Winter Walk in Swallow Falls State Park

When the weather outside is frightful,
A walk in the park can be delightful! 

I was hoping for both snow and frozen water falls, but I was disappointed by balmy 40-degree days over the Christmas holidays. My family and I had rented a cabin, right on the shores of Deep Creek Lake. Plans included going sleigh riding, snow-shoeing, and snow-mobiling, even dog sledding.

The warm weather thwarted those plans. Instead, we enjoyed a winter walk in Swallow Falls State Park, which I’ve blogged about before. Swallow Falls State Park is located on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River, not far from Oakland. In fact, just 60 miles downstream on the Youghiogheny is the fabulous, and possibly my favorite, Cucumber Falls, near Ohiopyle and its namesake falls which provided content for one of the first posts of the Mid-Atlantic Day Trips Blog!

Muddy Creek Falls

The only officially designated Wild and Scenic River, the Youghiogheny acts as a watershed from the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains and encompasses approximately 397 miles in Maryland. Within Swallow Falls State Park, the river offers dramatic drops in elevation complete with falls, rapids and dense forestation.

The upper Swallow Falls.

Without the distraction of those silly colorful autumn deciduous tree leaves, I focused more on the lovely towering hemlocks, as well as other aspects of a forest in the winter.

The oldest grove of white pine and eastern hemlock in Maryland resides in Swallow Falls State Park. The tall hemlocks, some more than 300 years old, tower over park visitors and remind them of medieval European forestry.

Detail in the rock right next to upper Swallow Falls.

This hike is rewarding, because there are several falls along a fairly short trail: Swallow Falls, Muddy Creek Falls, and Toliver Falls. There are some steps leading down to both Swallow Falls and Muddy Creek Falls, but it’s not terribly strenuous. Muddy Creek Falls and Swallow Falls are the main attractions at Swallow Falls State Park, but Tolliver Falls is just as rewarding.

Tolliver Falls. Although only 5-feet high, in warmer weather, it makes a nice wading pool.

Muddy Creek is a crashing 53-foot waterfall and is the reason most visitors go to the state park. Winter rain fall engorged it, making it spectacular. As with elsewhere in the park, tall hemlocks dominate the Canyon Creek Trail travels through. The 1 1/4-mile long trail guides hikers between Muddy Creek Falls and the two parts (aptly named Upper and Lower) of Swallow Falls.

Adventurous kayakers just after they passed through the lower Swallow Falls. They passed through
the upper Swallow Falls just before we got there — we weren’t fast enough to see them close by.

Getting there: 222 Herrington Ln, Oakland, MD 21550

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Dogs: Perfect for your pooch!!


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