15 Jaw-Dropping Hikes In and Near Washington, DC for All LevelsWhile Washington DC is a tremendous city to explore, there are additionally tons of hidden pure attractions and enjoyable trails to see close by. Luckily, DC isn’t too removed from some unbelievable parks and hiking trails… many are even located inside the city! There are so many wonderful locations to go hiking near DC, we admittedly had a tough time writing this information. To allow you to plan your next outdoor journey, we created this information to fifteen of our favorite hikes near Washington DC so you can begin exploring.
Make certain that you’re prepared for the DC climate with the proper hiking clothes! Check out our complete guide for the most effective tips and equipment for hiking within the fall.
Easy Hiking Near DC
* Location: Washington, DC
* Trail Length: 1.6 miles (Outer Loop)
* Highlights: Stunning views of the Potomac River, quiet forest trails, boardwalks over waterways with a lot of wildlife, and dog-friendly!
Located inside Washington DC, within the Potomac River, lies Theodore Roosevelt Island. This small island is a natural escape from the city, with a 1.6-mile loop trail that hikers of all ranges can enjoy. This easy trail is one of the best locations to go hiking in Washington DC, that includes boardwalks over marsh areas, clear wooded forest paths, and a chance to flee Washington DC whereas nonetheless staying within its city limits.
As it’s in the center of town, you probably can access Theodore Roosevelt Island by way of public transportation. From the main parking area, there’s a picturesque footbridge throughout the river that results in the island. Once you’ve arrived on the island, hop on the trail and luxuriate in this lovely, scenic DC hike.
Note: as of July 2021, the Potomac Heritage Trail between Theodore Roosevelt Island and Windy Run is closed. Check this web site for probably the most up-to-date data about park closures around this space.
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* Trail Length: 8.2 miles complete (west side only is 2.6 miles)
* Highlights: Capitol Columns, Asian Collections, cherry blossoms within the spring
The National Arboretum is one other less-frequented gem of a park inside DC’s city limits and is house to some of the nicest hiking in DC. The trails in this city park are beautiful and well-maintained, perfect for hikers of all ranges or people who merely need to get exterior for a stroll. Here, you’ll be able to learn concerning the various trees and vegetation that grow natively in the DC area on one of many park’s many gardens and trails. There’s also a visitor heart with more information and occasions throughout the year.
While the park is best recognized for the historic Capitol columns, there are several trails here via totally different areas which are price exploring on foot. To avoid the crowds, we’d suggest starting on the Capitol columns, then following the park’s trails into completely different areas and sections of the grounds. The Asian Collections are our favourite space, with stunning sprawling trees and shady benches you’ll be able to sit on to immerse your self in nature or even try forest bathing.
Note: as of July 2021, the Administration Building is closed to the common public. Check this website for probably the most up-to-date info about park closures round this area.
Rock Creek Park
* Trail Length: Varies
* Highlights: Quiet, forested trails, Pulpit Rock scramble, Pierce Mill, Valley Trail
One of Washington DC’s largest parks, Rock Creek Park isn’t a lot a trail as it is a community of pathways via pure and historic landmarks. Upon arriving in the park, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of trails and paths, some easy and some tougher, for a perfect day of exploring what, in our opinion, is likely one of the most peaceful green spaces in the whole metropolis.
While you’re in Rock Creek Park, head to Valley Trail for picturesque views and wooded pathways. Inside the park, don’t overlook to examine out a few of the historic sights, just like the Pierce Mill gristmill, the Rolling Meadow Footbridge, and Miller Cabin. If you’re up for some adrenaline-inducing actions, attempt a rock scramble at Pulpit Rock.
Note: as of July 2021, some parts of Rock Creek Park are closed. Check this web site for probably the most up-to-date information about park closures round this area.
Photo Credit: Joe Flood (Flickr CC)Mount Vernon Trail
* Trail Length: 18 miles whole, however could be shortened
* Highlights: DC skyline views, paved paths for biking, connects with many different regional trails within the area
While not exactly a “wilderness” trail, the Mount Vernon Trail deserves a spot on any listing of places to go hiking in DC. This walking, hiking, and biking path extends for 18 miles from Mount Vernon (yeah, George Washington’s birthplace) all the way to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s an ideal spot for families, runners, bikers, and history buffs to take pleasure in a historic and scenic space for hiking near DC.
On sure components of the trail, you presumably can catch wonderful views of the Washington, DC skyline. Accessible with no automotive, the Mount Vernon Trail is perfect paired with a day trip from DC to Mount Vernon, or simply as a brief journey starting in the city.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect brief hike to a picturesque waterfall!Scott’s Run Nature Preserve
* Trail Length: 2.2 miles
* Highlights: Clean, extensive forest trail, ends in a waterfall!
If you’re craving the tranquility of a waterfall hike but don’t need a lengthy journey to get there, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect trail for you. One of the closest waterfall hikes to DC, it’s a brief and straightforward jaunt through the forest to this riverside waterfall viewpoint. However, you’ll need a automobile to get right here if you want to hike across the Scott’s Run space.
Scott’s Run Trail is a ~2.2 mile loop via the woods, with a stream crossing and a few gradual hills here and there. The trail is dog-friendly and is the right size for a morning stroll. Accessible to children of all ages, this family-friendly trail is unquestionably one of the fun and manageable hikes near Washington DC.
Rapids in the Potomac River at Great Falls, seen from Olmsted Island at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland.Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail
* Trail Length: Varies
* Highlights: Quiet trail along the canal, historic house and canal locks, spectacular views of Great Falls
The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is a simple, in style hiking zone that runs along the historic C&O canal. It’s positioned just half an hour from downtown DC, and is the right place for a forest hike, particularly within the fall when the bushes turn all kinds of gorgeous colors. You’ll need to drive to the park, however it’s a straightforward drive from wherever in the DC metro space.
While there, don’t miss the historic residence located near the car parking zone, in addition to the historic canal boat and the wooden locks that still line the canal. Also, make positive to take the flip onto the Great Falls lookout boardwalk, which brings you to the edge of the Potomac River to a shocking viewpoint of the large falls.
Designated as a National Historic Park, there’s an entrance fee to get into the C&O Canal area, but once you’ve parked, you can stay as lengthy as you want within the park. You also can use a National Parks Annual Pass if you’ve obtained one, and entrance is free.
Note: as of July 2021, some elements of Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail are closed. Check this web site for probably the most up-to-date info about park closures around this area.
Need more recommendations for beginner-friendly hikes? Here are even more straightforward hikes near Washington, DC.
The Maryland Heights trail offers beautiful views of historic Harpers Ferry.Moderate Hikes Near DC
Maryland Heights Trail
* Trail Length: four.5 or 6.5 miles
* Highlights: Stunning view of the merging of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, old Civil War fortress
One of our favorite hikes near Washington DC, the Maryland Heights Trail offers the best views of Harpers Ferry, a National Historic Park and necessary landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you – Harpers Ferry is simply an hour away from Washington DC.
There are two trails out there that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or need to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we advocate choosing the shorter trail, which brings you to probably the most beautiful view in the whole park. The viewpoint is stuffed with boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as nicely as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.
Note: as of July 2021, some components of Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park are closed. Check this web site for the most up-to-date info about park closures round this area.
Photo Credit: Compass Points Media (Flickr CC)Whiteoak Canyon
* Trail Length: 7.3 miles
* Highlights: This trail passes by way of 8 (yes, EIGHT) waterfalls! Need we say more?
Arguably one of the epic waterfall hikes near Washington DC, the Whiteoak Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult and stunningly stunning 7.3-mile trail where you’ll undoubtedly get your fill of waterways and falls. Located in Shenandoah National Park, this trail is perfect as a Washington DC day journey or as a part of an extended weekend journey within the park.
During the course of the Whiteoak Canyon Trail, you’ll get to see a complete of eight waterfalls of varying sizes and power. If you’re hoping to catch some good images opportunities, go through the fall when the leaves flip all types of bright and delightful warm colours.
Photo Credit: Thomas (Flickr CC)Dark Hollow Falls
* Trail Length: 1.four miles
* Highlights: A beautiful waterfall to reward you after this short, steep hike!
One of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Parks, Dark Hollow Falls has the benefit of being each challenging and quick, meaning you’ll have the ability to pair it with one other day hike in the park (or with a go to to a neighborhood brewery or winery after!). This steep uphill hike leads to one of the beautiful waterfalls in the entire park – a large marvel made up of several smaller cascades.
Photo Credit: Mike Procario (Flickr CC)Sugarloaf Mountain
* Trail Length: 5.9 miles to summit and back
* Highlights: Beautiful mountaintop views of the rolling hills and valleys below, wildflowers within the spring and summer
A gorgeous mountaintop hike, Sugarloaf Mountain is an awesome place to go hiking near DC in Maryland. Within the Sugarloaf Mountain hiking space, there are a number of totally different trails you presumably can select from, together with the Blue, White, and Purple trails. Click right here for a hiking map of the whole Sugarloaf area. Most of the trails are moderately tough with uphill trails leading to spectacular views of the fields and rolling hills of pastoral Maryland.
Photo Credit: MudflapDC (Flickr CC)Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock
* Trail Length: three.5 miles
* Highlights: Amazing views on a picturesque rocky outcropping!
A reasonably steep, shorter trail situated in Catoctin Mountain Park, MD, Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock Trail is a family-friendly but difficult hike up to a few rocky views of the nearby mountains. It’s the most difficult trail within the park, and while we’ve rated it reasonable, you ought to be cautious as the trails are quite narrow and can get icy and slippery in wet or chilly weather.
Hiking in Shenandoah is a unbelievable day or weekend journey from Washington DC.Difficult/Challenging Hikes Near Washington DC
* Trail Length: ~10 miles
* Highlights: Summit views of Shenandoah National Park, rock scrambles, and bragging rights!
One of the most well-liked (and one of the challenging) hikes in Shenandoah National Park, Old Rag can get fairly crowded in the course of the summer time months. But for good reason – Old Rag Mountain provides a number of the most spectacular views of Shenandoah National Park, probably the best on this complete record of hikes near Washington DC. It’s a whopping 8-10 miles from start to finish, largely uphill, so ensure you’re well-stocked with water and snacks earlier than you start.
Also, it’s necessary to notice that you simply might think you’ve reached the summit a dozen occasions before you really do. Old Rag likes to play tricks on hikers with a quantity of false summits. The actual summit comes after several scramble areas and has a sign designating it as Old Rag Mountain. You can breathe a sigh of relief when you finally see it!
Photo Credit: ehpien (Flickr CC)Billy Goat Trail
* Trail Length: 1.5 to 4.5 miles
* Highlights: Stunning Potomac River and Great Falls views, an epic rock scramble up a cliff
One of the most effective hikes near DC, the Billy Goat Trail is a enjoyable and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, proper near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead begins at the parking zone of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll have to walk a bit alongside the canal earlier than the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you’re on the trail, you can select from a couple of different sections and trails, each starting from 1.5-2 miles in length.
After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the massive, “famous” scramble up the aspect of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at residence – you’ll want your hands AND toes for this hike!
If you’re on the lookout for an easier trail within the space, try the Great Falls Overlook Trail. It’s a leisurely stroll to a shocking viewpoint of the falls…sans rock scrambling and terrain modifications.
Note: as of July 2021, some components of Billy Goat Trail are closed. Check this website for probably the most up-to-date info about park closures round this space.
* Trail Length: 7 miles
* Highlights: Stunning views of Harpers Ferry, difficult uphill climbs
Located near Maryland Heights Trail in Harpers Ferry, the longer Loudoun Heights Trail is a perfect companion to Maryland Heights for a weekend journey to the Harpers Ferry space, or an ideal day hike for those brief on time. This mountainside hike provides wonderful views of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, as properly as the historic iron bridges that join Harpers Ferry to the other sides of the waterways. We’d advocate this for experienced hikers who need a little little bit of historical past immersion alongside a challenging, physically demanding trail.
Note: as of July 2021, some parts of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park are closed. Check this website for the most up-to-date information about park closures round this area.
Photo Credit: katie wheeler (Flickr CC)Little Devil’s Stairs
* Trail Length: 5.three miles
* Highlights: Amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bragging rights for having completed one of many hardest trails in Shenandoah National Park!
Don’t let the name freak you out – Little Devils Stairs is considered one of the most fun and thrilling hikes near Washington DC. Located in Shenandoah National Park, the trail passes by way of streams, by waterfalls, and scales a couple of rocky scramble passes. It’s in all probability essentially the most difficult hike on our listing, but also some of the rewarding.
We’d only suggest this trail to skilled hikers – the ascent is fairly difficult and requires a bit of technical knowledge once you get to the large rocks and scrambles. Bring trekking poles and many snacks and water and plan to benefit from the views alongside the way.
Note: as of July 2021, some elements of Shenandoah National Park are closed. Check this website for essentially the most up-to-date information about park closures round this space.
Important Things to Know Before Hiking near Washington DC
How to Get Around to Trailheads & Hikes Near DC
For the hikes within Washington DC’s city limits, you’ll find a way to easily get around with no car. There’s ample public transportation out there within the form of the public buses and metro system. If you’d choose, there’s also Lyft, Uber, Via, and regular taxis you presumably can take.
However, if you’d like to enter Virginia and Maryland, we highly suggest renting a automotive. While there are buses that go out to many suburbs and hikes near Washington DC, you’ll usually should walk lengthy distances and it’s kind of a logistical nightmare. Instead, we;d rent a automobile for the day and driving to the assorted hikes near Washington DC you’d like to attempt.
What to Bring With You for Hiking Near DC
* Breathable hiking clothes – For hotter hikes, you’ll wish to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we advocate dressing in layers, together with merino wool baselayers for women and men, a down puffer jacket for women and men, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for women and men. And don’t overlook a pair of the most effective women’s and men’s hiking socks!
* Trekking poles – You won’t want these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your automotive simply in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, that are light-weight, straightforward to transport, and sturdy.
* Water bottle – Having water available always is a huge should. To limit disposable plastic, we suggest bringing your individual refillable water bottle. We’re obsessive about Hydro Flask water bottles as a outcome of they keep water cold for hours.
* Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray may help you keep away from sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is freed from harsh chemical substances and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
* A brimmed hat or cap – The solar may be brutal in open hikes, so all the time pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
* Emergency blanket and first assist kit – We’d strongly advocate bringing a first help equipment and a light-weight emergency blanket on each hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s at all times greatest to play it secure.
* Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the right spot to stash all of your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we suggest the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs as a end result of they’re comfortable and breathable for lengthy hikes. For more info, check out our greatest day packs for any terrain guide.
Wondering what precisely you should pack on your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full record and our prime gear recommendations.
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Kay Rodriguez is the founder & CEO of Urban Outdoors. Before Urban Outdoors, she worked at Bain & Company, National Geographic, and built and sold Jetfarer, a journey media firm. When she’s not writing furiously on her laptop or enhancing photos, you’ll find Kay hiking, surfing, bouldering, playing in the snow, or doting over her vast assortment of houseplants.