It is nestled into the mountains of Western Maryland, 9 miles north of Oakland, MD. The Youghiogheny River runs through the park and is really the centerpiece.

The main trail loop runs along the river, taking visitors through a gorgeous hemlock grove, beside the river with four waterfalls, and along impressive rock formations.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

The most famous waterfall, Muddy Creek Falls, crashes over the intersection of Muddy Creek and the Youghiogheny River. The entire hike is gorgeous, but Muddy Creek Falls is easily one of the most beautiful sights in Maryland.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: 100 Best Things to Do With Kids in Maryland

History of the Park

Swallow Falls State Park was formed in 1906 when the Garrett brothers donated over 1900 acres of land to be used as a state forest. The park officially became a state park in the 1930’s.

A number of famous people have actually camped at Swallow Falls State Park. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone have all camped at Swallow Falls State Park. There is a plaque commemorating their visit near the top of the Muddy Falls.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: 8+ Gorgeous Waterfalls in Maryland

Canyon Trail

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

The Canyon Trail is the main trail. The entire loop (including Tolliver Falls) is only 1.25 miles. This hike is really easy, even for younger kids. There are some hills, but mostly the hills are stairs down to the river and also at Muddy Creek Falls.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Once you walk through the main gate sign, you can veer right or veer left. Trust me… go to the right. Muddy Creek Falls is a quick walk to the left, but if you want to see all four waterfalls (you do), going right will not only take you to all of them (Tolliver Falls can be a little tricky to find), but for the most part you will be doing the hike all downhill instead of all uphill. Also, you start with the shortest and end with the biggest falls.

Once you enter the trail, you will be surrounded by a giant hemlock grove. These sleepy giants are incredibly tall and some of the trees in this grove are almost 300 years old!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Best Easy Hikes in Maryland for Kids!

Tolliver Falls

Tolliver Falls is really gorgeous. Saying it’s a small waterfall is kind of dismissive. It’s beautiful and pours into a pool of water that would be great for splashing around in the summer.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

If you do the Canyon Trail counter-clockwise you will hit Tolliver Falls first and there are signs that guide you to the falls. Note: Tolliver Falls is a spur off the main loop so you will need to follow the signs for it and then back track to get back on the main Canyon Trail.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Absolute Best Deep Creek Hikes for Kids!

Upper Swallow Falls

From Tolliver Falls, get back on the Canyon Trail and fairly soon you will reach the stairs down to Upper Swallow Falls. 

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Upper Swallow Falls is really impressive. Once you get to the bottom of the stairs you can walk right out to the top of a rock formation cliff. Be careful with little kids because there are no rails.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

However, your kids (and you) will be thrilled with this view. You can get a fantastic view of the top of the falls cascading over the rocks. You can also explore further up from the falls, as there are numerous rock outcroppings to explore.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

If you are lucky, you might even see some adventurous kayakers navigating the rapids!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Maryland Lakes You can Swim In

River side trail or upper trail?

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Once you walk back up the stairs part of the way, you can turn right and follow the trail along the river. Or, you can continue walking up the stairs to take a higher trail. I would definitely continue your hike along the river.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

We loved taking the river side trail. There are plenty of places to walk down to the river and see the falls, etc… from different angles. Plus there are tons of rock formations kids will love climbing on and other natural wonders to entertain everyone!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Fantastic Maryland Attractions for Families

Lower Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

The first time we visited Swallow Falls State Park it was spring and raining. Maybe the rain contributed to the impressiveness of the falls, but we loved Lower Swallow Falls as much as the Upper Swallow Falls. The water was sooo powerful! You can really get a close look at the waterfalls!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Try the Tracks and Yaks Rail-biking Adventure!

Rock Formations

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

As you hike along the trail, the rock formations are just super impressive too. There is a riverside rock overhang that is jaw-droppingly impressive.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

There are plenty of bouldering opportunities for kids in this area too!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: Camping at Jellystone Park in Fantastic Family Fun!

Muddy Creek Falls

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Finally, the piece de resistance! Muddy Creek Falls does not disappoint. Wow. It’s so powerful. Check it out from below and up top! Muddy Creek Falls has a 53ft cascade and is so gorgeous!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

At the base of the falls you can walk out on rock formations and get some great photos.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Along the side of the waterfall there is a staircase with great views of the falls along the way.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

At the top of the falls there is a viewing platform as well. You can technically walk out into the river above the falls. But be careful with kids (and yourself). The rapids can get run rather fast.

Related: Kid Friendly Guide to Rocky Gap State Park

Swallow Falls State Park is Wheelchair Accessible!

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

There is a wheelchair accessible viewing platform at the top of Muddy Creek Falls! This is super cool! If this applies to you, you can drive much further into the park, and take the nice boardwalk trail (wheelchair friendly) to the viewing platform.

I was really impressed with this. The view of Muddy Creek Falls from this platform is actually really fantastic.

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Related: 18+ Road Trip Ideas from Baltimore

Camping and other amenities

You can camp at Swallow Falls State Park! There are 65 wooded campsites that can accommodate tents or RVs. And there are 3 camper cabins you can reserve for a touch of family glamping.

Camper cabins come equipped with electric heat, microwave, small folding table and chairs, mini fridge, one double bed, and a bunk bed. 

Swallow Falls State Park Guide


How hard is the hike to Swallow Falls?

The 1.25 mile Canyon Trail loop, which takes you to 4 waterfalls, is rated easy and is great for visitors of all ages. Part of the trail (the path to the top of Muddy Creek Falls) is wheelchair accessible.

How many waterfalls are in Swallow Falls State Park?

There are 4 waterfalls in Swallow Falls State Park: Muddy Creek, Tollliver, Upper Swallow, and Lower Swallow Falls.

Is Swallow Falls Kid Friendly?

Absolutely! This is one of the most kid friendly state parks in Maryland!

Are there restroom facilities at Swallow Falls State Park?

Yes, there are public restroom facilities next to the parking area. If they are closed, there are also port-a-potties for visitor use.

Where is Swallow Falls State Park location?

Address: 2470 Maple Glade Rd, Oakland, MD 21550
Google Map Directions here.

How much does it cost to visit Swallow Falls State Park?

Day-use Admission Fee:
Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day: Maryland residents $3/person; out-of-state residents $5/person
Tuesday after Labor Day to the Friday before Memorial Day: Maryland residents $3/vehicle: out-of-state residents $5/vehicle
Weekends in May, September and October: Maryland residents $3/person; out-of-state residents $5/person

What are the hours Swallow Falls State Park is open?

March through October: 8 a.m. to sunset
November through February: 10 a.m. to sunset

Where can I find more information about Swallow Falls State Park?

Click here for the website and to make camping reservations.

Related: 50 Perfect Maryland Day Trip Ideas

Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Visit Tips!

In order to maximize your visit here are a few of our best tips:

  • Arrive early. Honestly, if you can I would highly recommend arriving before 10am. If you can’t arrive before 10am, I would strongly encourage you to push your trip off until later in the afternoon (like 430/5pm). You will still thoroughly enjoy Swallow Falls State Park if it’s crowded, but the parking lot is not large and it will fill up quickly in the mid-morning.
  • Don’t be afraid to visit in the rain (or snow)! Both times we visited Swallow Falls State Park it was raining– in the Spring and in the Fall. But the rain wasn’t horrible and the forest shields you from much of it. We had a fantastic time hiking in the light rain!
  • There is no cell service. The website mentions this and I can confirm that you will likely not have cell service. So if there is a place you want to visit after Swallow Falls State Park, I would recommend downloading the map to use offline before you head out.
  • Bring snacks and plenty of water. Even though the trail is not long, you will still want to bring water. And a snack afterwards is always a good idea!
  • Bring a change of clothes and shoes. I mean, it’s a hike right next to the water. If your kids like to scramble they could get a little wet. Prepare ahead and bring a change of clothes!
  • Don’t forget to do the loop counter-clockwise. Really, most people make a bee-line to Muddy Creek Falls. You will have a much more pleasant experience if you start with the smaller waterfalls first.
Swallow Falls State Park Guide

Make a Day of It!

I mean, the entire Garrett County and Deep Creek area is fantastic! However, Swallow Falls State Park will not take a ton of time. Even if you linger and play along the river, you will spend maximum 2-3 hours here. Here are a few ideas for what to do in the afternoon of your day trip!

  • Start your day with a great breakfast at either Englanders (in downtown Oakland) or Little Sandy’s Restaurant (on Garrett Highway).
  • After your Swallow Falls Adventure, if you want more outdoor fun, check out the Rock Maze Trail. It’s only 3.5 miles away. It’s also a super easy hike and has a crazy awesome pay off! Address: 3739 Snaggy Mountain Rd, Oakland, MD 21550
  • Herrington Manor State Park is also only 10 minutes from Swallow Falls State Park. Here you can hike. But the main draw is the lake! You can hang out at the beach or rent a kayak or canoe and explore Lake Herrington.
  • If you want some indoor fun, there are a number of arcades in McHenry (where Deep Creek Lake is located). Our top picks would be Deep Creek Fun Zone or Funland. Both of these places have mini golf, arcades, and more.
  • If you want some history, head to downtown Oakland and check out the Oakland B&O Railroad Museum or the Garrett County Museum of Transportation. Both are really fun for kids and parents!
  • If you want more adventure, check out Wisp Resort. Obviously in the winter there is skiing and snowtubing. However, in the summer you can ride the mountain coaster, take the chairlift to the top of the mountain, or challenge yourself to the adventure course.
  • Where to eat for dinner? Our top picks for dinner would be Brenda’s Pizzeria (the best pizza ever!) or Mountain State Brewing Co.

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swallow falls state park guide

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