Along with some beautiful views, hiking near and within Washington D.C. comes with exploring history. The land has been central to much of the nation's conflicts, evolutions, and foundations, which makes hiking the local trails feel like a journey into the past.
Here is a list of just some of the best hikes near D.C., in scenic locations along the Appalachian Trail, in Shenandoah National Park, and more.
Farms to Forest Trail, Prince William Forest Park
According to the Washingtonian, at around 32 miles from the Washington Monument, this park is 15,000 acres and contains 37 miles of trails. And apparently, during World War II, the trail network was a training facility for the OSS (now the CIA).
The Farms to Forest Trail is considered a moderate hike, which involves three miles of hiking through historic farmland and begins near the Oak Ridge Campground.
Rock Creek Park
This 1,754-acre national park is within D.C., with over 30 miles of trails to discover. Not only that, but it comes with some fascinating history as well. It was the third National Park established, created in 1890, and is home to sites like Peirce Mill, the memorial to Francis Scott Key, and the Civil War defense fort, Fort Stevens, per Washington.org.
Because the park is so expansive, hiking is one of many activities you get do there. Visitors can often be seen running or walking the trails to even riding horseback from one of the two stables located within the park.
Peirce Mill is another popular park destination, a 19th-century gristmill (flour) that later became a Tea House, and now is a historic landmark where visitors can explore the archaic machinery.
According to the National Park Service, another option within Rock Creek is the Nature Center, which also serves as the visitor center for the whole park. Inside there is a planetarium (the only one in the National Park Service) , a bookstore, plant, and animal exhibits, and maps and brochures to get you started on your journey.
Bearfence Trail, Shenandoah National Park
This hike, located in the expansive 80,000 acre Shenandoah National Park, is a little over one mile and connects to the Appalachian Trail. It's named because of frequent bear sightings in the area, especially near the trailhead. The hike itself ends with a summit, a panoramic view that is perfect for family photos, per the Washingtonian.
Loudoun Heights, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Located in West Virginia, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is 64 miles from the Washington Monument. The park itself is loaded with Civil War History, along with over 20 miles of trails to hike.
Loudoun Heights is arguably the hike with the best view though. It is around eight miles, and takes an estimated four and a half hours to complete. While hiking, you will see views of Harpers Ferry, cross the US340 bridge over the famous Shenandoah River, and connect with one of the midpoints of the Appalachian Trail, per West Virginia State Parks and Forests.