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  • Writer's pictureLisa

Winter Walks and Hikes in the DC Area

Boardwalk in Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park

Winter is always tough for those of us who get restless at home, and it's even tougher under pandemic isolation measures. WW is here with vetted walks and hikes that are good for the body and soul. Pack your masks and get some fresh air and Vitamin D on these winter walks and hikes in the DC area.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Dickerson, MD

Sugarloaf is a small mountain in Frederick County, about one hour outside DC. Trails are steep but relatively short, and you're rewarded with great views. Check out the post here for more info.

National Arboretum

Washington, DC

The National Arboretum is a (huge) hidden gem on the outskirts of the city. Go for the acres of woods, ponds, and fields. Stay for bucket-list pictures with the old Capitol columns, which were randomly relocated here. The Arboretum is connected by paved roads that are great for walks or runs, especially with strollers. More on the Arboretum here.

Mason Neck State Park

Lorton, VA

This park near Occoquan, VA is known for its winter sunsets. Take some short, flat hikes through the woods or walk along the empty beach (at sunset, of course). More on day trips to that area in this post.

Shenandoah National Park

Front Royal, VA & beyond

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the elephant in the room, Shenandoah National Park. The northern-most part of the park is actually not a terrible day trip from DC at a little more than an hour each way. Old Rag is the difficult, 9-mile trail you've probably heard of. But there are lots of easier, interesting trails throughout the park if you are looking for a different experience. Shorter hikes we've liked and more ideas here.

C&O Canal Trail

Starts in Washington, DC and ends in Cumberland, MD

Amazingly, the C&O Canal Trail does exist outside of Georgetown. It's actually 184.5 (don't forget the .5) miles long. We've driven down to the entrance in Cabin John, MD (Lock 6) and found a part of the trail that was flat, pretty, and pretty empty. More info and other socially distanced DC activities here.

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

Washington, DC

Another great paved trail for those with strollers or bikes! This path winds along the Anacostia River and through very pretty meadows. We parked in the lot at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and then had a nice 3.5-mile walk to Bladensburg Waterfront Park and back. More here.

Sky Meadows State Park

Delaplane, VA

It's truly all sky and meadows at this huge park. Venture up some steep trails for better views (we did not venture with the baby in tow) or explore the many other wooded trails around the park. More here.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Vienna, VA

Maybe you are more of the walking rather than hiking inclination. Meadowlark is an extensive set of gardens connected by paved walkways. We loved the pond and the Korean Bell Garden. I actually haven't even been there yet in the spring or summer when there are actually flowers--it's just a pleasant place to explore year-round! More here.

Burke Lake Park

Fairfax Station, VA

Burke Lake Park boasts 5+ miles of trails surrounding a 218-acre lake. In warmer seasons they have a mini train for kids, ice cream, and mini golf. We did see a ton of people playing disc golf when we were there though if you'd like to add that to your hike! More info here.

Patapsco Valley State Park

Howard County, MD

Patapsco Valley State Park is about a 30-minute drive from DC and is a beautiful state park. We always enjoy doing the Grist Mill Trail that takes you over a swinging bridge. There's always the Guinness Open Gate Brewery nearby if you need a beer afterwards! More info about the park here.

Rock Creek Park

Washington, DC

I couldn't make this list without including Rock Creek. You could visit this park 20 times and go on new trails and see different parts of the park every time. Two of our favorite hikes recently were a trek to the hidden Capitol stones and a hike along the Soapstone Valley Trail, which included several creek crossings! More info here.

Enjoy your winter walks and hikes!

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