Friday, July 3, 2015

Maryland - Cunningham Falls State Park - Old Misery Trail

State Park Website: Cunningham Falls State Park

The first time I saw the sign for Old Misery Trail, I was intrigued.  I thought: What did they mean by misery.  Was the trail up to it's name?  Why yes it is.  Actually, it was a rather fun trail to hike.  It has a lot of switch backs and rocky steps.  There is only one small look out that isn't very spectacular, but the trail itself is quiet and somewhat challenging.  

The Old Misery trail doesn't have a lot of sight seeing (except for the trail itself).  If you enjoy hiking and the trail is the adventure, then this is a really good trail.  I personally liked this trail for the challenge and the distance.  The trail is about 2 miles long.  Round trip will cost you 4 miles of walking with an elevation change of about 500 feet (1,000 feet at the parking lot and 1,500 feet at the top).

How to Get There

The trail is outside the entrance to the state park.  Exit U.S. 15 the highway 77 exit.  Follow the signs for Cunningham Falls State Park that take you toward the Catoctin National park.  You'll drive up a windy road that passes the main entrance to the Catoctin park (visitor center) on the right.  The state park entrance is on the left.  The parking area for the trail is the first parking area on the right:

The trail is actually located on the other side of the road:

The Trail

There's a tiny staircase leading up to the main trail then it starts a mild climb:

The trail is clearly marked with dark orange markings.  Sometimes the trail is a bit difficult to identify, but the markings make it clear which way the trail is supposed to go.

As you can see from this photo some of this trail is very narrow:

 And parts are really rocky:

Then it starts to go uphill:

Then the switch backs start:

More rocks:

More hill climbing:

More rocks:

At this point, you're pretty high up, but there are no lookouts so it's difficult to tell how high the trail is until you look down.  Still, there's more climbing to do:

Near the top we arrived at what I have termed the sea of ferns:

Then the path continues through the forest, but you can tell that the trail is at the top of the mountain:

The trail starts to go down some:

And there's a small clearing where the rock dam is located.  This provides a small lookout over the mountain range.

The trail continues after this clearing.  It goes mostly downhill.  Sometimes really steep:

Then the end of the trail arrives:

This is the junction that meets up with the Cat Rock trail.  From here you can turn right and continue up to Cat Rock.  It's not far from this location.

If you turn to the left, you'll see the sign for Old Misery Trail:

Next, you'll need to plan your trip back.  If you parked in the parking lot that I described at the beginning, you'll need to go back down the Old Misery trail to get to your car.  If you take the Cat Rock trail back, you'll be forced to walk along the road all the way around to the state park side again.  Which would be a very long hike.

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