Sometimes we all just need a break from the tourists, traffic and commotion of the city. And we are lucky that D.C. is actually located right in the heart of some of our country's most beautiful scenery and nature-filled retreats. If you're craving a little green, we've come up with a list of some of the best open spaces within a short drive of the city that we think are well worth the trip, because what better way to “escape” from the city than to head out into nature?!
Even though it’s about 64 miles from the city, Harpers Ferry National Park is the perfect weekend day trip for nature lovers trying to venture out of the city. The views of the Blue Ridge Mountain vistas and rivers are remarkable, as well as the history that fills the park. It has about 20 miles of trails, all ranging in level of difficulty. If you’re looking for the best views and you’re up for the challenge, the Loudoun Heights hike is a 7.5-mile hike with some truly remarkable views of Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River at the finish line.
No need to go chasing waterfalls far away from the city. Great Falls Park offers an exquisite showcase of the Potomac River crashing on rocks and cliffs, as well as a number of fantastic trails. Located in Northern Virginia, Great Falls Park is just a 40-minute drive away from the city, making it the perfect easy escape. We recommend The Billy Goat Trail -- It’s a pretty moderate hike, that is a great one-to-two-hour workout. It also offers some incredible scenic views of the Potomac River!
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a peaceful and dynamic setting, that is a true city oasis. Located in the middle of the Potomac, the island offers a number of paths where visitors can run or walk. It's home to a variety of wildlife, and is the place to go if you’re just looking for a quiet place to take a stroll. Unfortunately, bikes are not allowed but one bonus for locals heading out to the island -- it is one of the least-visited tourist attractions in the area!
If you’re looking for the perfect place for a weekend workout, or even a place to go after work and run off all your work stress, Rock Creek Park is the place for you. Located in the northwest area of D.C. and stretching all the way into Maryland, D.C.s very own central park (even bigger than Central Park in NYC actually), is full of a number of trails for biking, walking and running. In addition to its trails, Rock Creek Park offers a number of other things to do, like ride a horse at Rock Creek Horse Center and head into Smithsonian National Zoo.
One of the most loved and critically acclaimed trails on the east coast is the Appalachian Trail. This 2,220-mile long trail stretches from Georgia to Maine, and we are so fortunate that about 544 miles of it can be found in Virginia. It is definitely a day- long road trip, but the views and workout is well worth the car ride. Most of the trail is far west outside of the city, but it does pass through Harpers Ferry. A favorite spot easy for Washingtonians to access is Bears Den Park, which sits just off the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are four trails ranging from a half mile to a few miles, and can be looped together to make one long hike. It's an absolute must to stop at Bears Den Rocks for a sunset or sunrise, and peep those spectacular views.
Located in SE D.C., Fort Dupont Park is full of trails that are perfect for walking, running and biking. Some of the trails actually line up with the Anacostia River and make for some spectacular views. Summertime in Fort Dupont park is more acclaimed, especially for its picnic facilities and outdoor theater, but this tree-filled park makes for some beautiful leaf sightings in the fall!
Just over the bridge in Arlington running parallel to the Potomac River and George Washington Parkway sits Potomac Overlook Regional Park, a network of diverse trails that run in a loop at around 1.6 miles. Each of its trails are diverse, making the trail a fun way to spend an hour or so on a beautiful weekend. Some of our favorite stops along the trails are Indian Springs, Circle of Life Gardens and the Wingstem Maze.
Extending all the way from Pittsburgh to the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac Heritage Trail Network is a vast network of trails, that we are fortunate enough to have run through our city. If you’re looking for a scenic place to run after work, a quiet place to take a long walk, or just soak up some of the views of our city, check out the Potomac Heritage Trails, which eventually hook up with the Mount Vernon Trail extending all the way out to Mount Vernon. Just hop off anywhere on George Washington Parkway, use one of the detailed trail maps found on the trail network website and start walking!
Right outside of the city, Seneca Creek Park is a 6,000-acre park that is the perfect place to run, walk or bike nearby DC. The park is divided into two sections - one in Gaithersburg that is 11 miles of trails and a bit more developed than the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail that is 16.5-miles long. But both are well worth it.
Aside from the being the home to our nation's capitol, D.C. is actually home to a large variety of wildlife. Huntley Meadows Park is a .5-mile boardwalk trail, where goers can take part in some of this area’s best wildlife watching. Some views include beavers, frogs, dragonflies and over 200 species of birds.
Located about 32 miles outside of the city, Prince William Forest Park is often an overlooked hiking destination. With 37 miles of hiking trails, this park serves as a beautiful display of Northern Virginia wildlife. Whether you’re trying to get your daily workout in, or looking for a place to go on a meditative walk, there are a variety of trails ranging in difficulty and length, which makes this park perfect for all occasions. Farms to Forest Trail is one of our favorite, stretching for three miles and pretty moderate in difficulty.
Stretching through Prince George and Montgomery Counties, Silgo Creek Park is a 10.2-mile park just outside of D.C. in Silver Spring, Maryland. This park is the perfect place for locals looking for a nature-filled place to bike, rollerblade, walk, or run their way through. For any passionate skiers, Silgo Creek is a great place for cross country skiing in the winter months!
Anything we missed? We'd love to hear your favorite spots around town to get out and commune with nature!