Whether you’re looking to have a picnic, take a hike, rent a boat, or go birdwatching, Washington-area parks have something for everyone. Here are five local favorites:
*Great Falls National Park
15 miles from downtown DC, Great Falls National Park features spectacular views of the Potomac cascading over a series of steep, rocky boulders. You can also learn about one of the nation’s first canals and explore museum exhibits in the visitor’s center. Picnic tables, grills, and bike rentals are also available.
*Catoctin Mountain State Park & Cunningham Falls State Park
68 miles from DC you’ll find these two incredible parks, featuring miles of trails extending into valleys and up to the mountaintops, plus a 75-acre manmade lake with three swimming beaches. The highlight of these parks is Cunningham Falls—a 78-foot waterfall, Maryland’s highest. These parks are great for camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
*Shenandoah National Park
Located 75 miles from the city along a stretch of Virginia mountainside from Front Royal to near Waynesboro, Shenandoah National Park offers two of the Mid-Atlantic’s best hiking trails: Old Rag Mountain and White Oak Canyon. The park also has a scenic roadway, Skyline Drive, with 70 stunning overlooks.
*Rock Creek Park
This centrally-located park in DC has 30+ miles of trails and paved paths, plus tennis courts and open fields, perfect for a summer picnic. Families will also want to check out the nature center, planetarium, and horse center.
*Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Park
Starting in Georgetown and running all the way to Cumberland, this 184.5-mile park has a crushed-stone pathway, perfect for long walks, jogs, and cycling. You can also visit the Great Falls Tavern Visitor’s Center for views of the falls from the Maryland side. At the District end of the towpath, Fletcher’s Boathouse rents kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards.