8 Waterfalls Worth the Roadtrip

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Looking for a healthy dose of happy feels on your next hike? We’re gushing over waterfalls for their scientifically proven mood changing abilities. And, these days, we could all use all the good vibes. From Virginia to Maryland to West Virginia, we’ve rounded up the best kid-friendly waterfalls within a day’s drive of Washington, DC. Head to these waterfalls and get ready to get happy!

photo: Tiffany W. via Yelp 


Overall Run

Up for a hike? An 8.5-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park passes you right by Overall Run. Ready to get straight to the falls? Take the one-mile trail from the parking lot straight there. Overall Run is best known for having the tallest waterfall in the park, at 93 feet. While impressive and beautiful when the stream runs high in the spring, during summer months the falls are much milder. The creek runs over a smooth, sloping rock wall that works as a fantastic water slide. 

Distance from DC: 2 hours
Hiking ability required: moderate or none

Shenandoah National Park
Skyline Drive MP 21.5
Luray, VA
Online: nps.gov

Whiteoak Canyon Falls

Choose between a one- and four-mile trek and reap the rewards of up to six waterfalls and swimming holes. The water here is shallow, so toddlers can splash and play in the water with ease. 

Distance from DC: 1.5 hours
Hiking ability required: moderate

Whiteoak Canyon Lower Falls Parking Lot
187 Chad Berry Ln.
Syria, VA
Online: nps.gov

Great Falls Park

While the water cascades more than strictly falls, the view is gorgeous nonetheless. And with overlooks a quick and easy 5- to 10-minute walk from the Visitor Center, the falls at Great Falls Park make for a great outing with little ones.

Distance from DC: less than 45 minutes
Hiking ability required: none

9200 Old Dominion Dr.
McLean, VA
Online: nps.gov


Scott's Run

Another short drive from the district, you can drive directly to the entry point for the trail to the falls. The journey to the falls and back is about 2 miles and some terrain can be steep but smaller falls along the way might satisfy smaller kids or keep the bigger ones engaged until you reach the end.

Distance from DC: half hour
Hiking ability required: moderate

7400 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov


Swallow Falls State Park

Most of the trails in this park are easy and kid-friendly, but be prepared to steer kids away from rocky edges and potentially dangerous situations if you take a walk at the top of Muddy Creek Falls (a 54 ft. drop). You can take a dip in the waters here, which is refreshing and an Insta-worthy shot, but the watering hole is a popular activity in late spring and summer so prepare for crowds or aim to go during a weekday. Swallow Falls and Lower Falls are smaller waterfalls that are equally breathtaking and sometimes less crowded. 

Distance from DC: 3 hours 
Hiking ability required: Beginner to Expert

2470 Maple Glade Rd.
Oakland MD
Online: dnr.maryland.gov/swallowfalls

Kilgore Falls

Just under a mile along the way you reach not only the scenic falls but also a swimming spot. Bring the kids, swimsuits, and even your pup along for this one.

Distance from DC:80 miles
Hiking ability required: any

3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Rd.
Jarrettsville, MD
Online: maryland.gov

Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park, part of Catoctin Mountain Park, has it all: waterfalls? Check. Swimming, boating, and fishing? Check. A beach? Check! There are even campgrounds,  picnic areas, and hiking trails. Located about 18 miles north of Frederick, the park closes when filled to capacity. To note: swimming is not allowed near the falls. 

Distance from DC: 1.5 hours
Hiking ability required: beginner to expert

14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd.
Thurmont, MD
Online: dnr.maryland.gov


Blackwater Falls State Park

If you've got a budding shooter, take them on this hike popular among both amateur and professional photographers. Elekala Falls is a short walk from Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge; these cascading falls are popular among photographers, but copying some of the more famous shots of this fall will require going off-path and can potentially be dangerous. A simpler, family-friendly option is to head to Blackwater Falls, from which the park gets its name. 

Distance from DC: 3 hours 
Hiking ability required: Beginner to expert 

1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd.
Davis, WV
Online: wvstateparks.com/blackwater-falls-state-park

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