There’s nothing quite like the peace and tranquility of a park. If the downtown life is bring you down, head over to one of these best national parks located near D.C. and experience some one-on-one time with Mother Nature. She’s got the perfect medicine to cure your downtown blues.
Rock Creek Park
3545 Williamsburg Ln. NW
Washington, DC 20008
For a taste of nature that’s not too far from home, head over to Rock Creek Park where you will find fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals and the peaceful sounds of a flowing creek. With over 32 miles of trails, Rock Creek Park makes the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park also features horse trails, a tennis center, playgrounds and a boat center. Look for distant galaxies and stars with a ranger-led planetarium program or stop by the Nature Center and learn more about local plants and animals.
C&O Canal National Historical Park
11710 MacArthur Blvd.
Potomac, MD 20854
Spanning over 185 miles, the C&O Canal National Historical Park is the perfect destination for hikers, bikers and nature lovers. Once known as the transportation route for items such as coal, lumber and agricultural products, the national park is now home to a variety of activities including canal boat rides, fishing, hiking, biking and horseback riding. Learn about the history of the canal at the Georgetown Visitor Center or use your cell phone and go on a mobile canal tour. Ranger-led programs and guided tours are also available.
Catoctin Mountain Park
6602 Foxville Rd.
Thurmont, MD 21788
Located a short drive from DC, the Catoctin Mountain Park has everything you need for a peaceful park setting. The 5,810-acre hardwood forest features tranquil streams, beautiful plants and stunning vistas. Home to more than 280 species, chances are you will see a wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, chipmunks or a white tail dear during your stay. Catoctin Mountain Park also contains more than 750 plant species, including 60 different types of trees. Things to do at the park include hiking, rock climbing, fishing, cross country skiing and camping. Ranger-led programs are also available.
Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Dr.
McLean, VA 22102
Admire the majestic beauty and power of the Potomac River as it crashes over jagged rocks and steep cliffs at Great Falls Park. The 800-acre park is home to a variety of rare plant life and animals including box turtles and coyotes. Head over to the overlooks to watch the waterfalls or grab your binoculars and search for more than 160 species of birds, like the songbird or the kingfishers. Great Falls Park also features five miles of trails, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding and areas for picnicking. Guided tours are also available.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
171 Shoreline Dr.
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
For a national park that’s not just grass and trees, head to Harpers Ferry where you can stroll quiet streets, visit quaint shops and learn more about how this area played a unique role in American history. Explore museums and exhibits, go for a hike along storied Civil War skirmish lines or sign up for a guided tour. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park also offers living history workshops, a historical bookshop and a visitor’s center. Don’t forget to visit boutique shops, restaurants, vineyards and lodging located nearby the park.
Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.