Just because you live in the city doesn’t mean you have to schlep an hour or more away to find a good hiking trail. Thanks to the abundant amount of public parks and preserved wooded areas in D.C., you can easily go hiking without having to leave the city.
All of the following hiking trails are metro accessible and within the District of Columbia border. Hit any one of these trails and you will forget you’re actually still in an urban area. Pack your gear and get ready to arrange a little staycation in nature!
1. Rock Creek Park
Starting with the obvious option: Rock Creek Park. Rock Creek has two main trails that run north to south, the Western-Ridge Trail and Valley Trail. Several connector trails run east to west that joins Western Ridge and Valley trails. Given the connector trails, you can essentially create your own route and customize as many loops as you want up to 10 miles.
2. Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
The Anacostia watershed and its surrounding nature preserve often get overlooked, but it has over 70 miles of trails and paths that run throughout the District and along the riverside. Definitely take advantage of what this city has hidden in plain sight in the southeast.
You can take the Riverwalk trail to Kingman Island, where there is an easy mile-and-half trail to explore. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail has everything from hiking to canoe rentals. If wildlife is your jam, pack your binoculars because you might just spot D.C.’s famous bald eagle couple, Liberty and Justice.
3. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath is 184.5 miles in total. There is a 2.5-mile private snippet of it in the District between the Maryland border and Fletcher’s Cove ideal for crowd-free hiking–if you know where to look–hidden behind the forest on the side of the main towpath.
Once you see a narrow trail leading into the woods from the towpath (you will come across a few), take it. You will be transported to your own windy path free from joggers, cyclists, and strollers. There are multiple spots that branch off to the canal for when you want to go back. If you go during late spring, be sure to look out for wild raspberry bushes and stop for a snack.
The section of trail near the Chain Bridge marker just before the Maryland border has a pathway to an abandoned aqueduct that rarely sees visitors aside from the occasional stray fisherman. The wide deck gets you up-close-and-personal with the Potomac River and offers great views of the whitewater and Virginia cliffside. It’s a nice place to take a breather if you are a runner coming off the towpath.
4. Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT)
Though it’s not completed yet, you can still hike, walk, or bike seven miles of the Met Branch Trail in northeast D.C. It’s already populated with some great colorful (and definitely Instagrammable) murals.
When the city finishes construction on the project, it will be an 8-mile trail that runs from Union Station to Silver Spring in Maryland. The MBT will eventually connect to other trails throughout the D.C. area including the Capital Crescent Trail, Anacostia Trails System, and the East Coast Greenway.
5. Theodore Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island sits in the middle of the Potomac River near Key Bridge between Georgetown and Rosslyn. Though the island is part of Washington, D.C., the only way to get to the island is accessed from the Virginia side (about a 10-15 minute walk from the Rosslyn metro, or a 15-minute walk from Key Bridge in Georgetown).
There are three easy trails to choose from ranging from ⅓ mile to one-and-a-half miles. Keep in mind that this is a very popular place on weekends and is typically packed with families and dogs. The off-season, however, is blissfully quiet.
Do you have a favorite spot to hike without leaving DC? Next time you’re hitting your go-to trail, don’t forget to tag us with #FrayLife #DCFray!
Want to take a hike with your four-legged friend? Check out these pet-friendly trails as well!