While the US Capitol might not have lush rainforests full of rushing cascades like Hawaii, there are still plenty of beautiful waterfalls near Washington DC for you to explore. Heading to a waterfall is the perfect way to get out of your same old routine and appeal to your inner adventurer, and thankfully you don’t have to go far to do so. In this guide, we’ll share some great hiking trails with alluring waterfalls in DC, so you can unwind in nature and experience sensory bliss.

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Best Waterfalls Near DC

Scott’s Run Waterfall:

Entrance fee: free

Swimming: Prohibited

This naturally preserved waterfall is located in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in Virginia. It’s only a 30 minute drive from DC, so if you’re looking to spend an afternoon hiking to a beautiful cascade, then this is the perfect option. It’s especially popular with teens and families who love easy hikes and amazing views. We recommend going early or on a weekday, so that you can get a parking spot and avoid the crowds. You can also bring your dogs here, but they must be leashed. 

Great Falls Waterfall:

Entrance fee: Vehicle $20, motorbike $15, pedestrians/cyclists/equestrians $10

Swimming: Strictly prohibited

Great Falls park is another amazing option for those looking to explore waterfalls near Washington DC. It’s an 800-acre park featuring hiking trails, a wide variety of wildlife, historical sites, and waterfalls that leave visitors in awe. There are 3 viewpoints to see the Great Falls cascade, all within a 5-10 minute walk from the Visitor Center, and each offer an enchanting view. Overlook 1 does not have an accessible trail, but Overlooks 2 and 3 are wheelchair and stroller friendly. This is another dog-friendly park, as long as they are leashed. 

Note: The Visitor Center is closed due to upcoming construction projects through Spring 2023. 

Cunningham Falls:

Entrance fee: Memorial Day – Labor Day: weekdays is $3/person, weekends is $5/person; after Labor Day: $3/vehicle

Swimming: Strictly prohibited

In the lap of the Catoctin Mountains, Cunningham Falls State Park offers everything you could want. The park is divided into two areas, the first being the William Houck Area, which features a waterfall, a lake, and a camping area. The second is the Manor area, which features Scales and Tales Aviary, a historic Catoctin Iron Furnace, camping, a playground, and a shelter.

Of course, our favorite part is getting to see Maryland’s highest (and possibly most stunning) waterfall. There is a paved boardwalk that will lead you directly to the falls, where you can stare at the 78-foot tall cascade in awe. Once you get your fill of the falls, head to Hunting Greek Lake for a perfect place to relax on a sandy beach. Or go to one of the park’s beautiful hiking trails, picnic spots, or campgrounds. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset between April-October and from 10 a.m. to sunset, between November-March. It’s the perfect DC getaway for solo multi-day experiences or fun family outings!

Kilgore Falls:

Entrance fee: Free

Swimming: Permitted but not encouraged – no lifeguards

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, then head to Maryland’s second-highest vertical drop waterfall.  It has a half mile hiking trail that begins at the parking area and leads directly to the waterfall, making it a perfect choice for those who prefer shorter hikes. It is not accessible for strollers or wheelchairs, but dogs can be brought if leashed. 

Formerly known as Falling Branch, Kilgore Falls is adorned with natural swimming holes, making it the best option if you want to cool off in the summer. It’s also a popular destination for families and pet owners. If you plan to visit on weekends and holidays in the summer, you need to get a prior parking reservation. One fun tidbit about Kilgore Falls if that it was featured in the Disney movie Tuck Everlasting, so give it a watch before you go. 

Dark Hollow Falls:

Entrance Fee: Individuals $15, vehicle $30

This is one of the most visited trails in Shenandoah National Park, and for good reason. A short, yet challenging hike leads you to a spectacular waterfall, where you’re sure to be star struck by Dark Hollow Falls’ beauty. The hike is a 1.4 mile loop trail, so you won’t have to trace back your steps. It’s located near Big Meadows Campground, so it’s a great activity to pair with a camping trip. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed here, so be sure to leave your furry friends at home.

Jones Run Falls:

Entrance Fee: Individuals $15, vehicle $30

Located in the lap of the mountains in Shenandoah National Park, you’ll find this beautiful waterfall hike, complete with dense forest treks and serene stream crossings. After several hours of hiking, you’ll be rewarded with a 42 foot cascade known as Jones Run Falls. This waterfall is a popular summer destination due to its cool and refreshing water. Pets are welcome here, but they must be leashed.

Overall Run Falls:

Entrance Fee: Individuals $15, vehicle $30

Swimming: Yes – several small water holes in the falls

If you’ve never seen a bridal veil-styled waterfall, you must check out Overall Run Falls in Virginia. The best time to head here is in the early spring. Overall Run Falls has the greatest drop of any waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, at a whopping 93 feet. It is a longer hike at 6.4-miles, but if you are an experienced hiker looking for a full-day activity, we highly recommend this trail. However, something to keep in mind is that the Falls might not have much of a water flow if it hasn’t rained recently. But the overlook is still gorgeous and well worth checking out.

Man-Made Waterfalls in Washington, DC:

Unfortunately, there are no natural waterfalls in Washington DC, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time listening to the soothing sounds of trickling water. Sit at the Cascading Waterfall garden, the National Portrait Gallery Courtyard, the National World War II Memorial’s Water Wall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, or Yards Park in Washington DC for a bit of waterfall magic close to home. 

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What to Pack for Hiking to Waterfalls Near DC:

  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women. And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.