a close up, long exposure shot of Crabtree waterfall

Are you hoping to chase waterfalls in Washington DC this summer? I have the perfect list of waterfalls close to DC. Some waterfalls work best as a day trip due to their location, but all are beautiful. I’m a certified waterfall chaser living in the DC area, so you can trust that I’ve done my homework.

Although history lovers may get lost in all of Washington, D.C.’s historical and political attractions, it’s also a great city for outdoor lovers. From cascading waterfalls to acres of urban parks and watersports, water lovers will find lots to do.

Great Falls Park: One of the Closest Waterfalls to DC

the waterfall at Great Falls Park

Distance from DC: 18 miles
Parking: $20/ a car or included with the American the Great Pass

Great Falls Park is just a short drive from Washington, DC, in Mclean, Virginia. It has hiking trails for every ability level, including children. There are also three waterfall overlooks, one accessible for wheelchair users.

Aside from hiking, Great Falls is popular for bird watching, cycling, and kayaking. It’s also a great hike with a dog if you stay a reasonable distance from the edge.

Great Falls flows along the Potomac River and provides gorgeous views for all to witness. The park is a great place for picnics and BBQs. Grills are limited, so get there early on weekends and holidays.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve: Waterfalls Near DC

tall cascading waterfall near DC
image by Walt Stoneburner

Distance from DC: 15 miles
Parking: Small parking lot available on Georgetown Pike

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is a great escape from DC. Just outside the city, Scott’s Run is perfect for those short on time, as it’s right off the beltway. It can get very busy, so try to get there before 9:30 to ensure you get a parking spot.

This hidden gem provides a peaceful hiking experience through dense woods and a scenic stream. The main trail to the waterfall is moderately easy, but it can become very muddy during recent rain. It’s a dog-friendly trail, but remember to keep your dog on a leash.

It’s currently under construction and will be closed until June 2024.

Cunningham Falls State Park: Maryland Waterfall

People enjoying Cunningham waterfall
Photo by macdevotee

Distance from DC: 78 miles
Parking: Ample parking is available at the visitor center.

Cunningham Falls State Park is located in Thurmont, Maryland, and claims to have the largest cascading waterfall in the state—at 78 feet. You can choose between easy and moderate trails, with the most popular being the Cunningham Falls Nature Trail, a 2.8-mile trail that leads directly to the base of the falls. Cool off at the lake after a hot summer day of hiking or head to Liberty Mountain Resort, a ski resort that also doubles as a fantastic day trip destination.

Dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash.

Kilgore Falls

Kilgore Falls , a cascading waterfall with a fallen tree trunk in front
By Larry Eiring

Distance from DC: 79 miles
Parking: parking permits/ reservations required on weekends

Dark Hollow Falls: Waterfalls in Virginia

long exposure of Dark Hollow Falls
Photo by John Brighenti

Distance from DC: 101 miles
Parking: Various parking areas depending on the trailhead

Dark Hollow Falls is an accessible and popular waterfall in Virginia. The hike to Dark Hollow Falls is a short 1.4-mile hike, but it is very steep, and your calves will remind you of that in the morning. Another popular trail is Whiteoak Canyon Trail, although it is a more challenging hike.

Only service animals are allowed on the Dark Hollows Falls trail. Pets are not allowed.

Crabtree Falls: Virginia Waterfalls

Distance from DC: 168 miles
Parking: $3/ a car or included with America the Beautiful pass and the Forest Pass

Crabtree Falls is a bit of a distance from DC, but it’s absolutely worth the trip. It’s the tallest and highest vertical-drop waterfall in Virginia. it’s a pet-friendly hike, but dogs must remain on their leashes. I don’t recommend bringing inexperienced puppies as the rocks are very slippery.

I recommend spending the weekend in Nelson County, exploring Blue Ridge Mountain, or enjoying Lake Monocan.

Tips for Visiting Waterfalls Near DC

Get There Early

I wouldn’t consider any of these waterfalls hidden gems, although the ones further from DC tend to be less crowded. Most of them can get crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. Arriving early will help you snag a good parking spot.

Do Your Research

Waterfall conditions vary with the seasons. Spring and early summer are typically the best times to visit due to the higher rain chances. However, rain can also make the hike muddy and slippery, and snow can impact how safe a trail can become.

Pack Accordingly

When hiking, pack your essentials. Bring a surplus of water and a first aid kit. Coffee, snacks, and a camera should also be on your list. A waterproof bag is a great idea if you plan on swimming.

Chase waterfalls, but plan first!

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