For kids, waterfalls are like unicorns: they’re found in books or movies far more often than in real life and the idea of them alone (water cascading of its own accord) holds a sort of mystic quality. Their rarity in our everyday lives only enhances the fascination. Let’s be honest, for adults it’s pretty much the same. Few of us would pass up the opportunity to encounter a real-life waterfall. Well, today opportunity is knocking (or, falling as the case may be) as we’ve rounded up the top six places to catch a waterfall around the DMV. The spots range in their distance from the district and level of hiking ability required, proving that magic is within reach for us all.

Photo: Stephen McGrath via Flickr

Great Falls Park
While the water cascades more than strictly falls, 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.

Distance from D.C.: less than 45 minutes
Hiking ability required: none

9200 Old Dominion Dr. (McLean, Va)
Online: nps.gov

Scott’s Run
Another short drive from the district, you can drive directly to the entry point for the trail to the falls. The journey to the falls and back is about 2 miles and some terrain can be steep but smaller falls along the way might satisfy smaller kids or keep the bigger ones engaged until you reach the end.

Distance from D.C.: half hour
Hiking ability required: moderate

7400 Georgetown Pike (McLean, Va)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

Falling Branch (Kilgore) Falls
Just under a mile along the way you reach not only the scenic falls but also a swimming spot. Bring the kids, swimsuits, and even your pup along for this one.

Distance from D.C.: 80 miles
Hiking ability required: any

3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Rd. (Jarrettsville, Md)
Online: maryland.gov

Overall Run
Up for a hike? An 8.5-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park passes you right by Overall Run. Ready to get straight to the falls? Take the one-mile trail from the parking lot straight there.

Distance from D.C.: 2 hours
Hiking ability required: moderate or none

Shenandoah National Park
Online: nps.gov

Whiteoak Canyon Falls
Choose between a one- and four-mile trek and reap the rewards of up to six waterfalls and swimming holes.

Distance from D.C.: 1.5 hours
Hiking ability required: moderate

Shenandoah National Park
Online: nps.gov

Cunningham Falls

Various trails will get you to Cunningham Falls, the tallest waterfall in Maryland.

Distance from D.C.: 1.5 hours
Hiking ability required: beginner to expert

14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd. (Thurmont, Md)
Online: maryland.gov

Do you have a favorite waterfall that is nearby? Tell us about it in the comments section below. 

–Tricia Mirchandani