Hike Your Way Around Washington DC

Elena Sonnino - Washington Dc
July 9, 2013

A mecca for politics, tourists and historical landmarks, the Washington, DC area is also home to several perfect family hiking areas. Hiking as a family is a great way to stay active together as well as explore off-the-beaten-path locations. Plus, what could be more fun for children than scrambling up rocks or having a picnic lunch?

Hiking in Virginia

Fountainhead Regional Park in is an easily accessible hiking area in Fairfax County that offers trails for hiking, running, and biking as well as water activities like canoe and kayak rentals. The nice thing about hiking in Fountainhead is that the trails are incredibly well marked. Another bonus to Fountainhead is the shade that covers the trails, especially on a hot summer day when keeping cool helps keep the entire family of hikers happier for longer.

Also in Fairfax County, Burke Lake Park offers a leisurely stroll of just under five miles through a forest trail and along the lake's reservoir. Families that enjoy camping can stay for the night on site at one of the lake's camping grounds. Burke Lake also offers a carousel and train ride, as well as miniature golf to round out the outdoors experience. Even closer to the Beltway is Lake Accotink with a 3.8 mile loop around the lake that caters to all levels and offers canoes and paddle boats.

Hiking in Washington DC

Although technically Theodore Roosevelt Island is situated on the Potomac River between Washington DC and Virginia, this island is made for exploring, walking and hiking. The island has three trails that range in length from a short .4 miles to 1.3 miles, making it a great starting point for families with young children. One tip, the parking area for Roosevelt Island is not large, so it is best to visit early in the morning or in the early evening during busy weekends.

Rock Creek Park bisects the heart of Washington, DC, creating a natural treasure. The park has over 32 miles of trail, including the Capital Crescent Trail which starts in Georgetown and leads all the way to Bethesda. During the weekends, Beach Drive is closed to automobiles making this a tranquil place to take a hike. Along the way you might hear the sounds of animals from the National Zoo or water bubbling through the creek.

Hiking in Maryland

The Billy Goat trail in Maryland offers a 2.5 mile loop starting at the Carderock parking area going toward the Angler's Inn. Children will enjoy scrambling on the rocks along the trail along the C&O Canal towpath. The trail follows the canal and becomes a more challenging hike as you head toward Great Falls. While many runners use the towpath for endurance training during the early mornings, there is plenty of room on the towpath, and the trails that head toward the river are exciting for children to explore.

Gunpowder Falls State Park (pictured above) is divided into six areas and includes more than 120 miles of hiking trails but adds the the fun of a shallow creek and swimming hole to cool off on a hot day (or just for fun). Two popular trails are the Sweathouse Trail and the Stocksdale Trail in the central area of the park. There is also camping available in the Hammerman and Hereford areas of the park, which are very popular spots on weekends.

As busy as life gets in the Washington, DC area, taking advantage of the many choices for fun and scenic hikes is easy and fosters a healthy and active habits in our children. Whether you trek to traditional locales like Old Rag that offers views of the Shenandoah Mountains or Catoctin Mountain Park with the scenic Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock or something close by, it is easy to have the entire family fall in love with the outdoors.

From the Parents

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