6 Places To Go Hiking Near Washington DC

washington dc arboretum

The nation’s capital can feel pretty busy with tourists and activity on any given day of the year. Jobs are usually high stress and the daily commute into the city can be long and tiresome most days. At first glance it can be hard to find hiking areas within the city between the memorials, museums, and government buildings but the surrounding area contains many different hiking options to relieve some stress and spend time in the great outdoors. Grab your hiking boots, some water, and a friend to get outdoors this weekend. Here are places to go hiking near Washington D.C. that will add beauty and fresh air to your weekly grind.

hiking path washington dc
Potomac Heritage Trail via nps.org

1. Potomac Heritage Trail

This historic trail network provides opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts who are in the DC area. Visitors can hike, bike, paddle, or ride horses through its vast expanse of trails. Commonly known as the PHT Network, the Potomac Heritage Trail has both short and long hikes that traverse its beautiful area. Early Americans used these trails as a pathway between the Alleghenies and Chesapeake Bay as a connection corridor that covered over 700 miles.

2. Billy Goat Trail

This super popular trail is well known in Washington D.C. as it spans 8 miles along the Potomac River. The trail has been divided up into 3 sections if you don’t want to go far and is moderately difficult to complete. The Billy Goat Trail is most famous for the rocks within the trail that hikers climb over as well as beautiful views of the river and the city. Due to its location, it can get quite busy during the day so serious hikers should plan to get there early in the morning to beat the crowds.

3. National Arboretum

Over 400 acres make up the National Arboretum which is home to a research institution as well as beautiful gardens and parks. The park is free to visit and is home to a beautiful azalea garden that is quite popular. Hikers can enjoy about an 8 mile loop around the National Arboretum that is considered an easy to moderate hike. This location is great for those who enjoy walking outdoors among thousands of different plants and flowers throughout the year.

4. Rock Creek Park

This city park covers over 1,700 acres and is the 3rd national park that was named by the federal government. It is filled with over 32 miles of hiking trails with the primary trails running North to South. Smaller connecting trails run East to West and visitors are encouraged to make up their own hike as it is easy to combine trails together based on difficulty. Rock Creek Park is just minutes from the heart of Washington D.C. and is frequented by both tourists and residents alike.

5. Sky Meadows State Park

Featuring rolling pastures and woodlands, Sky Meadows State Park focuses on colonial life of the post-Civil war era. This 1,860 acre park has over 22 miles of hiking trails as well as regular history and nature programs that are offered all year long. This state park is located just 60 miles east of Washington D.C. and provides different viewpoints and hiking than those closer to the city.

6. Prince William Forest Park

Located just 30 miles outside of the city sits Prince William Forest Park which is a 15,000 acre area with 37 miles of hiking trails. There are many different trails available, including a long 9 miles hike, that span the large area filled with old trees, wood bridge crossings, and enough shade to keep you out of the summer sun. The Prince William Forest Park would be a great option for all hikers as there are both short and long hikes available.

The hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. can leave residents feeling frazzled. Take time out of the busy week to enjoy these hiking spots that are in and around the D.C. area. You’ll find hidden gems within the city limits as well as all day hiking that can be easily reached with a short car ride. Getting outdoors for a quick, or long, hike in the Washington D.C. area is easy with these hiking spots.

Feature image source: DC Gardens / National Arboretum


Kathleen Johnson