When you think of Washington D.C. you probably envision the monuments and museums. Most of the activities associated with Washington D.C. require a traveler to be inside. This post shows another side of the nation’s capital…the amazing outdoor activities the D.C. area has to offer! Here are my top five suggestions:
1. Walk, Bike, Jog or Run the National Mall
The National Mall is obviously a high-traffic tourist spot. But if you get up early in the morning (6:00 AM – 9:00 AM) you can get a great workout in and have a personal tour around the capital’s most incredible sights before the crowds start show up. The entire loop is approximately 4 miles. Starting at the Watergate Steps (behind the Lincoln Memorial) head East to the Lincoln Memorial. After the Lincoln Memorial, continue past the Reflecting Pool, the World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and then cross 14th St. Once you have crossed 14th St, circle around the National Mall (between the museums) and loop back to the start
2. Hike the Billy Goat Trail
When I first looked at hiking in Great Falls Park I really didn’t think it would be anything spectacular. Honestly, I figured it was going to be a nice little walk along the Potomac River that would allow me to escape city life for a little. But let me tell you what…I was impressed with this park! It’s a little oasis just outside the bustling city. Billy Goat Trail is broken into three sections. I parked in Carderock Park, which you can access off of the Clara Barton Parkway. Carderock Park leads you right into Billy Goat Section C. If you want to complete the total 12 mile loop here is the route I suggest: (1) park at Carderock Park, (2) head Southeast on the towpath. (Note: the towpath is a very flat walking path that connects into Washington D.C. – when I first hiked this I thought it was an access route and not a “trail” but it is…so stick with it!), (3) head down via the canal path to the southern entrance of Billy Goat Section C (~2 miles), (4) hike Billy Goat Section C (~1.5 miles), (5) hike to the southern entrance of Billy Goat Trail Section B and hike Section B (~2 miles), (6) hike from the northern entrance of Section B and enter the Southern entrance of Section A and hike Section A – HERE’S WHERE IT GETS GOOD! – (~2 miles). Section A is the longest section and most “difficult” part of the Billy Goat Trail. Please know that no dogs are allowed on this trail section. Although it’s a little less than 2 miles it gets pretty tricky at points. There is a section that you scale the side of the rocks with about a 100′ drop that leads down into the water. You follow along the river and climb/scramble over some pretty sweet terrain. Also know that there are signed that state you can not swim, wade, or go out into the river. Want more info? Check out the National Park Service’s website HERE.
(From National Park Service – see link above)
3. Rock Climb at Great Falls Park
Climbing sites are also located at Great Falls Park – same place as Billy Goat Trail. The sites are downstream of the falls beginning at Overlook #2. Each route is between 25-75′. By parking at Carderock Park you can easily access the climbing locations. To read more about the climbing available at Great Falls Park click HERE.
4. Stand-Up Paddle Board on the Potomac River
It gets super hot and humid in D.C. in the summertime. So no better way to beat the heat then to do some standup paddleboarding on the Potomac River. Although I’d highly discourage actually swimming in the Potomac, it is a unique way to explore Georgetown. Interested? The Washingtonian wrote a great article summarizing the top four SUP rental spots in D.C. –> click here.
5. Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island
Last but not least the little known Theodore Roosevelt Island. I always run by this island but I have not stopped in yet. That being said, it is a great place for outdoor adventurers to escape the city – if only for a hour or so. You can rent a kayak and paddle around the island or go on the island via the Virginia-side entrance. To plan your trip to the island click here.