What’s better than going hiking through the color changing leaves and the crisp cool air? Here are the top 9 places to go in the DMV area for scenic hikes/ views.
The Appalachian Trail snakes through over 40 miles of Maryland with easy to moderate sections depending on your preference. The trail, in addition to magnificent foliage, is home to the original Washington Monument. Serious hikers will enjoy multi-day trips along the trail.
Camping is allowed only in designated overnight sites. The best times for hiking in Maryland are mid-April through mid-May (Memorial Day weekend is usually crowded) or late September through early November. Summer heat and humidity can occasionally be oppressive.
40.9 MILES RATING: 1-6 230′-1880′
A.T. Miles in State Easy to Moderate Elevation Range in Feet
GUNPOWDER FALLS STATE PARK
Gunpowder Falls State Park comprises over 18,000 acres and boasts more than 120 miles of multi-use trails. The park has protected wildlands, historic sites, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, a swimming beach, and a marina. What does that all add up to? Jaw-dropping, beautiful foliage everywhere you look.
Try this 4.1-mile out-and-back trail near Perry Hall, Maryland. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 23 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and running, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are March through October. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.
4.1 MILES RATING: 5 213’
A.T. Miles in State Easy to Moderate Elevation Range in Feet
BILLY GOAT TRAIL AT GREAT FALLS PARK
Billy Goat Trail is one of the most traveled hikes in the D.C.-Maryland region. The hike is around eight miles-long with three sections—A, B, and C. While only moderately difficult, prepare to jump across rocks. Bring your camera for the incredible views of the Potomac River and the changing colors all around.
Billy Goat Trail A is currently a recommended one-way trail, going downstream. One-way travel prevents hikers ``jam-ups" at the Traverse and other narrow areas of the trail, protects natural habitats, and reduces the number of encounters with other visitors. The Exit Trail (halfway point) is a two-way trail to allow hikers to choose just the top or bottom half of the trail.
1.75 MILES RATING: 4-5 DOWNSTREAM
Miles in State Easy to Moderate Elevation Range in Feet
Washington D.C Area
TEDDY ROOSEVELT ISLAND
This 88 acre island is very close to Georgetown and Arlington, VA. It is right off the Mount Vernon trail, which is a very popular running and biking trail. This island is natural. It was once the home of the Nacotchtank tribe in the 1680s. George Mason’s family would own it from the 1700s to the 1830s and thus it was originally called Mason’s Island.
It was even a testing site for bombs during the Spanish American War in 1898.Several land owners would own it until the early 1900s in which Washington Gas and Light would own it until 1931.In 1931 a plan was made by the Teddy Roosevelt Association to turn the island into a living memorial honoring him. Congress authorized this in 1932, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the funds were appropriated.In 1967, a 17 foot statue of Teddy became the centerpiece of the island with lots of nature and wildlife surrounding him.We offer a 2 hour, 2 mile hiking tour of TRI, as well. The hike is very flat and very easy terrain.
There are several trails that meander around the island that are great for hiking or jogging. At one point it becomes a wooden path over some beautiful wetlands. No biking is allowed unfortunately.
ENTRANCE & PARKING: It has a small parking lot that can be accessed driving north on the GW parkway only. It tends to fill up quickly on the weekends. Nearby, Rosslyn VA is easy to pay to park in or the metro is a short 10 minute walk.
I mentioned earlier the defenses of Washington during the Civil War. This is one of the many forts that have been turned into wonderful parks, this one being the largest.Since they all are under the jurisdiction of the national parks system, they are all on preserved land. For locals and tourists alike, these former defenses are very unique parks to explore.The earthworks of Fort Dupont still remain inside the nearly 400 acre park.
When you walk the trails inside of the main park of Fort Dupont, you can feel why it was chosen as the location of several forts as it presides on several hills.There are several parks that exist with Fort Dupont like Fort Chaplin Park, Fort Davis, and Fort Stanton filled with 10 miles of connecting trails.The trails are well marked and easy to navigate. You are welcome to jog, mountain bike, and rollerblade all throughout this park. They even have an indoor skating rink open seasonally.
ENTRANCE & PARKING: Fort Dupont is NOT near Dupont Circle.
GPS: 3600 F and Minnesota St S.E. Washington, DC 20019 The closest metro rail stops are Potomac Avenue and Minnesota Avenue on the orange line, Benning Road on the blue line, or the V7 and U2 buses on weekdays, or the V8 bus on weekends.
CATOCIN MOUNTAIN PARK AND CUNNINGHAM FALLS STATE PARK
This beautiful park is a bit further outside of the Washington Area. I would plan for a good hour long drive, maybe 1.5 depending on where you are driving from.This area overlooks the beautiful Monocacy Valley in Northern Maryland. This park was also a CCC project like Prince William Forest to create a recreation area in this region.
You may have heard of a little retreat in this park called Camp David. FDR was the first President to utilize this area in which he called Shangri La, modeling it after his little White House in Warm Springs, GA.Dwight Eisenhower would later rename it in honor of his son.Unfortunately, the camp is off limits but you can drive up to the gate. It’s a bit surreal to see all the security gates in the middle of the woods.This massive park boasts over 6,000 acres with a huge amount of hiking and outdoor recreation including fishing, biking, and camping.
My favorite place to hike is Cunningham Falls. It’s a very easy but peaceful hike and the main attraction is the falls at the end. It’s not a major waterfall, but still worth the time.For more of a challenge, the Catoctin Trail is nearly 10 miles long and offers great views and vistas along the way. This park would require multiple visits to truly enjoy it all as a whole.I would even recommend a weekend away here either camping or renting a cabin.Gettysburg, PA is just over the state line and you could throw some civil war history in as well. Nearby Monocacy Battlefield is worth the time as well.
ENTRANCE & PARKING: For GPS Use: The Street Address of the Visitor Center is 14707 Park Central Road, Thurmont, MD. There are two parking lots at the Visitor Center which are free.
Hiking to Molly’s Knob deserves a spot on your hiking bucket list, but it’s not for the faint of heart thanks to an elevation increase of 200+ feet in the last .2 miles. This hike really makes you earn the payoff views. When you reach Molly’s Knob, two wooden benches welcome worthy hikers who have made it to the top.
Whether you take on Humpback Rocks as a 4.3-mile loop or a 2 mile out-and-back hike, you’re guaranteed to be stunned by 360-degree views at the summit. The ascent is not for the faint of heart, but thankfully a handful of benches and a wooden staircase ease the trek to the very top where vistas are plentiful.
The popular Mary’s Rock hike along the iconic Appalachian Trail wows at the rocky summit with breathtaking views across the Shenandoah Valley.There are two ways to reach the top, including the 2.7-mile hike that starts from the Meadow Spring parking area and wows with remains of an old stone chimney.