As fall weather starts to roll in, head outside of the city to explore beautiful natural parks and trails around the DMV.
Take a break from your busy schedule and spend some time in nature to rejuvenate yourself as the semester gets into full swing. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or just need a peaceful walk in the forest, we’ve compiled plenty of options for you to get some space from the commotion of the city.
Seneca Creek Greenway Trail
This 11.5-mile trail is a natural, wooded path extending from Potomac River to the Damascus Regional Park trail system. Surrounded by woods overlooking the stream and a natural rock bridge, this trail is ideal for hikers, bikers and equestrians who enjoy natural scenery. The trail is lightly trafficked, making it an ideal spot to be alone with nature.
Great Seneca Stream Valley Park. Parking is at the end of Riley’s Lock Road just before the bridge over Seneca Creek. Find maps and more information here. Open 8 a.m. to sunset.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island was created in the 1930s by landscape architects who transformed Mason’s Island into a memorial to America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. The island covers miles of trails with dirt paths, long boardwalks and a tidal marsh. The island is designed to mimic the natural forest that previously covered the island, and it is mostly made up of higher elevation wooded areas and swampy marshes. If you’re in the mood for a nearby reflection walk, this could be a good bet.
Theodore Roosevelt Island Park. Parking is the first right on northbound lanes of George Washington Memorial Parkway after Memorial Bridge or a 15 minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro station. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Potomac Heritage Trail
Potomac Heritage Trail is filled with landscapes to attract adventurers, one of which includes George Washington himself, who was known to have explored this land. Running along the historic Potomac River, hiking this trail will lead you to limestone cliffs, waterfalls and winding trails, according to its website. The trail you’ll hike is only a short portion of a larger trailway that connects the Potomac and upper Ohio river basins. Along with hiking the trail you can bike, run, horseback ride and even kayak along the river.
Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park constitutes more than 1,700 acres along with 32 miles of looping trails. It was the third national park to be designated by the federal government in 1890, and today it provides a natural refuge from the city with recreational activities like horseback riding, golfing, tennis, hiking, biking and boating. For specific programs and rentals, you can find information on the website. Its primary trails are the Western Ridge Trail and the Valley Trail, both of which run north-south and are surrounded by forests.
Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, 5200 Glover Rd. NW. Closest Metro stops are at Friendship Heights and Fort Totten. Find more information and maps here. Open sunrise until sunset.
Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain is the ideal hiking destination for a challenging immersive nature experience. Advanced hikers can try the park’s steep climbs along granite boulders through tiny spaces. Hikers can choose whether they want to take a trail that includes the mountain’s “rock scramble,” a sharply ascending patch of uneven rocks that requires a mix of rock climbing and hiking. Regardless of the difficulty, many complete this path, in large part, for its reward: a view of nearly 200,000 protected acres of national parkland.
Robertson, Va. Access from multiple points from Shenandoah National Park eastern boundary. Find more information and maps here. Always open.
The Fountainhead Regional Park, located in Fairfax Station, Va., is a beautiful 8.6-mile trail made for hikers of all skills and interests. Fountainhead Park rents out kayaks, powerboats and canoes you can use to explore its vast Occoquan Reservoir. Or, you can find a quiet fishing pier along the waterway and spend an afternoon relaxing. The trail’s loops and seemingly limitless hills makes this a prime spot for mountain bikers.
10875 Hampton Rd. Fairfax, Va. Find more information and maps here. Open sunrise to sunset.
This seven-mile Yellow Trail is a 45-minute drive away from D.C., but is worth the trek if you’re looking for complete wilderness. The trail is scattered with cellar holes and stone walls from farm families who lived and worked there more than a hundred years ago, along with historic 19th-century farmhouses. The trail loops around the base of a mountain and it is surrounded by forest on all sides. Its striking beauty and geological interest earned it a designation as a Registered Natural Landmark. You’ll begin your hike with a steep incline that evens out in the middle before it becomes steep again. Be sure to hike this trail equipped with proper hiking boots, water, food and a map.
7901 Comus Rd. Dickerson,Md. Find more information and maps here. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.