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THE MOST EPIC WATERFALL HIKES NEAR DC

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MEGHAN BARTLETT

SEP 15, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @CHANZY.HIKES | INSTAGRAM

Ready for an unforgettable adventure? We've got the rundown of all the go-to waterfall hikes in the DMV.

Put this waterfall at the top of your bucket list. At 78 feet, Cunningham Falls is the tallest waterfall in Maryland — and there multiple ways to get there. For a short and easy trek, take Lower Trail that's less than a mile from the falls. For a rockier, more strenuous hike, go for the Old Misery Trail and one hell of a payoff.

If you don’t want to drive far, head to Scott’s Run in VA, the closest waterfall hike to the DC metro area. A short path will take you to the waterfall—after some boulder hopping—and back in about two miles. Want to extend your trip? There are connecting trails to explore.

Better known as Kilgore Falls, Falling Branch Falls is a little less than two hours away in Rocks State Park, Maryland. The short hike is about a mile, and at the end, you'll reach a 17-foot cascade into a small wading pool. Put your feet in and hang out at the water's edge or wear your swimsuit and go for a dip. Either way, you're in for a relaxing afternoon.

This four-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park boasts six waterfalls — that’s more than one waterfall per mile. They range in size, but the real draw is the 86 foot behemouth at the upper falls. Break up your hike by dipping into the water at each one. You'll appreciate the refresher before the steep hike back.

Three different overlooks offer spectacular views of Great Falls, but our favorite is Overlook Three — it has the best vantage point. Snap a few pics, then tackle the 15 miles worth of hiking trails throughout the park. Just don't jump in, swimming is not permitted.

Overall Run features both a strenuous trek and an easy jaunt through the park — but either route ends with a majestic waterfall. If you want the longer hike, take the 8.5-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park. Just dying to see the waterfall? No problem, you can drive right to the parking area and take a one-mile trail to the water.

Sticking around Shenandoah National Park for a night or two? Hit up this challenging hike about an hour away from Overall Run. Getting to the waterfall is easy, it’s the hike back up—and the 440-foot elevation change—that will get your muscles burning. If you're going on the weekend, get there as early as possible. This trail is extremely popular.

Also in Shenandoah National Park, this hike is over five miles long, climbs 1,500 feet in elevation, passes through a gorge, and will have you hopping over rock ledges. But the little waterfalls along the way are a good distraction. After reaching the top, follow a fire road back down for a much easier return journey.

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