The Best Outdoor Activities in and Around Washington DC

The Tidal Basin Loop will take you past the Jefferson Memorial
The Tidal Basin Loop will take you past the Jefferson Memorial | © Dasha Rosato / Alamy Stock Photo
Culture Trip Travel Team

The US capital has a lot more to offer than just its monuments and memorials. There are a host of beautiful outdoor areas to explore in and around the city. Escape from the stress of the metropolis and take in the natural beauty that Washington DC has to offer. Culture Trip has narrowed down the top picks of outdoor actives in the area.

1. Enjoy breathtaking views at Great Falls Park


A quick 15-mile drive from DC and you’ll find yourself at the Great Falls Park. Visitors are treated to stunning views of the Potomac River as it flows over the rocks into Mather Gorge. Head to the visitor center where you can take advantage of the three overlooks which give the best views. When you’re done, make use of the hiking and biking trails. Or you could go climbing, fishing or even enjoy a horseback ride.

2. Escape the city to Rock Creek Park

Forest, Park

Rock Creek Park is the third oldest national park in the US and runs through DC and Montgomery County. A haven for city dwellers, it’s also a must-do on any itinerary. You can take a picnic and immerse yourself in nature for an afternoon, or you can spend the whole day there, taking advantage of one of the 32 hiking trails on offer. There are a number of landmarks to see along the way, including Civil War strongholds and colonial houses. For those who are keen to enjoy some outdoor exercise, you can play a game of golf or tennis. And there’s also horseback riding.

3. Check out the memorials at Tidal Basin

Natural Feature

This part of the city is perfect for exploring, especially because of the huge number of monuments on display. There’s the Jefferson Memorial, the MLK Memorial and the FDR memorial, all within the 1.8-mile (2.9km) Tidal Basin loop. The National Park Service also offers free walking tours on the Tidal Basin grounds, with one of the best known being a tour of the cherry blossoms during their annual festival.

4. Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island


Located in the Potomac River near the Key Bridge, this island was built as a tribute to the 26th American President, and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a natural forest. Again, the National Park Service hosts a number of guided tours by rangers that will help educate visitors on the history and the birds who inhabit the area. There are also hiking trails, jogging and the opportunity to hire a kayak or canoe to get on the water.

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