The hike to Mary's Rock follows the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. It's just over three-miles round trip yet manages to get the heart pumping, offers expansive views, and is pet-friendly. Mary's Rock is an extremely popular hike, especially on a beautiful day.
Located right outside of DC on the G.W. Parkway and two-miles of flat wooded path and boardwalk over swamps, Roosevelt Island is a good option for a quick after work hike on a weekday or leisurely stroll on the weekend. Glimpses of iconic buildings are a bonus!
The Mountain Loop trail on Sugarloaf Mountain (only 40 minutes outside of D.C.) is a great close-to-home hike. The uphills are only short bursts across six miles with a spectacular view of the valley at White Rocks. And you can stop for a post-hike drink at the Sugarloaf Mountain vineyard.
West Side Trail
The West Side Trail at the National Arboretum might not jump out by name but you’ll know it by the National Capitol Columns, one of the most photographed places in D.C.! Fret not if you’re not into crowds, the trail quickly veers away from this spot and becomes a serene and peaceful walk.
Little Schloss in the George Washington National Forest is the sister hike to the more famous Big Schloss. Probably with reason… unlike Big Schloss, this one is a climb all the way to the top. On a fall day with foliage colors popping, all that work to a nearly empty summit is beyond worthwhile!
Within reasonable driving distance from D.C., the hike to Annapolis Rocks on the Appalachian Trail is a popular hike. My legs and my lungs usually feel the first two miles of uphill and then enjoy the level trail. The viewpoint, especially when there are bear sightings, is totally worth the early huffing and puffing.
Though a gentle and short hike at just under 3 miles, Tibet Knob in the George Washington National Forest offers spectacular views. While probably not worth the long drive from D.C. by itself, the hike would make a good combination with Big Schloss or a camping trip to Wolf Gap.
One of several beautiful hikes in the Wolf Gap camping area, Big Schloss will get the heart and legs pumping in the first mile. Then the trail mostly levels out through a forest path. There are several beautiful views throughout the trail but the big reward is at the summit.
A favorite among new and experienced hikers in the D.C. area, Old Rag is a fun, boulder-hopping hike that offers plenty of views of Shenandoah National Park. The mountain offers something unique every season, but fall is my favorite time to take on this hike!