Best Hikes Near Washington D.C.

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Washington DC is a very beautiful, diverse, and interesting city. There is a lifetime of exploring to be done walking the streets, but sometimes you want to escape the city life for a day or two and enjoy the beautiful nature in the surrounding areas. There are so many cool things to see so here are my recommendations for the best hikes near Washington D.C.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR YOUR HIKE, HERE ARE A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  • Don’t forget to brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles
  • Some of these hikes have other trailheads or starting points. The information and trailhead below are what I’ve done.
  • Don’t forget to bring the Ten Essentials. I’ve linked all the things I bring and wear on day hikes if you are interested: click here.

Where to hike near Washington D.c.:

1. Maryland Heights - Harpers Ferry ,West Virginia

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northwestern Maryland
Hike Length: 6.6 Miles (loop) or 4.5 Miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Dogs allowed: Yes, on leash
Fee: $20 fee to enter National Park
Get Directions: click here (6.6 miles) | click here (4.5 miles)
Travel Time: 1.5 hours from Washington D.C.

One of my favorite best hikes near Washington D.C. This hike offers breathtaking views of the historical city of Harper’s Ferry. This city sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and marries Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The hike is branded as a loop but in reality, it is a makeshift loop. The trailhead is at the Master Armorer’s House and the hike starts as a green blaze trail. Continue on to the red blaze trail up to the summit and then take the blue trail to hike back down. Alternatively, you can hike solely on the red trail for a 4.5 out-and-back hike. Both trails are steep and rocky and offer a challenge but the views are well worth it. Parking at the trailhead is limited so be sure to arrive early in the morning to secure a spot or park.

There are many things to do in Harpers Ferry, and it is one of the places I recommend to family and friends for a weekend trip because it is not too far from Washington, D.C. You have many outdoor activities, great restaurants, local shops, and museums. Here’s my guide on how to spend a weekend in Harpers Ferry.

2. Annapolis Rock - Knoxville, Maryland

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northwestern Maryland
Hike Length: 5 Miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs allowed: Yes, on leash
Fee: Free
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 1 hour from Washington D.C.

This is not simply a hike but also an opportunity for some backcountry camping! The majority of the hike is along the famous white-blazed Appalachian Trail. The first mile is steep but eventually the trail levels out. You’ll come across the backcountry campground once near the summit. Enjoy the beautiful views of Cumberland Valley and then backtrack to the campground to make a nice meal and spend the night. Parking is limited since this is a very popular hike so be sure to arrive early. If the parking lot is full, don’t park on the road or you will get a ticket! You can go next door to Greenbrier State Park and hike an additional 2 miles along the Appalachian trail. This is a great hike all seasons, but one of the best hikes near Washington D.C. during fall.

3. Weverton Cliffs - Knoxville, Maryland

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northwestern Maryland
Hike Length: 1.9 Miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Dogs allowed: Yes, on leash
Fee: Free
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 1 hour from Washington D.C.

The neighbor to Annapolis Rock, you absolutely must complete this hike while you’re in the area! The two hikes share a parking lot and this hike, while steep and riddled with switchbacks, gives stunning views of the Cumberland Valley after only a mile of climbing. It is a short hike with lots of payoff.

4. Great Falls - Potomac, Virginia

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northern Virginia
Hike Length: 3-8 Miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Dogs allowed: No
Fee: $20 entrance fee to the park
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 30 minutes from Washington D.C.

The Great Falls of the Potomac River straddle the border of Virginia and Maryland. There are National Parks on both banks and lots of opportunities for sightseeing and hiking. On the Virginia side, the River Trail is a 3 mile out-and-back moderate to strenuous hike that requires you to scramble across the rock formations that run along the river and create the canal it flows through. On the Maryland side, the Billy Goat Trail runs parallel to the prior trail and mirrors the rock faces and formations. This hike is split into three different sections that total 8 miles of hiking so people can choose which experience best fits their needs. This hike is rated difficult and involves lots of rock scrambling as well. If you would rather sightsee, there are several viewpoints where you can take stunning photos of the falls and surrounding area.

5. Scott's Run Nature Preserve Outer Loop - Mclean, Virginia 

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northern Virginia
Hike Length: 3.1 Miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fee: $20 entrance fee to the park
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 30 minutes from Washington D.C.

This scenic hike will take you along the Potomac River, provides expansive views from riverside overlooks, and brings you to the charming Scotts Run Waterfall. Though there are some steep and rocky segments of the trail, overall the hike is moderate and provides a good challenge for a day hike.

6. Bear's Den - Bluemont, Virginia

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northwest Virginia
Hike Length: 1.7 Miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fee: FREE
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 1 hour from Washington D.C.

If you’re looking for a nice, relaxing day of hiking with beautiful views, this is the spot for you! Bears Den is one of the best hike near Washington D.C., for sunset. This easy 1.7 mile out-and-back trail provides a leisurely hike through the lush forest to panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead but this hike can be busy on weekends so it’s best to arrive early! There are also several wineries in the area if you want to end your adventure day with some drinks and food.

7. Buzzard Hill - Bluemont, Virginia

Region: Northwest Virginia
Hike Length: 3.4 Miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fee: FREE
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 1.5 hour from Washington D.C.

If you’re looking for a more challenging hike or backcountry camping in the Bluemont area, Buzzard Hill is a great option! Though the road to get to the trailhead parking lot is gravelly and rough, it is well worth it to tackle this hike. You’ll reach the primitive campground near the summit, but press on to the overlook since you can always double back to make camp. This hike shares the same views of the Shenandoah Valley as its neighboring hike Bears Den, and if you’re looking for a more challenging adventure you can hike an additional three miles to reach that viewpoint as well.

8. Buzzard Rock - Front Royal, Virginia

Best Hikes Near Washington DC

Region: Northwest Virginia
Hike Length: 3.8 Miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fee: FREE
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 1.5 hour from Washington D.C.

Don’t miss out on this hidden gem nestled in the hills of Luray! Follow the well-marked trail up the mountain, traversing a few easy stream crossings along the way. The terrain does get rocky towards the summit but it’s well worth the beautiful views down into the Shenandoah Valley. Be aware that the parking area is small and can fill up quickly. To avoid any issues, arrive early in the morning or start your hike down the road at Signal Knob Trailhead where there is more parking. Don’t park on the street or private property!

9. Theodore Roosevelt Island - Fort Myer, Virginia

Region: Northern Virginia
Hike Length: 3 Miles (total)
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fee: FREE
Get Directions: click here
Travel Time: 15 minutes from Washington D.C.

This island in the heart of the city offers a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle. Though the island was naturally formed, it didn’t always look as it does now. The habitats were created post-Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps and each trail is named for the habitat it passes through. These trails total about 3 miles in length and are perfect for walking or running. To get to the island you must walk across a bridge over the Potomac River. It is also possible to kayak along the river. There is a small parking lot at the bridge but it can fill up quickly so arrive early or prepare to park in a metered parking spot. Do not park on the grass as you will be ticketed!

For such a busy city, it is very cool how much beautiful nature is just a short drive from Washington D.C. Day trips or short overnight camping trips are definitely a must for the nature lovers residing in the city and I hope you enjoyed my recommendations for best hikes near Washington D.C!

Meet Sunshine
and Sancho

I’m so glad you’re here (and so is Sancho). I’m Sunshine! A Virginia-based travel enthusiast on the hunt for cozy stays, great views, unique experiences, and dog-friendly adventures. Sancho and I have spent the past 3 years exploring Virginia (and beyond) in order to share our favorite places and uncover hidden gems.

Join us on a journey to get out of our comfort zone, take the road less traveled, and explore alongside our furry family members.

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