Boat tour at Niagara Falls, New York State
Nick Starichenko/

Road Trip From Washington DC To Niagara Falls

Updated by Sasha Yanshin on March 7 2024

The mid-Atlantic is the perfect place for an unforgettable adventure, and one of your best options would be a road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls. Besides the beautiful final destination, you can expect to find lots of truly iconic places along the way.

The 400-mile road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls takes 7 hours 15 minutes to drive. Stops include the cities of Pittsburgh and Buffalo, Presque Isle and Shawnee State Parks, as well as the Finger Lakes and Allegheny National Forest.

There's plenty worth seeing on this road trip, so be sure to read until the end to know what to look out for on the way.

How far is Niagara Falls from Washington, DC and how long will the road trip take?

RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Fast Route400 miles7 hours 15 minutes
The Pittsburgh Route480 miles7 hours 40 minutes

The most straightforward way from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls will get you there in 7 hours and 15 minutes, and it covers around 400 miles. You could definitely do this drive in a single day, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice given how scenic the trip is.

Although there are a few ways to get to Niagara Falls that all roughly take the same amount of time, this route is by far the most streamlined while still being very beautiful, incorporating the largest and most luscious forests in Pennsylvania.

An alternate way of approaching this trip is by taking a more western route right by Pittsburgh – the drive shouldn't take longer than 7 hours and 30 minutes, and you can still detour to some of the forests from the former route.

Daytime shot of Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland
One of the most romantic spots this road trip has to offer would have to be Seneca Creek State Park.

Besides Pittsburgh, this route features its own share of scenic landscapes, including a sizable chunk of Lake Erie's southern coast.

The issue with this route is that, visiting Pittsburgh or even just trying to squeeze past the city's outskirts is likely to get you stuck in one of the city's notorious traffic jams.

In a way, this problem is made even worse during the holidays, owing to the many tourists who use the city as a stopover on the way to Niagara Falls. Keep a close eye on the traffic situation as you maneuver your way around town.

Best road trip route from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls

There's no clear “best' route for the road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls – both of the itineraries have plenty to offer, even sharing some of their most scenic landmarks. Consider taking one route on the way there and another on the way back.

Whether you're flying into Washington, DC, or you simply don't have your own transport in the city, renting a car for your road trip is something you'll want to take care of ASAP.

For an easy-to-compare view of rental options for your road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls, take a look at our partner site,

How to drive from Washington DC to Niagara Falls

The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Washington DC and Niagara Falls. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.

The Fast Route

Crossing the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge into Virginia, drive along the Potomac River on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, then cross the American Legion Memorial Bridge into Maryland.

Briefly drive on Interstate 495 before getting on Interstate 270, driving past Rock Creek National Park and Seneca Creek State Park.

Just past Monocacy National Battlefields, stop at Frederick if you want before hopping onto Interstate 70. Follow it past Gambril, Greenbrier, and South Mountain State Parks before crossing over into Pennsylvania.

Just past Bedford, get on Interstate 99 and pass Raystown Lake Recreation Area and Rothrock State Forest. From Bald Eagle, leave the interstate and continue north past Black Moshannon State Park and Moshannon State Forest until you reach Route 219.

Follow this route past Allegheny National Forest and State Park, then take Interstate 190 just before Buffalo and follow it the rest of the way to Niagara Falls.

The Pittsburgh Route

The first portion of the drive is the same as the other route – once you reach Bedford, though, stay on Interstate 76 and follow it past Shawnee State Park and make a stop at Pittsburgh. Just north of town, jump onto Interstate 79, not far from Bradys Run Park.

Drive between McConnells Mill State Park and Lake Arthur, followed by Grove City Memorial Park. Not long after passing Maurice K Goddard State Park, you'll reach Erie and the Presque Isle State Park.

From here, follow Interstate 90 along the lake, then hop onto Interstate 190 at Buffalo and take it to Niagara Falls.

Best places to stop between Washington, DC and Niagara Falls

The Niagara region is absolutely full of great places to stay, but the way there can be a bit lacking in terms of luxury accommodation depending on the route and how you're splitting your trip.

With that said, booking a room at the following hotels is bound to enhance your vacation:

Explore the streets of Pittsburgh

If you're taking the more western route, be sure to stop at Pittsburgh – your road trip will be all the better for it. Out of the slew of great hotels to choose from, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh is a beautiful modern hotel with the best location you could hope for.

With rooms that exude a stylish kind of elegance with artistic touches and offer park or city views, this hotel guarantees you a comfortable, inviting stay. Add to that the amazing service, and you have the best hotel money can buy in Pittsburgh.

Sunset over the incline at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh's picturesque aesthetic puts it a few notches above most major cities in the region.

The experience is made all the better by The Commoner, the amazing restaurant on-site, allowing you to spend an evening in style. You can also enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch here, as well as weekend brunches, which the restaurant is popular for.

You will also find a seasonal rooftop beer garden that serves light snacks for a perfect balmy afternoon out.

Finally, the hotel offers some great connectivity – conveniently located in downtown Pittsburgh, this hotel is within walking distance of iconic landmarks like Allegheny Riverfront and Point State Parks.

READ MORE - Click here for more great hotel options

Enjoy the royal treatment at Niagara Falls

Many Niagara enthusiasts will readily tell you that the Canadian part of the region is substantially more scenic than its US counterpart. In light of that, you may want to indulge in a luxurious stay at the Sterling Inn & Spa.

Boasting a stellar location, this hotel is just a manageable walk from Maid of the Mist Niagara Falls boat tour, which is one of the best ways to see the majestic Niagara Falls.

Aerial view of Niagara Falls, Canada
Whether you're in Canada or the States, Niagara Falls makes for an amazing place to spend your vacation

Once you are done exploring, make sure to book yourself a spa treatment at the hotel to pamper yourself. We highly recommend following this up with a delicious meal at the hotel's restaurant.

Essentially, for a great price (even more affordable when visiting out of season), you will be staying at one of the top hotels in the area, just a short distance from both Casino Niagara and Marineland.

Things to see on a road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls

Although the final destination is probably the highlight of the experience, the road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls is full of places worth checking out. Here are some of the most beautiful ones:

  1. Seneca Creek State Park – Stretching along Seneca Creek, this park features beautiful hiking trails and the stunning Clopper Lake.
  2. Monocacy National Battlefield – This beautiful site also happens to be among the most significant battlefronts of the Civil War.
  3. South Mountain State Park – A gorgeous park along the Blue Ridge Mountains, perhaps best known for featuring High Shoals Falls.
  4. Catoctin Mountain Park – This park combines lush valleys and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains into an unforgettable hiking experience.
  5. Canoe Creek State Park – Courtesy of Canoe Lake and its stunning surroundings, this park is the perfect hub for many water and land-based activities.
  6. Allegheny National Forest – A scenic forest featuring lakes, old-growth trees, and the gigantic Kinzua Dam.
  7. Allegany State Park – This beautiful, historic park is the natural landmark of choice for New York natives thanks to its gorgeous trails and sweeping mountain views.
  8. Buffalo – Besides being a major thoroughfare for travelers to Niagara Falls, the eye-catching design and access to Lake Erie make Buffalo a beautiful city in its own right.
  9. Finger Lakes – Although they're a bit of a detour when following the routes outlined above, the beauty of these lakes makes them a must-see when traveling in the region.
  10. Shawnee State Park – Featuring Shawnee Lake, this is one of the best place to swim and fish in the region.
  11. Pittsburgh –Anyone in the know will tell you that Pittsburgh's parks, architecture, and overall quality of life make it among the greatest cities in the States.
  12. McConnells Mill State Park – One of the region's premier hiking areas, containing a beautiful (and difficult) stretch of the North Country Trail.
  13. Maurice K Goddard State Park – Chock-full of things to do no matter the time of year, the park makes for an amazing hunting, canoeing, and ice fishing spot alike.
  14. Presque Isle State Park – In light of its unique geology and title of Lake Erie's very own “peninsula”, this park is a nature lover's dream come true.
Red Lake in Allegany State Park, New York State
Although you'll have no shortage of amazing lakes to check out during this trip, Allegany State Park's Red House Lake is one of the most beautiful this route has to offer.
Zack Frank/

Best time to go on a road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls

The best time for a road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara is easier to pinpoint than it is for many other trips, considering how dependent the area's tourism is on the weather conditions.

Summer is the busiest time of year at Niagara Falls, whether you're staying on the New York or Canada side. Temperatures cap out at around 80 degrees in July and August, and the abundance of free transportation makes it very easy to get around.

With that said, the convenient weather is a huge tourist draw, so to avoid crowds, you can do the trip in early fall – snow in the fall is not unheard of here, but September doesn't have that problem, and it gives you a nice 70 degrees Fahrenheit and generous hotel prices to work with.

Daytime view of Niagara Falls, Canada
Boating is a mandatory activity if you want to make the most of your time at Niagara.

Although there's a certain charm to it, visiting the Falls in winter is generally ill-advised given the potential for blizzards. Visuals aside, the region is rich in amazing wineries to check out, and January's Icewine Festival draws a respectable number of visitors, given the weather.

As you might imagine, the less-than-stellar weather carries over into spring, and the line between it and winter can get quite blurry on a bad year.

For all intents and purposes, late April or early May is usually the earliest you should do the trip. This is also the time to check out Shaw Theater, and the practically weekly fireworks are on full display.