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Hiking | © US Department of the Interior/Flickr
Hiking | © US Department of the Interior/Flickr
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The 10 Best Hiking Trails Near Washington, DC

Picture of Aparna Krishnamoorthy
Updated: 12 June 2017
Whether you’re hiking for exercise, walking the dog, or simply to get out into nature, here are 10 great trails in the Washington, DC metro area to explore.
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Roosevelt Island

This is a great option for those looking for a stroll or an easy hike outdoors, while also doing a bit of touristy exploration. The 88.5 acre island in the Potomac river has a number of walking trails and is easily accessible from DC by foot or car. You can see a number of DC monuments and sights from the trails.

Roosevelt Island, Washington, DC, USA

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Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry boasts some gorgeous vistas any time of year, with Blue Ridge Mountain landscapes, river views, and a dose of history. It has over 20 miles of trails ranging from the flat C&O Canal towpath to the more strenuous Maryland Heights trail which has challenging climbs that take you past stone forts, trenches, and other Civil War relics.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, USA

Harpers Ferry | Courtesy of National Park Service

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Great Falls – Billy Goat

The Billy Goat Trail Hike in Great Falls National Park on the Maryland side is just outside the city, and has three sections of varying difficulty. Parts of the hike require rock scrambling, and a climb up a rock wall, but other sections are significantly easier. The “A” section of the trail offers scenic river views and takes a couple of hours to complete.

Great Falls National Park (MD), 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD, USA

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Kingman Island

Located within DC limits, this man made island has plenty of trails for hiking while getting a chance to explore the wilderness in the city. The thickly wooded refuges offer a peaceful retreat from the city, and also plenty of chances to take nature photographs.

Kingman Island, 575 Oklahoma Ave NE, Washington, DC, USA

Kingman Island | Courtesy of Kingmanisland.org

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This park is located within the Blue Ridge Mountains, and offers beautiful views all around. The 10-mile round trip hiking trail through the park can get busy and it’s fairly strenuous, but the payoff of views make it absolutely worth it.

Sky Meadows, 11012 Edmonds Ln., Delaplane, VA, USA

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Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge

This wildlife refuge offers a four-mile hike along the park’s estuaries and bay beaches, and the chance to see bald eagles during the summer! Portions of the trail are subject to closure from December through June to protect nesting bald eagles, but the summer is a great time to visit to see the plant life in the area.

Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, High Point, Lorton, VA, USA

Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge | Courtesy of Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge

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Sugarloaf Mountain

This moderate 7.4-mile loop hike is a popular one due to its proximity from DC. In addition to nice views, it offers a fairly challenging, tree covered hike that will have you doing a lot of uphill. Sugarloaf is a privately owned park, but is open to the public.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Urbana, MD, USA

Rock Creek Park

Park
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Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park | © Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Another chance to get immersed in life while in the city, Rock Creek Park is a sprawling park situated inside DC and has a number of trails of varying difficulty. There are a mix of natural surfaces for hikers, runners and equestrians and paved paths for cyclists and other users. Hiking through this park’s natural setting, visitors will come across a lot of historic sites, picnic areas, creeks, rock scrambling, and peace. The Western Ridge Trail and the Valley trails are popular options.

Rock Creek Park Visitor Center, 5200 Glover Rd NW, Washington, DC, USA

Rock Creek Park | Courtesy of Rock Creek Park

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Accessibility & Audience:

Dog Friendly

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Outdoors
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Shenandoah – Old Rag

The Old Rag Mountain hike in Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hikes in the area and a favorite of hikers for its challenging rock scrambles. While it is over an hour’s drive from the city, the spectacular views make it absolutely worth the effort. It’s best to get here early as this hike can get extremely popular.

Old Rag Mountain, 3577 Nethers Rd, Etlan, VA, USA

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Catoctin Trail

This Maryland Park is home the Presidential retreat Camp David, but also features over 25 miles of hiking trails through acres of hardwood forest. The moderately strenuous Falls Nature Trail takes you to Cunningham Falls, the tallest waterfall in Maryland, and the easier Blue Blazes Whiskey Still Trail takes you to the site where a large commercial moonshine operation stood until a raid in 1929.

Catoctin Trail, 6602 Foxville Rd, Thurmont, MD, USA