Washington, D.C. has dozens of must-see sights, including the Washington Monument and Capitol Building. But even more stunning natural beauty is within a few hours’ drive of our nation’s capital. In this article, we’ll reveal the most amazing natural wonders near DC.
What Are The Best Natural Wonders In DC That You Must Visit?
- Kingman and Heritage Island Parks
- Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls
- Kilgore Falls
- Tregaron Conservancy
- Sugarloaf Mountain
- Deep Creek Lake
- Tidal Basin
- Great Falls Park
- Holland in Haymarket
9. Holland in Haymarket
Holland in Haymarket gives visitors a little taste of the Netherlands without a transatlantic flight. This gorgeous site, located at Burnside Farms in Haymarket, Virginia, grows over 100,000 tulips in more than 50 varieties every spring.
Burnside Farms is a pick-your-own farm, so it’s perfect for a family outing with little ones or for a charming, unique date. You pay a small entrance fee for each person and then every flower you pick has a cost as well. It helps you carefully choose the perfect flowers for a balanced bouquet.
It isn’t just about the tulips, either. You can visit in July to experience a veritable sea of sunflowers that is beyond Instagram-worthy, or in the fall during dahlia season.
8. Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park is a small natural wonder managed by the National Park Service in McLean, Virginia, just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Potomac River flows through Mather Gorge in the park after falling over steep and jagged rocks.
Located only 15 miles from DC, this 800-acre park offers a multitude of activities. Kayaking and canoeing are two of the most popular on the water, though use caution if you’ll be rowing near the falls. There are also hiking trails, biking trails, climbing, fishing, and picnic sites.
While overnight camping is not allowed in Great Falls Park, campsites nearby offer easy access to the park. It’s perfect for an overnight trip, weekend getaway, or afternoon that feels much farther than 15 miles from the city.
7. Tidal Basin
You don’t even need to leave DC to visit the Tidal Basin, also managed by the NPS. It is a man-made reservoir near the National Mall between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River.
While visiting the Tidal Basin, you can see the Jefferson Memorial on the Virginia side, the home state of Thomas Jefferson. It’s also the location of the famous cherry blossom trees and the National Cherry Blossom Festival every spring.
Numerous other monuments and memorials are in and around this park, including the FDR Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and others. These can be seen all along the 2.1-mile Tidal Basin Loop Trail.
6. Deep Creek Lake
Deep Creek Lake is a man-made body of water in Maryland with almost 70 miles of shoreline. It’s about three hours from DC, but there are hundreds of campsites and vacation rentals in the area, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway.
You can participate in many enjoyable activities in, on, and around the lake that are ideal for getting out some ADHD energy. Aside from swimming and motorboat rentals, including fishing, kayaking, water sports, and even ice fishing in the winter. Deep Creek Lake State Park has a public boat launch available 2 hours a day.
This area is popular year-round, with nearby skiing, hiking, mountain biking, shopping, restaurants, and much more. Be sure to make your reservations well in advance.
5. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain has an elevation of almost 1300 feet. It has three main trails offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The mountain is only about an hour away from the capital and is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs.
You can visit the refurbished Strong Mansion on the site, which has beautiful gardens and offers tours most days of the week. It also hosts weddings and is perfect for family photoshoots.
The mountain and trails have tons of wildlife, including deer, owls, red foxes, and wild turkeys. The mountain is covered in red and white oaks despite the decline of that tree species. Beware of timber rattlesnakes and copperheads when you walk.
4. Tregaron Conservancy
One a retreat for the elite and now open to the public, Tregaron Conservancy is located in the heart of DC, a short walk from the Cleveland Park metro station. This protected property is one of the most stunning natural wonders near DC. It includes 13 acres of preserved land and a historic home.
Tregaron Conservancy is known for its gorgeous gardens and birdlife. You can explore multiple trails with printed guides that help you identify the sights. The meadows and streams throughout the property provide a stunning backdrop to a quiet afternoon spent outdoors.
The Tregaron Conservancy is a volunteer organization that fought a hard battle to protect the land from development. They have worked to painstakingly restore these DC gardens to their former glory since 2006.
3. Kilgore Falls
While it’s no Niagara Falls, Kilgore Falls is a stunning natural wonder located in Rocks State Park in Maryland, less than two hours from DC. The 17-foot high falls are actually about five miles north of the main park on their own 67 acres of land.
You can see the falls by hiking the short half-mile trail from the parking lot. You can swim in the water at the bottom, but there are no lifeguards and it is at your own risk.
The falls can get very crowded, but you can reserve a parking spot ahead of time, which we highly recommend. The state limits parking because of the sensitive ecology of the area.
2. Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls
If your family likes hikes or nature walks, then Billy Goat Trail is a must-see. It’s located near the Great Falls in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.
The trail has three main sections with varying degrees of difficulty, so you can customize your experience based on ability. Section C is the easiest, while the others require some climbing and are strenuous.
Be sure to check the website ahead of time, as certain sections might be closed. Also, be aware that swimming is not allowed in the park due to the potential risks. Come prepared with plenty of water and a map downloaded for if you lose reception.
1. Kingman and Heritage Island Parks
Humans have had a profound impact on the natural world, but it isn’t always bad. When the Anacostia River was dredged over a century ago, it created freshwater tidal wetlands, swamp forests, wildflower meadows, and other stunning features. These are now home to hundreds of stunning species of plants and animals.
These islands are located inside the DC city limits in the northeast section of the city. They’re part of the Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, a non-profit agency dedicated to preserving green spaces to help educate DC youth.
The islands are open daily from dawn until dusk. They hold events almost every week. Some of them are educational and others are volunteer planting events, both tremendous opportunities to spend time outside and give back.
Bonus: Rock Creek Park
One of the oldest national parks in the country, Rock Creek Park is often described as an oasis in the city, and it truly is. There is so much to do in Rock Creek Park in all weather, indoors and outdoors.
The park has multiple hiking and biking trails, as well as picnic tables, fishing, horseback riding, kayaks, tennis courts, and even a golf course. There’s also a planetarium and a nature center to learn about the flora and fauna of the park. History buffs can visit the Civil War fortifications, colonial houses, and other structures.
Rock Creek Park also has a junior ranger program, volunteer opportunities, education programs, and more to explore. Some wonder whether Rock Creek Park is safe, and it is very safe. It is heavily patrolled, and there are always a lot of people there.
The Washington, DC area is one of the most beautiful in the United States. Now that you know nine of DC’s natural wonders, we can address some lingering questions about them.
What are some natural features in Washington, DC?
Besides the ones discussed above, you can also explore the National Arboretum, Glover Archbold Park, Kalorama Park, and Theodore Roosevelt Island.
How many national parks are in Washington, DC?
There are more than 30 national parks and properties managed by the national park system in the city of DC.
Is Rock Creek Park bigger than Central Park in New York City?
Yes, it is more than twice the size. Rock Creek Park is over 1,700 acres, while Central Park is just over 800 acres.
[Also read 5 AMAZING Road Trips To Make From Washington, DC]
Is weed legal in DC? Yes, but you should read more about it before lighting up.
Lastly, is Washington, DC beautiful? We hope by now you know that it is an incredible place to visit. There are so many natural wonders near DC explore in and out of the city, so get outside as soon as you can.
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