8 Nearby Waterfalls You Can See & Get Back before Bedtime

Best waterfalls near DC Sean Robertson via Unsplash

Get your motor running—these picture-worthy waterfalls are all within an easy drive of Washington DC

When the feels-like temp hits 100, it’s time to cool off at one of the area’s local watering holes. Take a dip at a near-by lake, splash around at a local water park or enjoy beautiful vistas at these worth-the-drive waterfalls. Not only do these scenic spots  provide the perfect backdrop for a family photo, but there are added health-benefits to chasing waterfalls. Did you know falling water has scientifically proven mood changing abilities? From Virginia to Maryland to West Virginia, we’ve rounded up the best kid-friendly waterfalls within a day’s drive of Washington, DC.

Visit-Worthy Waterfalls in Virginia

Overall Run Falls in Shenandoah National Park: Up for a hike? This 8.5-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park rolls right past Overall Run. If you’ve got short legs in your crew, skip the scenic route and take the one-mile shortcut trail from the parking lot straight to the falls. Best known for having the tallest waterfall in the park, at 93 feet, Overall Run Waterfall is most impressive when the stream runs high in the spring, but is still worth the visit in the summer when the falls are milder.

Insider Tip: Pack the swim suits: the creek runs over a smooth, sloping rock wall that works as a fantastic water slide.

Time from DC: 2 hours
Hiking Ability: Moderate

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

Related: Take a Hike! 9 Easy Trails for Kids Under 5

White Oak Canyon Area: Choose between the one or four-mile trek—either way you’ll reap the rewards of up to six waterfalls and swimming holes. Due to the abundance of swimming options, this area tends to draw large crowds so plan on arriving early. The water here is shallow, so toddlers can splash and play in the water with ease, but trails do get slippery so make sure everyone is wearing the proper footwear. 

Time from DC: 1.5 hours
Hiking Ability: Moderate

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

Related: 25 Natural Swimming Holes to Put on Your Bucket List

Great Falls Park: While the water cascades more than “falls” in this park, 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. Bonus: These paths are stroller friendly!

Editor’s Note: The Visitor Center is currently closed due to construction through Spring 2023. 

Time from DC: less than 45 minutes
Hiking Ability: All levels

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

Related: 12 Local Stroller-Friendly Hikes

Scott’s Run: When you need a quick waterfall fix, make the trek to Scott’s Run. It’s just an easy 30-minute trip from the city. Younger kids may not make the 2-mile journey to the main attraction, but smaller falls along the trail are fun for little feet to jump in. The Park Authority regularly runs guided hikes and educational programs, so be sure to check the website before you head out on the trails. 

Time from DC: 30 minutes
Hiking Ability: Moderate

7400 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

Visit-Worthy Waterfalls in Maryland

Kilgore Falls: You’ll find Maryland’s second largest waterfall within Rock State Park. This impressive natural wonder is a popular local attraction, so you will need to reserve your spot prior to your arriving  Fri.-Sun.; May 1 through Labor Day. Kilgore Falls boasts one of the shortest walks from a parking to the scenic falls (it’s just a 1/2 mile trail), making it a great choice for families with little ones who rather swim than hike.

Time from DC: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Hiking Ability: All levels

3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Rd.
Jarrettsville, MD
Online: maryland.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 make it to the top of Muddy Creek Falls (a 54 ft. drop). You can take a dip in the waters here, which is refreshing and Insta-worthy, but be forewarned this photo op also draws summer crowds. We recommend visiting on a weekday for a quieter experience or head to near-by Swallow Falls or Lower Falls where the falls are smaller (and so are the crowds).

Time from DC: 3 hours
Hiking Ability: All levels

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

Cunningham Falls State Park: Cunningham Falls State Park, part of Catoctin Mountain Park, has it all: waterfalls? Check. Swimming, boating, and fishing? Check check 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, so plan to arrive early.

Time from DC: 1.5 hours
Hiking Ability: All levels

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

Visit Worthy Waterfalls in West Virginia

Blackwater Falls State Park: If you’ve got a budding photographer, 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 require going off-path and can potentially be dangerous. A simpler, family-friendly alternative is to head to Blackwater Falls, from which the park gets its name.

Time from DC: 3 hours
Hiking Ability: All levels

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


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