If you’ve been looking for the best hikes near DC, you already know how many great options there are. Fortunately, finding the best in the DC area has never been easier. And enjoying your time in nature with an easy day trip or a challenging hike can coincide with the spectacular views surrounding Washington, DC.
What Are The Best Hikes Near DC?
- Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Potomac Heritage Trail
- Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
- Meridian Hill Park
- Rock Creek Park
- Gravelly Point
- Soapstone Valley Park
- Capital Crescent Trail
- Kingman and Heritage Islands Park
- Georgetown Waterfront Park
- Dumbarton Oak Park
11. Dumbarton Oaks Park
Dumbarton Oaks Park is a quaint little public park on R Street in northwest DC. Located in the Georgetown neighborhood, the park presents a pleasant escape from the bustling city and provides scenic bliss for all explorers.
The park dates back to the early 1900s. It consists of a tranquil stream, a garden area, and 27 acres of foliage and nature.
The stream that flows through Dumbarton Oaks is an unnamed tributary of Rock Creek, and the trail follows along the stream’s banks. It’s an easy valley trail but a lovely one, taking you through some of the finest grounds in the Georgetown area.
Dumbarton Oaks is primarily known for its wild garden, a section of the park comprising about 10 acres. You can follow the winding trail around the garden in a logical sequence designed to impress and leave you wanting more.
10. Georgetown Waterfront Park
Located on Wisconsin and K Street, Northwest, the Georgetown Waterfront Park is another excellent place to spend the day and unwind if you find yourself in the Georgetown neighborhood.
Running the length of the banks of the Potomac River, the park stretches for some 225 miles, from Cumberland, Maryland to Mount Vernon, Virginia. The park is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.
There’s plenty to see and enjoy when strolling along the banks of the Potomac. You can take some time to sit in peace and quiet, or cycle one of the special bike paths. There are even kayaking opportunities out on the river.
The western side of the park boasts a contemplative labyrinth where you can escape the busyness of the green space. And the pergola is perfect for a photoshoot or sitting and watching the river run through the park.
9. Kingman and Heritage Islands Park
The Kingman and Heritage Islands Park resulted when officials had the Anacostia River dredged in the early 1900s. Boasting rare ecosystems, freshwater wetlands, and captivating meadows of wildflowers, this park is truly one of the most unique.
Kingman and Heritage Islands Park is a great place to enjoy the area’s mesmerizing sights. Located in the Kingman Park neighborhood, you can access the park from the RFK Stadium on Oklahoma Avenue and enjoy some different trails.
The trail will take you over Kingman Lake to Kingman Island and Heritage Island. You can break off, make the Heritage Island Trail between, and perhaps enjoy a picnic or birdwatching.
You’ll enjoy some of the most secluded parts of DC at the Islands Park. With nothing around you but nature, it’s easy to relax and forget about real life for a time. It’s no wonder that it’s one of DC’s not-so-secret hidden gems.
8. Capital Crescent Trail
If you want something a little more challenging, the Capital Crescent Trail is an 11-mile trail that will take you out of DC and to Montgomery County, Maryland. This shared-use trail is one of 500 projects like it in the country.
The trail follows an old, abandoned rail line that runs through residential neighborhoods and parklands. This offers up epic views as you hike or bike your way through the countryside of America’s capital.
The Capital Crescent Trail is currently undergoing a series of extensions and renovations to improve accessibility.
7. Soapstone Valley Park
If you want to experience an easy hike through a shaded valley following a lovely, trickling creek, then the Soapstone Valley Park is the hike for you. It’s great for the whole family, even little kids.
You might have to cross the creek, but that can be a refreshing experience for anyone who likes to be in nature. The park itself offers one of DC’s quietest hikes, and it lands right in the middle of the city.
The out-and-back trail runs along Soapstone Creek and Rock Creek. It offers a peaceful backdrop and will help you forget that you’re in the middle of one of the nation’s biggest cities.
The park is temporarily closed for a sewer rehabilitation project. But as soon as it opens back up, the Soapstone Valley Park will be an even better place to take a break, go for a walk, and enjoy nature.
6. Gravelly Point
On a short tour outside of Washington, DC, you’ll find the beautiful Gravelly Point. Located in Arlington County, this Virginia park sits on the banks of the Potomac. Gravelly Point is part of the National Park Service’s George Washington Memorial Parkway.
One of the best things to do at Gravelly Point is watching the airplanes take off from Reagan National Airport. Or you can catch a rugby match or watch boats sail from the launch.
There’s no shortage of fun at Gravelly Point. You can play or take pictures in Vance Field. And you can traverse the length of the Mount Vernon Trail, a 27-mile trail that leads to George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon.
5. Rock Creek Park
Situated in the northwestern reaches of Washington, DC, Rock Creek Park was the third national park created by the United States Congress in the late 1800s.
With a flowing, rocky creek and a scenic bridge, there’s something particularly serene about Rock Creek Park.
You can do more than just explore Rock Creek Park’s 1700 acres. The land is also host to Civil War fortifications and houses from the colonial era. There’s a golf course and a tennis court, and you can even go horseback riding on some of the trails.
Don’t be surprised when you see folks participating in physical activity when you venture into Rock Creek Park. You’ll feel the urge to get active, too, from biking to running.
4. Meridian Hill Park
Meridian Hill Park is a more fancy garden than a recreational park known for its stunning architecture and breathtaking landscapes. The mansion at the top of the hill was built in 1819. For a time, it housed President John Quincy Adams and later became a Union garrison during the Civil War.
The United States government acquired the grounds in the early 1900s, and planning for a park began immediately. The result is a beautiful monument and a giant, cascading fountain right in the middle of the nation’s capital.
You can enjoy an array of community and cultural activities at Meridian Hill Park. There’s plenty to explore around the park, from the drum circle meeting every Sunday to the James Buchanan Memorial. Along the way, you may spot a statue of Joan of Arc.
3. Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
You can see an impressive portion of the nation’s capital along the 20-mile Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. You can walk it, bike it, or take your longboard out for a cruise. Either way, you want to enjoy both sides of the Anacostia River.
The trail will take you through Anacostia Park, leading you to the Navy Yards and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. You’ll see plenty of joggers and their dogs out on the paved trail, enjoying the scenery and the fresh air.
It’s not a strenuous hike, but it’s a long one if you’re determined to do the whole route.
2. Potomac Heritage Trail
The Potomac Heritage Trail is a national scenic trail that links with an entire network of national scenic trails that run through Virginia, Maryland, DC, and Pennsylvania.
It follows the Potomac River corridor for a moderately complex and very long hiking experience. You can hike your way along the trail or take your bicycle out.
The portion of the trail around DC is not too steep but still provides excellent views of the Potomac and the surrounding area. There is a parking lot on Theodore Roosevelt Island, but the trail is worth the trek.
1. Theodore Roosevelt Island
Finally, you’ll find one of the best hikes in the DC area at Theodore Roosevelt Island Park. Named for the 26th president, the island is home to three different trails that take visitors through various parts of the island.
Here you can find a stunning memorial plaza in honor of Teddy Roosevelt, with lovely stone fountains and plenty of quotations to read. You can also get to see an old 19th Century mansion.
Enjoy the swampy woods and the cattail marsh, all part of the unique ecosystem that is Theodore Roosevelt Island.
[Also read 9 Natural Wonders Near DC You MUST Visit]
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
The Potomac Overlook is an excellent spot in Arlington, Virginia, to enjoy nature and perhaps catch a live show. You can run into animals, exhibits, and a beautiful organic garden. There’s also a nature center that showcases the region’s plant life.
Glover Archbold Trail
This out-and-back trail in the DC area is a relatively easy route, with just under six miles of trail to enjoy. It runs through the local favorite Glover Archbold Park, a great scenic location for a relaxing afternoon in nature.
[Also read 11 Scenic Drives Near DC You MUST Take This Summer]
Here are some frequently asked questions about hikes near DC.
What are the closest mountains to Washington DC?
You’ll find the closest mountains around the DC area in Shenandoah National Park, located about one hour from DC. The Appalachian Trail is also nearby, a challenging hike with trails leading all around the nation’s Eastern coast.
Is hiking near Washington DC good?
Yes! No matter whether you want a waterfall hike or want to take the Billy Goat Trail along the C&O Canal, there is something for everyone looking to create unforgettable memories. You can even go further afield and take in the sights of Sugarloaf Mountain with just a short drive.
Now you know some of the best hikes near DC. There’s plenty to choose from, offering varied experiences but plenty of spectacular views. Whichever you choose, you’re bound to have an incredible hike.
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