Black woman in hijab posing in front of the Maryland Heights Overlook

One of the main reasons DC is considered one of the best places to visit it its quick access to outdoor activities. Within an hour, you can climb a mountain, chase some waterfalls, or lounge on a beach. I came to DC over 10 years ago and have hiked numerous trails near me, so you can take my word that these are the best hikes near DC.

Sugarloaf Mountain: Northern Peaks and Saddleback Horse Trail

This dog-friendly vintage trail is an absolute gem. You can complete Northern Peaks and Saddleback Horse Trail in an hour.

There are lots of stairs, and your calves are going to burn after this short but sweet hike. However, the views of the mountainside make it all worth it. I loved seeing all the wildflowers and tree blooms. It’s a busy weekend trail but spacious enough for everyone. There are a few different trails, so I recommend trying a few different ones to fully experience the mountain. Make sure to bring your bug spray, you’re going to need it!

Distance from DC: 39 miles

Difficulty Level: moderate

Great Falls Park: River Trail Loop

the waterfall at Great Falls Park

Most visitors to DC Don’t realize there’s a waterfall less than 35 minutes from Washington DC. Great Falls Park is a beautiful national park with many trails and gorgeous views.

River Trail Loop is a moderate trail with many rocks, but you don’t need to hike far to see the waterfalls. A wheelchair-accessible observation deck is located close to the welcome center, and a few other observation decks are scattered about. I usually wear my TEVAS on moderate trails, but you may want to wear hiking boots on this trail.

Distance from DC: 15 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Harper’s Ferry: Maryland Heights

Black woman in hijab posing in front of the Maryland Heights Overlook

Harper’s Ferry is hands-down one of the prettiest places in the Washington, DC, region to see the fall foliage. It’s a historic city filled with museums, old eateries, and vintage buildings, but Maryland Heights Trail is the city’s highlight.

Maryland Heights is a moderate trail, 4.5 miles long. It took us 3.5 hours to complete. Although it has many steep parts, there are plenty of rocks to rest on if you need a break.

Afterward, we enjoyed a good meal and post-hike coffee at Rabbit Hole, but there were plenty of other options.

Most people don’t realize that you don’t need a car to visit Harper’s Ferry. There’s a nearby Amtrak station, so it’s only a train stop away.

Distance from DC: 66 Miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Rock Creek Park : Western Ride and Valley Trail Loop

Sunset at Rock Creek Park
credit: Der Berzerker

I’m a sucker for trails that pass through creeks. Western Ridge and Valley Trail Loop is a gorgeous scenic hike with a few hills, but it is manageable.

It’s a dog-friendly hike with lots of large rocks. It does get a bit busy during summer weekends.

Distance from DC: Located in Washington DC

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Shenandoah: Lewis Falls

a waterfall surrounded by fall foliage
credit: Andrew Parlette

Lewis Falls is a good alternative to the often overcrowded Dark Hollow hike. This hike can get rough. There’s a step incline and lots of rocks. It’s best to go after heavy rainfall so the views are worth it. It’s big dog-friendly; some small dogs may have issues with all the rocks.

You must go to the viewing platform on the other side of the falls.

Distance from DC: 102 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

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