Thursday, February 23, 2017

5 Best Hikes Near D.C.

Hiking is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. Growing up I wasn't exactly what you would call 'outdoorsy' but once I got older I realized just how great hiking was for both the mind and body.

First and foremost I love hiking because it takes you into the mountains. I'm the type of girl that rather than own a beach vacation home I yearn to own a mountain vacation home (in Montana if my dreams really were to come true).

Also, it's SUCH a good workout without really feeling like you're exerting yourself. Some parts of trails are more difficult, that's for sure, but usually you can just go for hours and hours, and instead of worrying about getting tired, you're just taking in the beautiful views. The next day you definitely feel it, but it's one of those 'hurts-so-good' feelings.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania I was constantly in the mountains to ski, hike (even though I HATED it when I was younger), and camp. Because it was such a part of my childhood I think I also love it because it brings back just a bit of nostalgia.

Those same mountains still aren't very far from me here in D.C. (Pittsburgh is only a 4-hour drive away), but I've also been recently exposed to a whole new range of mountains south and south-west of D.C.: The Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains. These are two new ranges I'm thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to adventure because they're definitely on a bit of a bigger scale than Western Pennsylvania peaks.

I've said it before and I'll say it time and time again that D.C. is in such a great location because we're just hours (often even less) from many mountain ranges, beautiful beaches, and other cities worth exploring.

With the spring weather rapidly approaching I simply can't wait to get back out there and hike my weekends away. I do go hiking in the winter months, but I find it just so much more enjoyable in just a tad-bit warmer air.

Those day-dreams considered, I wanted to share some of my favorite hikes I've been on both in and around Washington, D.C. Some are a little bit farther away and I'll indicate the time it takes to drive, but others are right in my backyard. I'll tell you about five of my favorites that I've been on in the past couple years, but I can't wait to keep you all updated as I begin to explore more and more!

My 5 Favorite Hikes Near D.C.:

1) Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

Old Rag is the most difficult of the hikes I've listed. It's peak is at 3,294 ft. and the trail loop it about 8-9 miles. The most challenging part of the hike is an area called the 'rock park' where you are climbing over rocks and boulders before you get to the top before descending. 

The views are absolutely breath-taking and if I could make any recommendation it would be to go in the Fall to see the seas of red and orange across the spanning Shenandoah mountains.

The drive is about 1.5 hours from D.C. so it's a very easy day trip.

2) Harper's Ferry National Historical Park

Harper's Ferry National Park is one of my absolute new favorite day-trip destinations from D.C. I went for the first time just a few weeks ago (see my raving review here) and I simply cannot recommend visiting any more.

Harper's Ferry has multiple trails that range in difficulty and is on the border of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. The views are simply breathtaking and you're given the opportunity to visit the historic town of Harper's Ferry.

The drive is only 45 minutes from D.C. which makes it almost impossible NOT to get up and go visit!

3) Great Falls Park, Virginia and Maryland

Great Falls Park is more of a 'walk' rather than a 'hike' per say. Some of the trails on the Maryland side are a bit more challenging, but ultimately you are walking alongside the water with spectacular views of the falls. 

I would recommend spending the morning exploring the Virginia-side and then the afternoon exploring the Maryland-side. Both have different views of the falls that are absolutely picture-worthy.

The drive is barely 15 minutes from D.C. so it does tend to get pretty packed on weekends in the summer, but it is absolutely worth it as a day-trip any time of the year!

4) Swallow Falls Canyon Trail, Deep Creek, Maryland

I did the Swallow Falls Canyon trail for the first time this past September with all of my best girl friends while we were in Deep Creek for a Bachelorette Party

I've been to Deep Creek, MD countless times (it's only 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh so it was a popular destination for me as a child). I'd never done this trail though and it was gorgeous! It's only about a 3-mile loop but it takes you past multiple levels of water falls and gives you the opportunity to hike up to the top of the highest. The views are spectacular!

Deep Creek is about 3 hours from D.C. but there are countless numbers of lake homes, cabins, and hostels to stay at for a great weekend trip that could include hiking, swimming, and various other lake-activities!

5) Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

So I honestly had never heard of Smith Mountain Lake, but I had a different bachelorette party over Labor Day weekend this past year (seems like weekends at the lake are popular bachelorette party ideas these days!) and I'm hooked! 

Smith Mountain Lake is first and foremost GORGEOUS! We stayed in a gorgeous log cabin right on the lake with deck views of both the lake and the mountains behind it. It also had a hot tub that I may or may not have soaked in the majority of the trip based on the gorgeous views.

There was a lake trail not far from where we were staying that sprawled for miles upon miles (Smith Mountain Lake is HUGE) so we did about 4-5 miles before calling it a day. I'm certain you could do upwards of 10-15 miles and not even question how far you had gone.

Smith Mountain Lake is about 4 hours from D.C. west towards the Blacksburg area. I recommend a long weekend so that you can enjoy the views, hiking, boating, and relaxing that comes with the lake!


This list will be ever-growing so stay tuned as a write more posts on places to hike around D.C.! Also, my travels out west will be starting soon so there will be definitely be updates on more strenuous hikes from around the country. Have a great Thursday, every body!

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