Warmer weather and longer days have the tourists taking over the District this time of year, and it can be overwhelming. It may have you thinking, “I need to get out of the city and spend some time in nature. Maybe I’ll try a hike.”
You grab your gear, drive across town, and hop out of the car ready for some peace and quiet.
Surprise! Everyone else in DC had the same exact idea, and now you’ve officially escaped from one crowded area to another crowded area, except this one has trees.
The DMV has no shortage of awesome hiking spots including Great Falls, Shenandoah, Capital Crescent Trail, and Billy Goat Trail. Unfortunately, there’s also no shortage of people hitting these trails when the weather’s nice. That’s why we’ve mapped out a few of the lesser-traveled trails in the area that you can, and totally should explore:
You can find the entrance to Soapstone Valley Trail behind the pizza place on Albemarle and 32nd streets in the Van Ness neighborhood of DC. It’s a simple yet delightful mile-long trail with a few shallow creek crossings with plenty of rocks for stepping on. It’s blissfully uncrowded and you’ll likely only see a couple of fellow passersby, likely with an off-leash dog frolicking around the woods.
#FrayLife Tip: The trail leads you to Broad Branch Road in the middle of Rock Creek Park. There you can choose to continue hiking on any of its connecting trails.
You’ll find dogs, families, joggers, and horses (yes, seriously) on this moderately trekked 3.5-mile loop trail in Rock Creek Park. Scenery includes woodlands, horse corrals, rocks, and the incredible Rock Creek itself. The actual Boulder Bridge was built in 1902 and is one of the oldest bridges in the park.
#FrayLife Tip: If you’re up for a mini treasure hunt, President Theodore Roosevelt is said to have lost a ring at the bridge over one hundred years ago. Will you be the one to find it?
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath is 184.5 miles in total. That includes a 2.5 mile private snippet in the district between the Maryland border and Fletcher’s Cove ideal for crowd-free hiking–if you know where to look–hidden behind the forest on the side of the main towpath. Once you see a narrow trail leading into the woods from the towpath (you will come across a few), take it! You’ll be transported to your own windy path free from joggers, cyclists, and strollers. There are multiple spots that branch off to the canal for when you’re ready to head back.
The section of trail near the Chain Bridge marker just before the Maryland border has a pathway to an abandoned aqueduct that rarely sees visitors aside from the occasional stray fisherman. The wide deck gets you up-close-and-personal with the Potomac River and offers great views of the whitewater and Virginia cliffside. It’s a nice place to take a breather if you are a runner coming off the towpath, and even if you don’t need the rest, the views and allure of the abandoned site make this a must-see.
#FrayLife Tip: Head back to the Towpath trail in the spring to see all the wild raspberry bushes. With all those miles of trail, there will be plenty of reasons to go back again and again.
Do you have any low-traffic hiking trails in your neighborhood? Leave a comment letting us know what else we should add to our list, and tag us on your next hike using #DCFray or #FrayLife.
Now you know some hiking trails, but what about biking trails? Check out our hand-picked biking trails around the district.
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