IMAGE VIA @PHOTO.OLEG | INSTAGRAM
If you are craving some time in outdoors, look no further. We’ve scoured the land to bring you your guide to the delightful greenery and hiking DC has to offer — without leaving the city’s boundaries.
Whether it’s a quick walk you need to clear your head, or a more challenging, longer hike, DC has a place for you to leave the crowds and enjoy the city’s often overlooked, natural gems.
Right in the midst of metropolitan DC is Rock Creek Park, a green haven offering over 2,000 acres of trails and fresh air within the urban district. Popular trails include the Western Ride Trail (about four miles), and the Valley Trail (roughly five miles), which offer woodland paths and easy hiking. If you’re super outdoorsy, hit up the Nature Center which features programs for children and adults alike. Stop by the visitor centers, too, where you can pick up a map of the trails and picnic areas. Think green and have the metro drop you off. Plus, your pooch is welcome at this park too!
This island, situated in the Potomac between DC and Virginia, offers scenic trails past historical sites. With its short, easy, and well-kept paths, this memorial island is a great place to take a half-day trip without having to travel far from downtown DC. Lace up your boots or comfortable sneakers to enjoy nature with river views, wildlife, and sites including the remains of the George Mason family mansion and a 17-foot statue of Teddy Roosevelt.
The Mount Vernon Trail offers paved paths for hikers and bikers, stretching 18 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. So you might want to bring your Clif Bars. The trail is relatively flat with views of the Potomac River and DC skyline. Along the way, you can branch off to other popular trails like Potomac Heritage and Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
If you’re a tree enthusiast, this is your spot. The National Arboretum, off of New York Ave., is just a few miles from the Capitol and offers paths surrounded by both exotic and indigenous plants, from the Asian Collections and the Classical Chinese Garden to the Native Plant Collection and the National Grove of State Trees. The 440 acres are perfect for a quick and easy nature walk in the heart of DC.
Walk as far as you like this 184-mile stretch along the Potomac. You can pick up the trail in Georgetown and follow along the canal. Take the dirt towpath or go for the paved Capital Crescent Trail, a bike path. But if you don’t want to hike all the way to Maryland today, they’ve got plenty of shorter treks, too. Check out the challenging Billy Goat Trail section A, with scrambling technical climbs, or head out to more moderate trails like the Goldmine Loop and Goldmine Spur.
A place often missed, Columbia Island is situated in the Potomac right across from the Lincoln Memorial, connected by the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The island offers some light, easy walking paths and is conveniently close to downtown DC. Like, Metro close. While the trail does have some views of the Pentagon and the memorials, it also borders highways for parts of it, lending to an urban jungle feel.
This trail offers some mild hiking right in the district, and features peaceful paths and quiet woods. The trail can be an out-and-back, totaling about six miles, or you can go one way and finish at the Tenleytown metro. As a sheltered and tranquil forest path, this one is great for a little zen nature time without leaving the city.
If you like to combine your hikes with a bit of fast-flowing water, Great Falls is the place for you. Where the Potomac drops over 75 feet in less than a mile through Mather Gorge, you’ll find swift rapids and rocky crags that will have you forget you’re only 18 miles from the district. With over 15 miles of trails, the park offers no shortage of outdoor adventuring. Check out the Great Falls River Trail for 1.5-miles of technical hiking along the water and up to Mather Gorge.
Bull Run Regional Park offers over 1500 acres of open-air space ripe for exploration. If you’re out to adventure, check out the 17.4-mile Bull Run Trail, a difficult, but well-maintained stretch climbing nearly 1,400 feet of elevation. If something mild is more your jam, check out the Bluebell Trail, a 1.8-mile loop that is surrounded by beautiful wildflowers in the spring and early summer. The trails here are dog-friendly, so bring out spot and see him run.