The hush of the hickory canopy and the roar of the waterfalls draw me to Swallow Falls whenever I am in Western Maryland.
Usually it’s freezing cold and icy. My recent stroll through the state park took place on a balmy day — the day before snow blanketed the region.
Warmer weather means a more leisurely walk in the park and lots of people to share the experience with. None of us were on the ski slopes, where snowmaking had just started. So we were here.
Swallow Falls features a gorgeous walk under the state’s last stand of virgin hickory trees, tall and majestic.
A couple of recent events — the loss of a gigantic tree and then a windstorm that tore up a heart-breaking number of trees — had left gaps in the forest. But I was heartened to see tiny new trees filling the gaps.
If you’re alone, sounds seem muffled. An occasional bird sings; another hiker may pass by. But you can’t help but hear the roar of the Youghiogheny River as it rushes by and spills over Swallow Falls at the south end of the path.
But what makes this walk so special is the opportunity to see two very
different waterfalls, up close and personal. Muddy Creek Falls at the north end is Maryland’s tallest waterfalls at 53 feet. You can look up at it or stand at the top and watch all that water crash down into creek below.
Either way it’s a thrilling sight. One I want to see again and again and again. I’d vote for Swallow Falls for best state park.
ⓒ Text and photos Mary K.Tilghman