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Top 5 Hikes from Washington DC

Jun 3, 2023 | Travel Tips

Check out this guest post by Zubin Panday of Going Locations. He’s a Virginia native who has traveled to many parts of the world and near his hometown. You can also follow him on Travel | Vacation | Nature (@goinglocations) • Instagram photos and videos

 

When you think of Washington DC, you probably don’t think of beautiful nature. But this city is centered in the perfect position, take it from me as I’m a native to Washington DC.  One hour east and you can be enjoying the beach on Kent Island, one hour west and you can be hiking the Appalachian Trail to Bears Den. Washington DC is right in the middle of it all, with adventures for all travelers and in my case, locals. After you enjoy all of the must-see things to do that I cover in my Local’s Guide to Washington DC, head out west to enjoy some of the best hikes that the United States has to offer. Here, I’ll count down the top 5 best hikes near Washington DC from my experience, let’s get right to it!

Annapolis Rock

Annapolis Rock is one of the top hikes near Washington DC

Distance From DC: 52 miles.

 We’re starting this list off with one of my favorites: Annapolis Rock offers stunning views of the valley below and the neighboring mountains. This viewpoint is located in South Mountain State Park, a small state park located northwest of the capital city. Annapolis Rock is located just off the Appalachian Trail, so it’s very well connected. If you were to park in the nearest parking lot to this viewpoint, the hike would be around 5 miles in total there and back. Be aware that this viewpoint can get quite crowded during the day so my recommendation is to get there early.

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is one of the top hikes near Washington DC

Distance From DC: 0 miles.

You might be wondering why it says that this park is 0 miles from Washington DC, that’s because this park is located in the capital district. No need to drive as there is a metro station located under a mile from this park. The park is over 1,500 acres and has over 30 miles worth of trails within it. That’s crazy considering that you’re in a city! While in this park, you feel like you’re close to nature, and far from the hustle and bustle of a city. This park is perfect for urban folks needing an escape and tourists not willing to leave the city to experience the region’s nature.

 

 

Weverton Cliffs

Weverton Cliffs is one of the top hikes near Washington DC

Distance From DC: 45 miles

Weverton Cliff is in my opinion a very underrated viewpoint. The trail sits right on the Virginia-Maryland border with stunning views of the Potomac River as you see in this photo. The hike is just over 2.5 miles round trip from the nearest parking lot, the trip is a good amount uphill to the viewpoint. Just like Annapolis Rock, Weverton Cliffs sits on the Appalachian Trail so it is  extremely well connected for folks that are planning to hike this trail. Weverton Cliffs is also close to Harpers Ferry which is a beautiful small town in West Virginia. So if you have extra time, make sure to stop by there maybe to eat or just to explore.

Great Falls Loop

Great Falls Loop is one of the top hikes near Washington DC

Distance From DC: 10 miles.

Great Falls is very famous for its massive houses and rich neighborhoods, but it’s also famous for Great Falls Park. Many locals and tourists come here to see the famous waterfall at Great Falls which I can safely say is extremely impressive. There are several views of this waterfall located throughout the park but the highlight is climbing down to see the waterfall up close. You can get a glimpse of the Potomac River water rapidly flowing. You can see the falls from both Virginia and Maryland sides, with the Virginia side being more popular – so go to the Maryland side if you want to avoid the crowds. Once you finish viewing the main falls, hike west a bit to catch views of Washington Aqueduct. As shown in the photo above, Washington Aqueduct is a short, extremely long waterfall that often gets no attention. It can be a very peaceful and cool place and the hike to it is equally as good.

Bear’s Den

Bear’s Den is one of the top hikes near Washington DC

Distance From DC: 45 miles.

Bear’s Den is one of the most popular viewpoints near Washington DC and for good reason. The hike is only 2 miles there and back from the nearest parking lot so it’s very easy even for beginners. Bears Den, just like Weverton Cliffs and Annapolis Rock, sits on the Appalachian Trail, and this one is on a very moderate part of the trail. The trail isn’t steep at all and is wide and smooth as it’s made to accommodate many people. Bear’s Den is directly west of Washington DC in the state of Virginia. Not only is the viewpoint very scenic but the drive to Bear’s Den is super cool too. Parking can be a bit scarce here though and the viewpoint can get crowded, so make sure to get here early in the day. 

Summary

As I mentioned in the beginning, Washington DC is very closely situated to some of the most amazing hikes. Keep in mind that fall is by far the most popular time of year to hike, as tourists and locals are keen to see the beautiful trees that turn color at this time of year. So if you’re planning to visit at this time of year, make sure to either avoid weekends or get there really early in the day. If you can’t possibly leave Washington DC during your trip, then Rock Creek Park might just be for you. If you can leave DC but are not willing to go too far, Great Falls Loop might be your place. If you are willing to drive just over an hour and get out of the city, Annapolis Rocks, Weverton Cliffs, and Bear’s Den could all be for you.  Now that you know what to do outside of Washington DC, make sure to check out my blog post Local’s Guide to Washington DC on what to do when inside Washington DC.

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