Note: The earlier you get to any of these trails the better, especially on weekends. Trails are not written in any particular order. Parking scales are based on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being easy parking and one being hard parking.
Since March, the places and things that you could do have been limited. Gone are the days of parties and shopping malls. Despite all of this, it is still important to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Even though you might not be able to go to the gym anymore or swimming pool, hiking trails and parks are still open. Within the Washington, D.C metro area, there are tons of different hiking trails that you can visit. From short, flat walks to challenging steep hikes, there is something for everyone.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve
Distance from W-L: 21 Minutes/8.2 miles
Scott’s Run is an enjoyable trail that takes you through a forest, past a creek, and to the Potomac River. With a combination of different terrain and scenery, you really get to see it all. Depending on what path you take, you can walk alongside the Potomac for an easy flat walk. For a more challenging hike, you can venture up some of the steep hills in the forest. To get to the Potomac area of the park, you must cross a creek using stepping stones, proving a unique element to the park. However, if you wish to go on the weekend to the park, I highly recommend you try to get there before 8 a.m. There is very limited parking, and it fills up very quickly. The park does allow dogs, but if your dog cannot cross a stream, has trouble with uneven terrain and [depending on what route you take] cannot go up steep hills, I do not recommend bringing them. Scott’s Run has a variety of trail difficulties and paths to explore, so you will never get bored.
Great Falls Park
Distance from W-L: 27 minutes/12.2 miles
Great Falls Park is a national park that is located on the Potomac River, where you get a stunning view of the river’s rapids. There are several trails within the park that run alongside the Potomac, and there are a few overlook points where you can view the falls. The park has restrooms (which are now closed due to COVID-19) and picnic tables. Depending on which trail you take, you can go on a slightly flatter or rockier trail. They have several parking lots, so you should be able to go anytime during the day, but if you don’t want to park super far away, get there early to be safe. Parking does cost $20 for a car. If you want stunning scenery and a relatively easy traill, this is the place for you.
Huntley Meadows Park
Distance from W-L: 32 minutes/15 miles
Located in Alexandria, Huntley Meadows Park takes you on a boardwalk through the wetlands and looping back around through a surrounding forest, the area is blooming with life. Several different species of turtles, frogs and birds can be seen in the wetlands and surrounding areas. The trail is flat with no hills, making it perfect if you want a relaxing, peaceful hike. The parking lot is never full, even on holiday weekends, making parking a breeze. However, dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk. If you do want to bring your dog, you must stay on the forest trail. In the summer, it can get very bright and hot while on the boardwalk, so I recommend you bring sunglasses or a hat. This walk is great if you want an easy, peaceful and animal-filled walk.
Burke Lake Park
Distance from W-L: 33 minutes/24.7 miles
Burke Lake Park is located out in Fairfax around Burke Lake. With stunning views of the lake, camping opportunities and kayaking, this park has something for everyone. The trail is relatively flat and loops around the lake. Dogs are allowed, and there is a relatively big parking lot. This park is very popular, so there are lots of people around and parking fills up quickly. There is also an ice cream parlor and mini golf inside the park. This trail is perfect if you want an easy walk with beautiful scenery.
Turkey Run Park
Distance from W-L: 13 minutes/6.3 miles
Turkey Run Park is located off the Potomac River and George Washington (GW) Parkway. This park has multiple parking lots and is very accessible. Use the exits on the GW Parkway, because your GPS may take you to the wrong spot. The park is covered by trees in a dense forest, and has several hills to walk up and down. With the ability to cross streams and see a miniature waterfall, the hike is very scenic. You can bring dogs, but proceed with caution as the terrain is not even. This trail is great if you want something a bit challenging.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Distance from W-L: 12 min/5.5 miles
Roosevelt Island is located off of George Washington Parkway, and is an island on the Potomac River. The longest trail takes you around the island, through the forest and onto a boardwalk through a marsh. This is a very popular place (for good reason), but it can get crowded and their parking lot can fill up fast. This flat trail will take you through a variety of landscapes. The park is dog friendly, including on the boardwalk. This trail is great if you want an easy trail that takes you past some historical monuments on the island.
Great Falls, VA
Distance from W-L: 29 minutes/16.3 miles
Riverbend Park contains several trails that take you along the Potomac River. Depending on the trail you take, you can either go on flatter trails or on steeper trails. One trail can take you all the way to Great Falls, while another can show you where an eagle nest is across the river. Riverbend also has a nature center and benches along some of the trails. This trail is dog and even horse friendly–some choose to go horseback riding here. The park has two parking lots that fill up relatively quickly. If you get there before 10 a.m. on weekends, you should be fine. If you want to go on a relaxing, peaceful walk, this is the trail for you.
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Distance from W-L: 7 minutes/1.9 miles
Potomac Overlook Park has several trails running through it, along with a creek that flows into the Potomac River. With the hilly terrain and multiple ways to cross the creek, you can go on a different adventure each time. The park is located in a dense forest, with several side trails that take you to all corners of the forest. There are multiple places to park, including on the street or by the nature center. You can venture all the way to the Potomac River, where the Potomac Heritage Trail runs through it. The trails can be very narrow and steep in some parts, making it challenging and fun. This park is dog friendly, however, be aware that your dog may need to cross a creek and go up steep hills. This trail is perfect if you want a more difficult trail, but still want to be immersed in nature.
Even though you may not be able to see and do the things you want, there are still plenty of options to get outside and be active. There is nothing wrong with putting away your phone for a while and going for a walk in the outdoors. Hiking is a great way to relax the mind and get a workout in. Regardless of whether you go on an easy 30-minute hike or a challenging 90-minute hike, you won’t regret it.