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THE MOST EPIC WATERFALL HIKES TO TAKE NEAR DC

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MEGHAN BARTLETT

AUG 28, 2019

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IMAGE VIA @CHANZY.HIKES | INSTAGRAM

Whether it’s through the forest, around the city, or to the top of a mountain, we’re always game for a good hike. But sometimes we wish our trail led to a cascading waterfall. Imagine taking a break to cool off in some rushing water!

Okay, now snap out of your daydream. Why pretend when there are so many awesome waterfalls to explore near DC? That’s right gang, adventure is calling. Don’t waste another second. Toss some rations in your rucksack and check out these waterfall hikes sure to suppress your sense of wanderlust (for now!).

Top your bucket list with this mega waterfall. At 78 feet, Cunningham Falls is the tallest waterfall in Maryland. There are various trails to get there, including the Lower Trail, less than a mile from the falls. For a rockier, more strenuous hike, take the Old Misery Trail (we promise it’s not as bad as the name suggests). Whichever trail you choose, there’s really no excuse not to see this beauty.

If you don’t want to drive that far for your hike, head to Scott’s Run in VA, the closest waterfall hike to the DC metro area. The short path will take you to the waterfall—after some boulder hopping—and back in about two miles. If you want to extend your walking, there are lots of different trails to explore (hint: maybe even another waterfall!)

Bring your dog along for this trip (make sure to grab a leash!) and head to Falling Branch Falls, also known as Kilgore Falls, in Rocks State Park, Maryland. The short hike is about a mile, and remember to bring your swimsuit. Once you get there, you (and your dog) will want to splash in!

This four-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park boasts six waterfalls—yup, that’s more than one waterfall per mile. This delightful trail will lead you past a variety of gurgling and surging waterfalls with all different sizes from 35-86 feet tall. Break up your hike by dipping into the water at each one, where the splashing and sprinkling water will have you frolicking like a kid again!

Another waterfall close to the city, you can see the falls after a brief 5-10 minute hike from the Visitor Center. From there, you can view the water from three different overlooks. The water may look enticing, but stay clear. No swimming is permitted due to the deep river (over 30 feet in some areas), currents, and dangerous rapids. Instead, enjoy exploring the 15 miles-worth of hiking trails throughout the park.

Overall Run offers either a challenging trek or an easy jaunt through the park—either way you end 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.

Stick around in Shenandoah National Park if you’re up for a more challenging hike. Take the trail to Dark Hollow Falls, where you’ll descend down to the falls. You’ll reach the upper falls first, and further down the trail are the lower falls (makes sense, right?). Getting to the waterfall is easy, it’s the hike back up—a 440 ft. elevation—that will get your heart pumping.

If you’re looking for something beyond a gentle woodland stroll, try tackling Little Devils Stairs in Shenandoah National Park. This trail takes you over five miles, winding up over 1,500 feet elevation, passing through a gorge, and climbing over rock ledges. You can spot little waterfalls as you climb, but don’t let the falls take your breath away—you’ll need it for the rest of the hike up. After reaching the top you can follow a fire road back down for an easier return journey.

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