Washington, D.C., may be a city, but it boasts a number of beautiful places in and around the District proper that are just as great for exploring the wilderness! Secret D.C. has come up with 10 stunning trails for hiking in and around D.C. to help you do just that (just keep an eye on the weather and make sure you have good hiking shoes for traction).
From hidden gems to haunted trails and the perfect summits for surveying the growing landscape, these hikes are the perfect activity! Plus, you can stop for a secret swim at some of these natural swimming pools around the trails! This list of stunning hiking trails is ranked from easiest to hardest to help make deciding which is best for you even easier. Check them out below:
Rock Creek Park is the perfect trail if you don’t want to leave the city. It’s right in the heart of the city, and its network of trails and pathways are friendly for all skill levels. While at the park, make sure to also check out some of its awesome historic landmarks, such as the Pierce Mill Gristmill, the Rolling Meadow Footbridge, and Miller Cabin.
2. Theodore Roosevelt Island
If you’re a fan of wildlife, then this little island is perfect escape from the city for you. Its easy 1.6-mile loop trail is perfect for hikers of all levels, and it’s one of the best trails for hiking in Washington, D.C., featuring boardwalks over marsh areas and clean wooded forest paths. Plus, it’s easily accessible by public transportation!
These century-old gardens are actually one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Located between Woodland Park and Cleveland Park, Tregaron has 20 gorgeous acres of secret gardens, meadows, and ponds. The estate, which has been around for more than 100 years, was once home to the D.C. elite. Now, it’s a spectacular hidden spot where you can break away from D.C. life without even leaving the city!
4. Seneca Creek Greenway Trail
These 7.8 miles of gorgeous woodland offer great views of the Great Seneca Creek! While hiking on the trail you’ll also be able to check out the historic Middlebrook and Watkins Mills.
So, this trail is definitely not for the faint-hearted, especially if they’re not into the paranormal. But if you’re a fan of the haunted, we highly suggest checking out Buzzard Rock Trail. This hike will take you down to the old St. Mary’s ruins. The ruins are the remnants of a church belonging to an old seminary school and have inspired many ghost stories and legends involving Satanic rituals and ghosts. Yikes!
6. Maryland Heights Trail
This hiking trail in Harpers Ferry — just an hour away from D.C. — offers stunning views of the merging of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, as well as the borders of three states, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. While at Maryland Heights you can choose to take two different paths: the overlook and the full trail. If you wish to do some exploring around Harpers Ferry, as well, then you’ll be best off by choosing the shorter overlook trail, which will take you to a gorgeous viewpoint where you can admire the merging of the rivers and Harpers Ferry.
7. Sugarloaf Mountain
Most of the trails at Sugarloaf Mountain are moderately difficult, but the climb is worth the effort since all of them will take you to spectacular views of the fields and sprawling hills of pastoral Maryland. Sugarloaf offers three different pathways: the White, Blue, and Purple Trails, and it’s just a short distance from D.C.
This gorgeous trail in Shenandoah National Park, VA., leads to different waterfalls. Although it’s the perfect trail to hop on this summer and go swimming in the wild, the views also make for an amazing hike.
9. Old Rag Mountain
One of the most popular trails in Shenandoah National Park, Old Rag Mountain offers some of the most stunning views. But to get to these drop-dead gorgeous views, you’ll have to hike an 8.6-mile, largely uphill trail. Don’t be fooled by its “fake” summits though! This trail likes to buffoon hikers with many I-think-we’re-there summits, but just remember you won’t have made it to the top until you see a sign labeling the summit as “Old Rag Mountain.” That’s when you’ll know you’ve arrived.
10. Billy Goat Trail
The hardest trail on our list, the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, MD., involves plenty of hiking, climbing, hopping around, and a famous scramble up the side of a cliff. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you choose to go hiking on the Billy Goat Trail, you’ll get to enjoy some pretty epic views over the Potomac River and Great Falls!
This article was written by Mª Del Rosario Castro Diaz and Jenna Romaine