If you are craving some nature, 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 Valley Trail, roughly five miles, which offer woodland paths and easy hiking. If you’re super outdoorsy, hit up the Nature Center with nature programs for children and adults, and visitor centers 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, located 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 views of the Potomac, wildlife, and sites including remains of the George Mason family mansion and a 17-foot statue of Teddy Roosevelt.
For a long hike, the Mount Vernon Trail offers paved paths for hikers and bikers from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 18-mile stretch… so 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 short nature walk in the heart of DC.
Walk as far as you like on 184 miles of path following the Potomac. You can pick up the trail in Georgetown and follow along the canal. Take the dirt towpath or instead, 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. From the Great Falls Entrance, there are lots of different hikes to entice you, from the challenging Billy Goat Trail section A, with scrambling and climbing demands, to easy and 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 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, giving it that urban jungle feel.
This trail offers some easy hiking right in DC, with 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. A sheltered forest path, the Glover-Archbold is great for a little zen nature time without leaving the city.