Best Hiking Trails In The Washington DC Area

July 27, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

For avid hikers, the trails around the greater Washington DC area are fun and challenging. Hiking trails should always offer beautiful views of nature, but the advantage of the Mid-Atlantic Region is that the trails often provide scenic views of mountains, lakes and historical landmarks. Whether it’s the iconic Appalachian Trail or the trail at Sugarloaf Mountain, the trails around the DC area are spectacular. These locations provide beginner, intermediate and advanced hikers with beautiful scenery and adjoining park activities.

Appalachian Trail
South Mountain State Park
21843 National Pike
Boonsboro, MD 21713
(301) 791-4767 

The Appalachian Trail of Maryland passes through South Mountain State Park. The trail in Maryland is relatively mild but packed with amazing scenic views. The most popular stops along the trail are Annapolis Rock, Black Rock and the Weverton Cliffs. The route from South Mountain State Park to Black Rock Cliff is roughly eight miles long and makes for a good day-long hike roundtrip. 

Black Hill Trail
Black Hill Regional Park
20930 Lake Ridge Drive
Boyds, MD 20841
(301) 972-3476

The Black Hill Trail of Black Hill Regional Park of northern Montgomery County in Maryland is the main trail provided by the park. The 4.3-mile trail is primarily a hard-surface trail but offers gorgeous views of the Little Seneca Lake. With some steep and rocky sections, the trail has a few places to exercise advanced hiking skills.

Lake Needwood Trail
Rock Creek Regional Park
6129 Needwood Lake Drive
Rockville, MD 20855
(301) 948-5053

The Lake Needwood Trail of Rock Creek Regional Park offers a combination of hiking, biking and rollerblading trails. With over seven miles of natural-surface hiking trails and beautiful views of Lake Needwood, the hiking portion of the trial is worth a visit. The hiking trails also take hikers through moderate forest trails. Enjoy a snack or meal beside the lake for a picturesque experience. 
Related: Best Campgrounds In The DC Area

River Trail
Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA 22102
(703) 285-2965

Great Falls Park offers many ways to explore nature. The River Trail begins downstream of the falls and follows the iconic Potomac River upstream through the narrow Mather Gorge. This scenic park provides 15 miles of hiking trails. It would make a great day trip if you’re looking to get some fresh air and exercise with friends or family. Definitely pack a lunch as you’ll need some nourishment along the way.

Yellow Trail (Saddleback Horse Trail)
Sugarloaf Mountain
7901 Comus Road
Dickerson, MD 20842
(301) 874-2024

The longest looped trail of Sugarloaf Mountain, the Yellow Trail is a seven-mile loop around the base of the mountain. The trail is surrounded by forest on all sides, and while paved, can be difficult in wet weather. As a Registered Natural Landmark, Sugarloaf Mountain encourages public visitation and exploration. This trail option allows you to view the beauty of a mountainous hike without the work of climbing vertically. 

Related: Best Mountain Biking And Hiking In The DC Area

Kayleigh Bryant is a D.C. native, traveler, foodie, artist and frequent museum visitor. Her lifelong fascination with art has moved her to explore the themes, techniques and media artists have employed to express their ideas. Kayleigh has earned a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. Her work can be found on