Swallow Falls, Maryland

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A couple of weeks ago I told you about the more than a dozen waterfalls along South Carolina’s Foothills Trail. If the pathway’s 75 miles is more than you want to do, head to western Maryland’s Swallow Falls State Park where a 1.3-mile circuit will take you past four waterfalls with little effort. You’ll also be walking in the footsteps of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, and John Burroughs who camped here in 1918 and again in 1921.

Only .3 mile into the outing, wooden stairs run beside Muddy Creek Falls. Stained by tannin, the creek tumbles more than 50 feet into the canyon below. Walking below the steep cliffs of the gorge, come to the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Youghiogheny River; just beyond are the Lower Falls of the Youghiogheny. You’re halfway through the hike when you come to Swallow Falls, so take a break. Flat rocks above and below the 25-foot cascade are great places to sunbathe. You may witness a number of people swimming, but park personnel discourage doing so due to swift currents, underwater hydraulics, submerged hazards, and varying water levels.

Continue upstream through rhododendron, whose white blossoms would make this a beautiful walk in June. You may be tempted to take a dip when you swing to the right at .75 mile and come to an inviting sandy beach below the tumbling waters of Toliver Falls. At one time you could have ascended a trail from the falls, but it was closed in the late 1990s, so retrace the route back to Swallow Falls and take the pathway ascending left via stairs. The deep shade of the forest makes for cool walking, even on warm summer days.

Noises coming from the crowds at the parking lot announce the return to your automobile.

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