15 Best Hikes Near DC

While Washington, DC is a fantastic city to visit, there are also many hidden nature sights and interesting trails to visit in the surrounding area.

 

Fortunately, DC is close to some fantastic parks and hiking paths, many of which are even within the city limits! We had a hard time narrowing down this list because there are so many fantastic hiking opportunities near DC.

 

To assist you in planning your next outdoor excursion, we’ve put together a list of 15 of the best hikes near DC, so you can get started.

 

If you enjoy nature as much as I do, or simply want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, we’ll show you some fantastic places to go trekking, see gorgeous wildlife, and witness spectacular falls. Near DC, you’ll find the best summer hikes, uncrowded treks, and hikes with waterfalls.

 

You may take a weekend trip to spend more time exploring, breathing fresh air, and connecting with nature.

 

Hiking is beneficial for both the body and the soul, so get out there and explore some of the best hikes near DC.

 

  Best Hikes Near DC

 

1. Theodore Roosevelt Island

best hikes near dc

Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the Potomac River in Washington, DC. With a 1.6-mile loop track for walkers of all levels, this small island provides a natural respite from the city.

 

This accessible trail features boardwalks over marsh regions, clean wooded forest roads, and an opportunity to escape Washington DC while remaining within its city borders.

 

Theodore Roosevelt Island is easily accessible by public transit because it is located in the heart of the city. A lovely footbridge across the river connects to the island from the main parking area. After arriving on the island, get on the route and enjoy this great, scenic DC trek.

 

The park was created by landscape architects and environmentalists who did an outstanding job transforming the neglected Masons Island into a serene haven. The forest they made from overgrown fields was supposed to resemble the natural forest that formerly existed there.

 

There are three paths in the park. Each route passes through a different type of ecosystem and is named after it. So you have the option of choosing between the Woods, the Marsh, or the Upland Trail. The Swamp Trail is the longest at 1.5 miles, although it’s a short walk because it’s partially boardwalk and partly pea gravel.

 

Because the island is located in the city, you will need to take a bus to get there. It is easily accessible by a bridge that spans the Potomac River on the Virginia side. Parking is available on the island or in a garage near the pedestrian entrance. Dogs must be on a leash. This is the best option for hiking especially if you are looking for the best hikes near DC.

 

2. Rock Creek Park

best hikes near dc

Rock Creek Park, one of Washington DC’s largest parks, is more of a network of routes through natural and historic attractions than a trail. When you get in the park, you may choose from a range of trails and walks, some easy and some more difficult, for a perfect day of exploring what is, in our opinion, one of the city’s most quiet green places.

 

Visit Valley Trail in Rock Creek Park for beautiful vistas and woodland paths. Don’t miss the Pierce Mill gristmill, the Rolling Meadow Footbridge, and Miller Cabin, all of which are historic sights inside the park. Try a rock scramble at Pulpit Rock if you’re looking for some high-intensity sports.

 

The Park features two main trails and several connecting paths, allowing you to design a circle that suits your fitness level and mood. It’s important to remember that signage isn’t always accurate, and it’s possible to get off track.

 

Keep an eye out for wildlife. Deer, foxes, and a variety of birds live in the park. Some of the roads are closed throughout the weekend to allow park visitors to cycle and inline skate. Your dogs are welcome to accompany you, but they must be kept on a leash. Along the road, there are plenty of parking sites.

 

Park’s Opening hours: Sunrise to sunset. The Park is closed on public holidays.

Entrance fee: Free of charge

Official Website: Click here to access the official website

3. National Arboretum

best hikes near dc

The National Arboretum is a lesser-known jewel of a park located within DC’s city borders that offers some of the best hiking in the city. The trails in this urban park are lovely and well-kept, ideal for hikers of all abilities or those who simply wish to go for a walk.

 

On one of the park’s numerous gardens and walks, you may learn about the various trees and plants that grow natively in the DC area. A tourist centre with extra information and events is also available throughout the year.

 

While the park is best renowned for its ancient Capitol columns, it also has a number of hiking paths that are worth exploring on foot. Starting at the Capitol columns and following the park’s paths into other parts and sections of the grounds will help you avoid the throng.

 

Our favourite place is the Asian Collections, which has wonderful sprawling trees and shady benches where you can sit and enjoy nature or perhaps try forest bathing.

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4. Mount Vernon Trail

best hikes near dc

This 18-mile walking, hiking, and biking trail connects Mount Vernon (yes, George Washington’s birthplace) to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s a great place for families, runners, bikers, and history fans to go trekking near DC in a historic and gorgeous location.

 

You can get great views of the Washington, DC skyline from various areas of the trail. The Mount Vernon Trail, which is accessible without a car, is ideal for a day excursion from DC to Mount Vernon or as a short adventure starting in the capital.

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5. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

best hikes near dc

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the ideal trail for those who wish to experience the tranquillity of a waterfall trek without having to go a big distance. It’s a short and simple journey through the forest to this riverbank waterfall perspective, and it’s one of the closest waterfall hikes to DC. However, if you want to hike around Scott’s Run, you’ll need a car to get here.

 

Scott’s Run Trail is a 2.2-mile circle through the woods that includes a stream crossing and some gentle slopes. The trail is dog-friendly and a good length for a morning walk. This family-friendly trail, which is suitable for children of all ages, is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and doable treks around Washington.

 

The waterfall is without a doubt the highlight of Scott’s Nature Preserve. The Potomac Gorge Nature Preserve is located in the Potomac Gorge. In its floodplains, valleys, and cliff walls, the Preserve protects a unique environment. Wildflowers bloom on the hillsides and cover the forest floor with beautiful colours in the spring. Plants cling precariously over rock faces.

 

Oaks, cherry trees, and beech trees can all be found in the woodland. Visitors are reminded that the area was formerly frozen by ancient hemlock trees.

 

The waterfall is easily reached via forest pathways and is only a short stroll away. Head to Stubblefield’s Overlook for a lengthier hike. Scott’s Run is a 3.2-mile trail that winds through the woods, crosses a brook, and ascends into the hills. Some of the trails are especially difficult and should only be attempted by those who are up to the task.

 

The waterfall is easily reached via forest pathways and is only a short stroll away. Head to Stubblefield’s Overlook for a lengthier hike. Scott’s Run is a 3.2-mile trail that winds through the woods, crosses a brook, and ascends into the hills. Some of the trails are especially difficult and should only be attempted by those who are up to the task.

Opening hours: 8 am to 4.30 pm

Entrance fee: No cost

Official Website: Click here to access the official website

6. Billy Goat Trail Near Great Falls

billy goat trail

The Billy Goat Trail is a tough hiking trail that will have you ascending at least part of the way. The walk is not suited for children or animals, despite the spectacular vistas.

 

Begin your day in the Visitors’ Center, where you may see a ten-minute video about the park’s history and pick some trail maps. The parking lots are conveniently located near the Center.

 

Great Falls, located less than half an hour from Washington, DC, allows city residents to enjoy the great outdoors close to home. The park’s name, however, is a misnomer because there are no waterfalls in the area.

 

The park’s name comes from the turbulent and fast-flowing rapids formed by the Potomac River as it passes through the Mather Gorge. They are, nevertheless, pretty lovely and well worth a visit.

 

One of three viewpoints provides a good view of the rapids. The visitors’ centre is only a ten-minute walk away. There are 15 kilometres of hiking trails in the 800-acre park. Cyclists, rock climbers, and paddlers all love it. Horse riders can ride on ten miles of multi-use trails.

 

There are 163 bird species in the park, so bring your binoculars. Whitetail deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, and chipmunks all live in the park. Take a break for lunch at the picnic tables, or light up the grill and start cooking those burgers.

7. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail goes along the historic C&O canal and is a popular hiking area. It’s only a half-hour drive from downtown DC and is ideal for a forest stroll, especially in the fall when the trees change a variety of stunning colours.

 

To get to the park, you’ll need to drive, but it’s a short trip from anywhere in the DC metro area.

 

While you’re there, make sure to check out the old mansion near the parking lot, as well as the antique canal boat and the wooden locks that still border the canal. Also, don’t miss the Great Falls overlook boardwalk, which takes you to the Potomac River’s edge and provides a breathtaking perspective of the gigantic falls.

 

There is a cost to enter the C&O Canal region, which is designated as a National Historic Park, but after you’ve parked, you can stay as long as you want. If you have a National Parks Annual Pass, you can use it to gain free admission.

 

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8. Prince William Forest Park

Prince William Forest Park

The Prince William Forest Park has 37 miles of meandering forest trails where you can get lost in nature. The pathways wind their way through a forest of 16,000 acres. The Quantico Creek runs through the majority of the woodland, so you’re bound to run into it.

 

The ruins of an old Pyrite mine can be found in the woodland. The mines are all closed, but the buildings’ remains make for an intriguing trip. Fish abound in streams and man-made lakes, which you are welcome to catch provided you have a permit. Picnic pavilions attract families who want to cook and have lunch outside. Prince William Forest Park has a variety of parking lots and this is probably the best option among the best hikes near DC.

 

There are various trails in the park, all of which are interconnected. Cyclists are drawn to the twelve miles of paved tracks and nine miles of gravel paths. Bring your dogs with you. They’ll like the stroll. If you want to stay longer than a day, you can camp or rent a cabin. The cabins are on the National Register of Historic Places and were erected in the years following the Great Depression.

9. Catoctin Mountain Park

 

best hikes near dc

There are 25 miles of hiking paths on 5810 acres of hardwood forest, many with beautiful vistas of the Monocacy River Valley. The hikes range in difficulty from simple to tough. The park may also contain historic ruins of settler mines, farms, and stills.

 

That’s correct, during prohibition, a commercial whiskey still was hidden in the woods. Placards depict the raid that brought the operation to a close. A still from the film depicts the process of making moonshine.

 

Cunningham Falls is reached through a 1.4-mile hike. It will lead you to Maryland’s tallest waterfall, which stands at 78 feet. If you’re feeling really energetic on the day, you might choose to attempt the 1,418-foot Chimney Rock climb.

 

The park has a restaurant, and picnicking is available at the Owen’s Creek and Chestnut picnic spots. Enjoy your dinner in the natural setting by using the BBQ grills and picnic tables.

 

If you want to stay the night, the Owen Creek campgrounds have 50 spots available. Rentable wooden cabins are also available.

 

Finding parking has gotten more difficult as the park has risen in popularity. There are more than 200 parking places in the park’s several parking lots. On the official website, you’ll find a list of parking areas.

 

10. Huntley Meadows Park

Huntley Meadows Park

Huntley Meadows Park is a nature lover’s paradise located about 32 minutes from the Washington Memorial.

 

From an observation platform, you may observe beavers at work. The gorgeous woodland region and beaver-created wetland are home to a plethora of species and hundreds of birds. There are 600 plant species and 200 bird species can be found.

 

Visitors may easily enjoy the largest park of its sort in the area thanks to boardwalks that span the wetlands. Visitors can enjoy nature and bird viewing from the comfort of benches and watchtowers. A small hike/bike track through the woods is also popular.

11. Sugarloaf Mountain : Best Hikes Near DC

Sugarloaf Mountain

It will take you an hour to drive from Washington, DC to Sugarloaf Mountain. Hiking trails crisscross the steep slopes, providing breathtaking vistas.

 

Sugarloaf Mountain is classified as a monadnock. When the area surrounding it erodes, this form of mountain is left behind. It’s not the most magnificent peak, but it’s a beautiful half-day trek.

 

The mountain is home to 500 plant species. Forests of oaks, black gum, black birch, eastern hemlock, and tulip poplar grow on the mountain slopes. Expect to observe animals along the journey, as this mountain is home to white-tailed deer, flying squirrels, raccoons, cotton-tails, and red foxes. A diverse diversity of birds also seek refuge in Sugarloaf Mountain’s woodlands.

 

In the park, there are two parking lots. They are roughly three-quarters of the way up the mountain and have picnic tables. Those who prefer not to hike can still enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Yes, this is also a dog-friendly hike! Dogs are permitted as long as they are kept on a leash.

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12. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

The vast Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s dream. It has 80,000 acres of forest, mountains, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls and is only 75 miles from Washington, DC. There are 500 miles of hiking paths in this park!

 

While you’re there, look for white-tailed deer, black bears, and reptiles.

 

This is one of the country’s oldest National Parks. The Skyline Drive, which was built over the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930s, is one of its most recognised attractions. The vistas from the several camping places, picnic areas, and lookouts along the journey are breathtaking.

 

Shenandoah, unlike most other reserves, was formerly inhabited. Previously, this was farmland and logging forests. To create the park, state officials purchased 1088 privately held properties. There is now little trace of the farms or the family that formerly lived there.

 

There are many of hiking paths to select from in the Park, ranging from small treks in the forest to trails that would take you days to finish. Most of the campsites only allow tents, so come prepared.

 

13. Old Rag Mountain : Best Hikes Near DC

Old Rag Mountain

If you’re searching for a more difficult hike, the Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park between 8 and 10 miles long is for you. Though not the simplest trek, the Old Rag takes you to several excellent views with spectacular photo opportunities.

 

Old Rag is one of the most popular (and difficult) walks in Shenandoah National Park, and it can get quite crowded during the summer months. But there’s a reason for that: Old Rag Mountain offers some of the greatest vistas of Shenandoah National Park, probably the best on this entire list of hikes near Washington DC.

 

It’ll take you 8-10 miles from start to finish, and it’ll be mostly uphill, so bring plenty of water and food.

 

It’s also worth noting that you may believe you’ve reached the summit a dozen times before actually doing so. With multiple false peaks, Old Rag enjoys playing tricks on hikers. After a few scrambling places, the true summit is reached.

 

Because this is one of the most popular walks in the park, it can get a little busy during the hot summer months. So, if you’re looking for uncrowded treks around DC this summer, skip this one.

 

14. White Oak Canyon : Best Hikes Near DC

White Oak Canyon

If you enjoy waterfalls, now is the time to arrange a hike down White Oak Canyon. This 7.3-mile trek contains no less than eight waterfalls. The majority of the waterfalls have a tiny catchment pond beneath them where you can wet your feet or swim in the delicate waterfall spray.

 

The Whiteoak Canyon Trek, one of the most dramatic waterfall hikes around Washington DC, is a moderately strenuous and wonderfully gorgeous 7.3-mile trail where you’ll undoubtedly get your fill of streams and falls. This trail, located in Shenandoah National Area, is ideal for a day trip from Washington, DC or as part of a longer weekend excursion to the park.

 

The Whiteoak Canyon Trail takes you past eight waterfalls of different size and intensity. If you want to get some fantastic photos, go during the fall when the leaves turn all kinds of bright and gorgeous warm colours.

 

15. Loudoun Heights : Best Hikes Near DC

Loudoun Heights

The longer Loudoun Heights Trail, located near Maryland Heights Trail at Harpers Ferry, is a great companion to Maryland Heights for a weekend excursion to the Harpers Ferry area, or a great day hike for those short on time.

 

The Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, as well as the famous iron bridges that connect Harpers Ferry to the opposite banks of the waterways, may all be seen from this mountaintop trek. This is a great option for experienced hikers looking for a touch of history mixed in with a hard, physically demanding trek.

 

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More Best Hikes Near DC

 

 

  • Maryland Heights Trail : Best Hikes Near DC

Maryland Heights Trail

The Maryland Heights Trail, one of our favourite treks near Washington, DC, provides the best views of Harpers Ferry, a National Historic Park and key Civil War relic.

 

The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, as well as the borders of three states — Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia – merge here. However, don’t be fooled by the woodland, rural setting; Harpers Ferry is only an hour’s drive from Washington, DC.

 

From the Maryland Heights trailhead, there are two trails to choose from: the viewpoint and the whole hike. If you’re short on time or want to spend an afternoon touring Harpers Ferry, we recommend taking the shorter walk, which leads to the most breathtaking views.

 

  • Dark Hollow Falls : Best Hikes Near DC

dark hollow falls

Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular walks in Shenandoah National Parks because it is both tough and quick, allowing you to combine it with another day hike in the park.

 

This strenuous uphill climb leads to one of the park’s most beautiful waterfalls, a massive marvel made up of multiple smaller cascades.

 

  • Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock : Best Hikes Near DC

Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock

Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock Trail, a moderately steep, shorter trail in Catoctin Mountain Park, MD, is a family-friendly yet strenuous climb up to a few rocky views of the adjacent mountains.

 

It’s the park’s most difficult path, and while we’ve given it a moderate rating, you should exercise caution because the trails are narrow and can become ice and slippery in wet or cold weather.

Things to Know Before Hiking near Washington DC

 

How to Get To Trailheads and Hikes Near DC

How to Get To Trailheads and Hikes Near DC

You can easily move around without a car on treks within Washington DC’s municipal borders. There is plenty of public transit in the form of buses and the metro system. You can also take Lyft, Uber, Via, and traditional cabs if you prefer.

 

However, if you plan on visiting Virginia or Maryland, we strongly advise hiring a car. While buses run to many suburbs and trails around Washington, DC, you’ll often have to travel great distances, which is a logistical nightmare. Instead, we’d rent a car for the day and drive to the numerous treks you’d like to explore near Washington, DC.

So this was our list of the best hikes near DC hope you guys enjoyed reading.

 

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