Hike to these 5 waterfalls near Washington, DC

- There's something both refreshing and calming about looking at a waterfall. Whether it’s the sound of falling water as it reaches the surface, or the cooling feeling of water spray as it hits your face, it’s hard to deny their beauty.

Oh, and there’s the fact that they’re a pretty good place to be in a heat wave—like right now.

In a city of so much concrete and asphalt, it may be surprising to learn that we have several beautiful waterfalls not far from DC.

Here’s my list of 5 DC-area waterfalls you NEED to check out: 

#5: Great Falls State Park
Distance: About 30 minutes from DC
Fees: $10/car
Address: 9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, Virginia 22102

This only ranked so low because so many people already know about it. Great Falls Park is located in McLean, Va. and operated by the National Park Service. It’s one of the most popular hiking spots in the DC region, with breathtaking views of the numerous falls as the Potomac River falls 76 feet.  Kayaking and white water rafting are extremely popular in this section of the river, but swimming is strictly forbidden.

#4: Cascade Falls
Distance: About 45 minutes from DC
Fees: $2/car for in-state drivers, $4/car for out-of-state drivers
Address: Cascade Trail, Maryland 21075

An honest review from someone who has been there: this waterfall will not blow you away with its beauty like Crabtree Falls or Great Falls, but is more family-friendly. The falls are located in Patapsco Valley State Park near Baltimore, a relatively short and easy drive from Washington. Much like Crabtree Falls, you will once again need to pack your hiking boots as the falls are located along a 2.2 mile-long, looping trail. Only 13 feet tall, it falls gently into a shallow pool that hikers are free to wade into. It is the perfect little family escape from hustle and bustle of the big cities that surround this quiet state park.

#3: Crabtree Falls
Distance: About 3 hours from DC
Fees: $5/car
Address: 10636 Crabtree Falls Hwy, Tyro, Virginia 22976

If being ranked on sheer beauty, this may very well be number one. Admittedly, Crabtree Falls is a pretty long drive from downtown Washington, but all those who go say it is well worth the trip.

The falls are located about one mile’s hike from the parking lot into the beautiful George Washington National Forest. If you make the trip, you will be greeted by the breathtaking sight of one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.

Crabtree Falls is a cascading waterfall, meaning it falls in “steps” instead of one big drop. Over the course of a half mile, the waterfall falls about 1,200 feet with the largest “step” being almost 400 feet tall.

#2: Kilgore Falls
Distance: Under 2 Hours From DC
Fees: $2/car for in-state drivers, $4/car for out-of- state drivers
Address: 1026 Falling Branch Rd, Pylesville, Maryland 21132

The second highest waterfall in Maryland comes in at an incredible 19 feet high (note the sarcasm) and is located in the scenic Rocks State Park. Despite being the second smallest waterfall on this list, it makes up for it with the beautiful scenery and is an extremely popular swimming location.

So beautiful are the falls that they were featured in a memorable scene for the 2002 Disney movie Tuck Everlasting.  Water in the pool surrounding the falls is pretty shallow, but it does increase to a depth of about 10 feet as you approach the base of the falls.

Many choose to climb the falls and jump into the deeper portions of the pool below, which is allowed but should be done cautiously.

#1: White Oak Canyon: Shenandoah National Park
Distance: About 2 Hours From DC
Fees: $10/person OR $20/car (Pass is good for 1 week)
Address: Weakley Hollow Rd, Syria, Virginia 22743

I am cheating with this entry, because the reason it is #1 is because it features not one waterfall…but SIX! Plan to make a full day out of it if you plan on seeing all of the waterfalls, as the trail is nearly 8 miles long and can be steep in places.

Those who make the full journey will be treated to breathtaking views of several waterfalls. Upper Falls is perhaps the most well-known and is the tallest of the group at 85 feet. The park is extremely popular during the fall months as the leaves begin to change.

For those that hike in the heat of the summer (NOW?), there are several swimming holes to cool off in along the trail.


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