American Hiking Society HQ is located just outside of Washington, DC, and AHS staff often get asked the question: “Where are the best places to hike around Washington, DC?”
The truth is there are many green spaces in and around DC, and a great many places to hike. Below is a list of our staff’s favorite places to hike within 20 minutes of Washington, DC.
The Seneca Creek Greenway Trail runs almost 20 miles from Gaithersburg, Maryland down to the Potomac River. Seneca Creek is named after the Seneca tribe of Iroquois Indians who were indigenous to western New York and western Maryland. This trail opened in 1997.
The C&O Canal Tow Path starts in Georgetown and runs 185 miles all the way out to Cumberland, Maryland. This historic path offers hikers the chance to follow a transport route used since 1828, featuring 74 original locks, 12 aqueducts, and approximately 20 lockhouses. Flat and wide, the trail follows the beautiful Potomac River; there will be a lot to see as you hike any part of it.
Potomac Heritage Trail. A great section, rife with waterfalls and good fishing runs 5 miles from Roosevelt Island to Chain Bridge. Scrambling over boulders and watching cormorants dive for fish in the river, you won’t believe the nation’s capital is only a few minutes’ drive away.
Cash Lake Loop in the Patuxent Research Refuge. Over in Maryland, just 20 miles from DC, is an easy, 4.5 mile hike on the Cash Lake Loop (South Tract) in the Patuxent Research Refuge. Many animal species including beaver, deer and a variety of waterfowl are protected in this wildlife refuge. You’ll walk through pine forests and near marshy lakes in an area that is arguably the wildest place within 75 miles of Washington.
Rock Creek Park. For a nice cool hike in the heat of summer, go to the Western Ridge Trail. You may catch a glimpse of some deer that make the park their home as you make your way along this surprisingly rugged 4.3-mile trail overlooking the waters of Rock Creek.