9 Waterfalls in Maryland & Virginia – Plus A Few DC “Waterfalls”


Want to see some waterfalls, but don’t want to travel to Hawaii to see them (even if you do, that’s a long airplane ride for littles!)? You don’t need to travel all that far to see waterfalls – some great ones are practically in our backyards in the DMV area. Some of these can be seen as part of easy hikes that even your toddler can do, too! Below are 9 great waterfalls to see in Virginia and Maryland, no airfare required. Plus, a few bonus “waterfalls” in DC.

Please note that most places open around 8 am, but it varies, so please check the websites. Of course, when hiking, leave no traces and take your trash with you until you find a trash bin.

Looking at our favorite local waterfall, Great Falls Park.

9 Waterfalls in Maryland and Virginia

1. Great Falls Park – Mclean, VA/Potomac, MD

9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102

You can see this wonderful local waterfall from two different states in the DMV: Virginia or Maryland! There are 15 miles of hikes within the park, but you can also simply walk from the parking lot to the lookout and see the falls. Note that Great Falls Park is a national park, so there is a $20 entry fee per car.

2. Scott’s Run – Mclean, VA

7400 Georgetown Pike McLean, VA 22102

Just off the GW Parkway is another hidden gem waterfall at Scott’s Run. Swimming and wading in the water are not allowed.

3. Potomac Heritage Trail (Potomac Tributary and Gulf Branch) – Arlington, VA

2785 N Quebec St, Arlington, VA 22207

Another little-known waterfall right outside DC is on the Potomac Heritage Trail. Once you’re on this trail, follow the Potomac River about a mile to the Potomac Tributary Waterfall, a waterfall with several small cascades, so it runs best after rain (of which there’s lots of during the summer, typically). Head north along the trail and pass the intersection with the Donaldson Run Trail half a mile to another waterfall where Gulf Branch meets the river.

4. Cascade Falls – Arbutus, MD

5120 South Street, Arbutus, MD 21227

Another waterfall you can swim in after a beginner’s hike is Cascade Falls, about an hour drive from DC. This hike is at Patapsco Valley State Park and the entrance is at the Avalon area near the second parking lot near the restrooms. This hike is close to Baltimore, so you can even make a day trip out of this hike by spending the day in Baltimore afterward.

5. Cunningham Falls – Thurmont, MD

14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

About an hour and a half drive from DC, this is the tallest waterfall in Maryland at 78 feet tall. The hiking to get to it is relatively easy, and this waterfall cascades over rocks, so climb the rocks with the other hikers to cool off once you arrive.

6. Falling Branch Falls/Kilgore Falls – Pylesville, MD

1026 Falling Branch Road, Pylesville, MD 21132

This waterfall goes by two names, and is the second highest waterfall in Maryland at 17 feet. More of an easy, peaceful walk than a hike, this is an ideal hike to take your kids on.  Bring your swimsuits and towels for a nice shaded dip after hiking. Also, reservations are required between May 6 and Labor Day and the parking lot fills up pretty quickly.

7. Whiteoak Canyon Trail – Syria, VA

187 Chad Berry Lane, Syria, VA 22743 (Lower Falls Address)

This waterfall is a little over two hours from the DMV – its loop trail has about eight waterfalls, including one that’s 86 feet! It’s not an easy hike, but the falls are beautiful, and there’s a very spacious swimming hole below its lower falls, perfect for swimming this summer.

8. Overall Run Falls – Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park Luray, VA 22835

This waterfall is large at 93 feet, and is worth the intermediate/difficult 6.4 mile hike roundtrip to get there – so long as there’s been recent rain so it’s more than a trickle. It’s also furthest out from the DMV area (two and a half hours drive). Reward yourself by swimming in one of three pools downstream from the waterfall after taking in its vastness. There is a $30 fee to enter Shenandoah National Park.

9. Dark Hollow Falls – Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls Trailhead, Skyline Drive, Stanley, VA 22851

Also in Shenandoah National Park is Dark Hollow Falls – take in the beauty of this waterfall after a short but likely difficult for kids one and a half mile hike.

Don’t want to drive far? See these “waterfalls” in DC:

1. Cascading Falls – Not to be confused with Cascade Falls above, this is an art installation of an Italian villa-inspired step waterfall located in Meridian Hill Park.

2. The Water Wall at the National WWII Memorial – The mini fountains surrounding the two big fountains are highly entertaining for kids to watch.

3. The water “scrims” at the National Portrait Gallery Courtyard – While not really waterfalls, these long rectangular water scrims produce effects ranging from textured, slightly rippled surfaces, to mirror-like planes that reflect the skylights, and can provide some water-gazing entertainment. When the features are turned off and the water flows away, they virtually vanish into the surrounding paving, which will wow your kids as they start to use and play in the space.

4. The FDR Memorial – In the third room of the memorial, a waterfall crashes over boulders, suggesting the destruction and violence of World War II, which dominated Roosevelt’s third term in office.

5. The Yards Park water feature – Enjoy this big splash pad with fountains and a canal basin (11 inches deep) after playing in The Yards Park. It’s almost like hiking to a waterfall and swimming…almost.

Do you have a favorite waterfall to visit with kids?

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Stephanie Shipman
Stephanie and her husband moved to the DC area from St. Pete, Florida (but hail from the Midwest) with their French Bulldog Reggie in 2018 for her husband's job. A few weeks after arriving, she discovered she was pregnant. Carson was born later that year, and with no family around, had to create her own village of mom friends. The family of four live in Mclean, Virginia. A former journalist, she recently rejoined the client success industry after being laid off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She enjoys activities with both Carson and Reggie, including walks around the neighborhood and visiting dog-friendly parks and monuments in the DMV area.


  1. It looks like #2 should be removed – evidently swimming and wading are prohibited at Scott’s Run

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