Northern Virginia has some of the best nature reserves, national parks, and monuments in the country, making it the perfect place to get outdoors. There are plenty of reasons to go hiking in Northern Virginia, whether you live in Washington, DC, or are just visiting Looking for some of the best hikes in Northern Virginia? Here are 10 of our favorite destinations to add to your list.
Great Falls Park is a fantastic place to start; it’s located on the border of Maryland and Virginia, just a 30 minute drive from downtown Washington, DC. In this park, you can experience the massive Great Falls cascade and catch glimpses of the Potomac River and its surrounding rock formations. There are also several interesting trails to hike, including the River Trail (1.5 miles, moderate difficulty), which borders the Potomac River atop the craggy rocks, and the Patowmack Canal Trail (1.25 miles, easy difficulty), which runs through a historic canal.
Riverbend Park is another wonderful nature area. In fact, the park is so close that you can hike from Riverbend to Great Falls (or vice versa) in about 3.5 miles round trip. Strolling down the Potomac most of the way, this is definitely one of the nicer hikes in Northern Virginia. Although it is close to Great Falls, this park is unique because it is located—surprise, surprise—on a bend in the river, giving rise to some amazing plant life, animal life, and scenery.
Burke Lake Park is another great option, with 888 acres of lake, forest, and recreational areas—perfect for hikers of all levels. One of the nicest trails in this park spans 4.7 miles around the perimeter of the lake, making it a great place to go hiking in Northern Virginia during the warmer months. Alternatively, you can rent a boat and explore the lake by water!
If you’re looking for a great place to hike near Washington, DC, you’ll definitely want to check out the C&O Canal National Historic Park. This park is situated on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and is home to many historic locks, boats, and buildings. There are also several miles of hiking trails, including a lookout trail with stunning views of Great Falls.
Of all the trails in the park, the Billy Goat Trail is definitely the most popular among hikers. This difficult but rewarding trail takes visitors atop the Potomac River’s rocks. Keep in mind that rock scrambling is required in some parts!
In Northern Virginia, Mason Neck State Park is one of the few state parks where you can enjoy a day hike or a weekend camping trip. This beautiful park is located between the Potomac River and Belmont Bay and is perfect for bird watching. In fact, it’s one of the best places in Virginia to see bald eagles! There are 10 different trails to choose from, each offering breathtaking views of Belmont Bay and Kane’s Creek.
Bull Run Regional Park is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for something close by. This park is especially beautiful in the springtime when all the wildflowers are in bloom. Bull Run also holds significant historical value as it was a hotspot during the Civil War. With over 1,500 acres of park land and several miles of trails, there’s something for everyone at Bull Run Regional Park!
Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park is a great place to explore the world of historic Civil War era towns, industrial ruins, trains, and more. Although the town of Harper’s Ferry is technically in West Virginia, it is located on the border with Virginia and Maryland. Consequently, there are trails in the area spanning all three states, including several hikes in Northern Virginia and Maryland. One of my favorite trails in this area is called Maryland Heights, which affords amazing views of the river and Harper’s Ferry town down below.
The Mount Vernon Trail is another great option for those looking for scenic hikes in Northern Virginia. This 18-mile trail is the perfect place if you’re looking for a scenic morning stroll not far from the city. As a connector between Mount Vernon and Roosevelt Island, the Mount Vernon Trail offers stunning views of the Washington, DC skyline.
Animal lovers will rejoice at the Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge! With its prime location at the intersection of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers, the Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge is a fabulous place to see bald eagles and other migratory birds in the wild. It is a quiet, tranquil place that takes on a different environment depending on the time of year. However, with several hiking trails and observation areas, the Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge is a relaxing place to spend some time admiring the beauty of nature.
Scotts Run Nature Preserve is another great option for those looking for hikes in Northern Virginia. Located in McLean, Virginia, Scotts Run Nature Preserve is a lovely forest hiking area with several interwoven trails to enjoy. There’s an out-and-back waterfall hike that takes hikers from the West parking lot to the Potomac River, passing over rivers and by small waterfalls along the way. There are also several other trails that will take you through the woods and past the historic Burling House ruins. Whether you’re new to hiking or simply want to stroll near the river, Scotts Run Nature Preserve is the perfect low-key place to spend a morning.