“Walking for health” is now a phenomenon well respected by the most prestigious medical schools. And for those who don’t want to confine their exercise to indoors, our nation’s capital has (or is conveniently close to) many wonderful trails for hiking.
Indeed, health benefits of hiking are simply innumerable. From being one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress to getting into the shape everybody would dream of, treating yourself a fine stroll even only a few miles every now and then would do good both to your body and soul more than anything else possibly could.
The following list will tell you where to best take your healthiest enthusiasm to in and around town.
Mount Vernon Trail
Let’s start with the one that has a particular significance: Mount Vernon Trail.
Stretching from Rosslyn, Virginia, in the north to the historic and monumental estate of the first U.S. president, this 17-mile paved path offers a picturesque view all along. And the fact that it runs mostly flat, without steep up or down hills, makes it very comfortable to use for hiking.
Especially when the leaves change in fall and the life strikes you with its freshest colors in spring and summer, no walker/jogger/cyclist can leave this trail with less than however much they expected of their experience here.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Before moving on to the spots in D.C. itself, there is still much fun to have hiking with another park that also has a historic background: Theodore Roosevelt Island. As a designed landscape, it has three separate trails, from half a mile-long to one and a half mile-long, that allow for a memorable and equally healing walk.
Of them, the outer, also the longest trail, around the island, is actually a loop so you can easily continue your hiking for as long as you like here. Doing that, stunning views of the Potomac River would add so much to your exercise day out. An absolute must-see just outside the capital city!
Capital Crescent Trail
Keen followers of our Explore D.C. feature series would know that the articles here would hardly overlook Georgetown in any review of the nation’s capital. Nor will this latest addition. Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) at 3500 K Street NW is one reason why it won’t.
CCT runs along the route of the old Georgetown Branch, a railroad line that was used for nearly a century until 1985, from Georgetown in the south to Bethesda, Maryland, in the north for just over seven miles. A 3.5-mile long extension will reconnect the busy trail for commuters to as far as Silver Spring in the east, possibly in 2021.
The current path as is, however, offers the most enjoyable hiking experience. All the shaded areas, benches, restrooms and water fountains supply all the essentials any hiker would need in the meantime.
Glover Archbold Trail
While in the historic neighborhood, hiking enthusiasts could also give a try to the Glover Archbold Trail (GAT).
Running between the Glover Park in the north and the Potomac River shoreline in the south for slightly longer than three miles, GAT promises a beautiful stroll under the canopy of trees almost all along the route.
And seeing a wild deer should not come as a surprise to any hiker here, since the nature gets the right amount of respect it deserves from both the authorities and the residents in this area. So much authenticity will guarantee an absolute detox from all the downsides of an urban life.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Without a separate paragraph on the Georgetown Waterfront Park (GWP), however, this list would still not represent the neighborhood’s significance for hiking as much as it should. That is because this park demonstrates what governments can do to tip the balance to the benefit of nature even in densely populated urban areas.
Along the banks of the Potomac River between the 31st Street, NW, to Key Bridge, GWP offers a mesmerizing opportunity to put your legs and feet to work to relax. Hikers should walk the full-length of the park to experience the beautiful pastoral views from the river and the pleasures of being at the water’s edge particularly when the summer heat becomes unbearable downtown.
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
Nevertheless, recommending the townsfolk only the Potomac as a waterfront hiking spot would be unfair to the town’s other river, Anacostia. That is because the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, for instance, would make sure any visitor gets away from the hustle and bustle of the city life just as much as the other parks and trails would do by the Potomac River in the northwest.
Developers still work to expand this trail into a continuous 20-mile stretch along the southeastern river, but the current 12-mile stretch is more than enough to hike and chill by the water. So, put your most comfortable shoes on and take your next experience to a less popular yet equally enjoyable spot.
Rock Creek Park
Crowning this list, however, could be with none other than the Rock Creek Park in the north, a giant green area with lots of picnic and sports amenities including nature walk. Spending hours hiking and exploring right at the bosom of Mother Nature is what many D.C. residents do on a regular basis, like once a week, to get a refill of survival energy for the rest of their time in the city almost year-round.
Inside, there are primarily two trails parallel to each other and many others that connect the two. All of them combined, the entire grid of hiking is longer than 30 miles. Hikers, however, can choose their path and create their own loop from this huge network of trails and walk only as long as they like without getting lost in this over 1700-acre big area.