Searching for the best hikes near DC for families? Washington DC isn’t just a home base for our nation’s capital, it’s also a great jumping-off point for some of the best family-friendly hikes for kids of all ages. Take in DC-area picturesque views nestled among trees or high among the mountain tops. Make a day trip of it or take the family on a weekend filled with outdoor adventure! To help you narrow your choices, we’ve compiled the top 10 hikes near Washington, DC for families. Not only have we recommended hikes based on kids’ ages, but we’ve also suggested some places to fuel up nearby before or after your family hike. From the tip of West Virginia to central Virginia, we have you covered the besthiking trails near DC with kids!
Best Hikes near DC for Infants and Toddlers (Stroller/Wheelchair Friendly)
If you want to hike near DC with toddlers, don’t worry! A lot of the trails in the area are stroller-friendly and suited for even the tiniest trekkers. Here are some of the best kid-friendly hiking trails near DC!
Capital Crescent Trail
Within Washington, DC and Neighboring Montgomery County, MD
TheCapital Crescent Trail extends 11 miles from Washington, DC into Montgomery County, MD, and is suitable for both walking and biking. Plus, it’s stroller-friendly, making it one of the best hikes near DC for families with young kids. Families can access the southern trailhead in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood along the Potomac River. Or, the current northern trailhead in Bethesda, MD – another family-friendly neighborhood about seven miles away. Families can walk through tunnels, see a reservoir, bridges, and ruins of an old mill, and even connect to other hiker-biker trails like Little Falls Trail. It’s a true urban oasis! Unlike most of the trails on this list, Capital Crescent Trail is Metro-accessible from the Bethesda Station and Rosslyn Station. (Though the latter is close to a mile walk to the southern trailhead.)
Where to Eat near the Capital Crescent Trail with Kids
If you start and/or end in Georgetown, there is no shortage of family-friendly restaurants to head to after hiking in DC with kids. Good Stuff Eatery puts you at the center of M Street shopping, while Sequoia or Guapo’sputs you right on the Potomac River. Don’t forget ice cream from Thomas Sweet! For those in Bethesda, considerSilver,Uncle Julio’s, orRaku. Like Georgetown, it has its own outpost for Georgetown Cupcake (order a day ahead to avoid lines). No matter which option you choose, kids will love celebrating the accomplishment of finishing one of the best family-friendly hiking trails near DC!
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
2 Hours from Washington, DC
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests offer some of the best hiking near Washington, DC for families!Spanning the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia into West Virginia and even Kentucky, they comprise nearly 1.8 million acres of gorgeous nature. Closest to DC is the Lee Ranger District, which is great for hiking near DC with toddlers. For a great view, walk the toddler-friendly Storybook Trailor immerse yourselves in the woods with Lion’s Tale Trail.(Who knows, you may even spot a wild horse!) You can also take in the views from Woodstock Tower, a historical structure dating back to 1935. Have an adventurous kid in your family? Try hang gliding from Edith’s Gap to take in scenic views. There’s nothing like soaring over the brilliant colors from above! Admission and basic activities, such as hiking, are generally free to the public.
Where to Eat near the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests with Kids
One of the major towns nearby – Luray – is not only the home base of the Cabin Capital of Virginia, but the town also has great family-friendly restaurants. Check out Gathering Grounds for amazing breakfast and lunch options before or after your hike. For a treat from late spring to early fall, visit Flotzie’s for ice cream! A special treat is a great way to end a day full of hiking near Washington, DC with kids!
Want views of waterfalls while hiking near DC with kids? Look no further than Great Falls National Park! Located just outside of the city in Great Falls, Virginia, this picturesque park features over fifteen miles of hiking trails near DC for families. If families don’t want to venture far for scenic views, there are three overlooks within a five-to ten-minute walk of the main visitor center. One of the most scenic points, the Great Falls, is only around ten minutes from the main parking lot. Plus, two out of the three overlooks are stroller-friendly! On weekends, if the parking lot fills up quickly, the entrance will close. Plan to arrive early (it’s open from 7 a.m. until sunset) and make the most of your time! After all, it offers some of the best kid-friendly hiking near Washington, DC. There is an admission fee whether arriving by vehicle, bike, or foot.
Where to Eat near Great Falls National Park with Kids
About five minutes away is the center of Great Falls, Virginia, (the corner of Walker Road and Georgetown Pike). Here, you can fuel up quickly after hiking around DC with kids. Get a quick treat at Starbucks or some great Italian takeout at Deli Italiano!
Theodore Roosevelt Island
10 Minutes from Washington, DC
Want an island getaway in our nation’s capital? Theodore Roosevelt Island has it all from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily! Accessible via footbridge along the Potomac River, this memorial to America’s 26th President is one of the best outdoor activities in DCfor families. In fact, there arethree kid-friendly hiking trails, ranging from 1/3 to 1.5 miles, paved with pea gravel and/or boardwalk. Kids will love the Woods Trail, which passes through the heart of the island. Parking is limited, however, so arrive early – especially on the weekends! With so many family-friendly options, it’s no wonder this made our list of the best hikes near DC for families!
Notes: If you embark on these hikes near DC with kids later than fall, restrooms are usually closed during the winter, but the park offers porta-potties.
Where to Eat near Theodore Roosevelt Island with Kids
If you’ve worked up an appetite after hiking near DC with kids, the nearby Rosslyn neighborhood in Arlington has you covered with chain favorites like Cosi, Sweetgreen, and Chipotle. Try Sfoglina’s for some fancier Italian or head to local chains like District Taco and Wiseguy Pizza.
U.S. National Arboretum
Within Washington, DC
Nature-loving families can’t miss a visit to the U.S. National Arboretum! Located in Northeast DC, it comprises nearly 450 acres of diverse horticulture, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s also a great place to bring the kids for a tranquil break from the city, even if you just wander spontaneously for an hour or two. Plus, admission is free! Wondering what you’re looking at as you stroll the grounds? Their interactive map, the Arboretum Botanical Explorer, will answer all your questions! Kids will love seeing what flora they can spot, and they’ll probably learn something in the process, too. (Not to mention tire themselves out in one of the most incredible places for hiking in DC with kids!)
Where to Eat Near the U.S. National Arboretum with Kids
When you’re done exploring these hikes near DC for families, grab something in nearby Ivy City! Order brews (and apple juice!) from Atlas Brew Works, Mexican from La Puerta Verde, or barbeque from Ivy City Smokehouse. This way, you’ll end your day exploring one of the best family-friendly hiking trails near DC with full tummies and happy kids!
Best Hikes near DC for Families with School-Aged Kids and Teens
If the hikers in your family have some experience, you’ll appreciate this list of the best hikes near DC for older kids or teens. Keep reading for additional suggestions for hiking around DC with kids!
30 Minutes from Washington, DC
Kids and adults alike will appreciate stretching their legs in Greenbelt Park. Open from dawn to dusk, it’s also among the best places to see the fall foliage near DC. Plus, it’s located around thirty minutes away in Greenbelt, Maryland. For the best views, be sure to embark on one of the best kid-friendly hiking trails near DC. The Azalea Trail takes families through a 1.2-mile forest walk. For more of a challenge, the Perimeter Trail circles 5.2 miles within Greenbelt Park. And unlike many other hiking spots on this list, families can camp in the park. Into bird watching? Bring your binoculars, as it’s another popular activity at this destination. It’s also fairly close to a Metro station (about 2.5 miles from College Park-University of MD Metro Station) and about 12 miles away from downtown DC.
Note: While trails are open, the park roads and parking lots are currently closed through summer 2021. Check the website for the latest details.
Where to Eat near Greenbelt Park with Kids
There are several kid-friendly restaurants outside the park entrance, including Silver Diner,bb.q Chicken, and Mission BBQ. Both offer great stops following one of the best hikes near DC for families!
Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park
1 Hour and 20 Minutes from Washington, DC
Families have lots to explore at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park. Located in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, the trails are open from sunrise to sunset. Experience real history in this Civil War area, which has dramatic landscapes straight from a postcard. It’s no surprise it’s so scenic, since it’s nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Two viewpoints are particularly family-photo-worthy. Head to the Point, which is right at the edge of town, for a great view of the landscape. There’s also the Jefferson Rock overlook, about a 10-to-15-minute walk away. If you want an even longer hike, you can find that in the park. The Bolivar Heights Trails offers some of the best views of the mountain without all the extra walking, plus chances to see replica artillery.
Drive, bike, or walk through the center of the city to take the beautiful views of Rock Creek Park. Bisecting Northwest DC, it’s truly an oasis in the middle of a busy city, perfect for all ages. Two major hiking trails run north to south in the park, with walks ranging from one to 10 miles. Intermediate hikers may like the Rapids Bridge Hike, a two-mile loop through the forest and along Rock Creek. Around three miles, the slightly longer Rolling Meadows Bridge Hike is also an option. To see one of the most iconic places in Rock Creek Park (not to mention the best view), take the 3.5-mile Bounder Bridge Loop. Playgrounds, the Nature Center and Planetarium, and historic sites like Pierce Mill offer other family-friendly activities. With so many features, thisis certainly one of the best choices for hiking in DCfor families!
Where to Eat near Rock Creek Park with Kids
Given the expansive nature of the park, which is open daily until 9 p.m., there are plenty of spots in nearby neighborhoods to grab some food or drink after hiking around DC with kids. For example, in Columbia Heights, families will love the tacos at Taqueria Habanero, Laotian dishes from Thip Khao, or pizza from Little Coco’s. A bit further south in Mt. Pleasant is Ellé for some hot chocolate, coffee, and European fare.
Shenandoah National Park
90 Minutes from Washington, DC
One of the most popular scenic drives for families in the Washington, D.C. area is Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Fall is the busiest season, so make sure to do your research in advance, if visiting during the autumn season! It’s a great way to experience the fall foliage from the comfort of your own car, no matter the weather. There are also 500 miles of hiking trails for all ages and abilities to explore the area more for those who want to stretch their legs – open from 8 a.m. to dusk. For example, Shenandoah National Park includes a waterfall hike, Whiteoak Canyon, and a challenging hike called Little Devils Stairs for the more adventurous. If coming from Washington, DC, most cars enter from the North Entrance Station near Winchester and travel south to the Thornton Gap entrance outside of Luray.
Pro Tip: Trails and campgrounds will likely be crowded on weekends. Families can buy their passes online in advance, and look into other fees, such as annual passes and campsite passes. This way you can go straight to enjoying some of the best hikes near DC for families, instead of waiting in line to buy passes first.
Where to Eat near Shenandoah National Park with Kids
For an aerial view, head to Sugarloaf Mountain. This small mountain peak is located south of Frederick, Maryland, around an hour and fifteen minutesfrom DC. There are multiple hikes on offer at Sugarloaf Mountain, ranging from ¼ mile to 7 miles to and around the mountain’s summit. Though some are steeper than others, a few are kid-friendly. The A.M. Thomas Trail is only 0.6 miles, featuring a few rocks to climb on. More intermediate hikers may prefer the 2.5-mile Mountain Loop Trail, which travels through the forest. There are more than 500 species of plants to take in while exploring Sugarloaf Mountain, no matter the season. Plus, kids will love seeing the local wildlife, since white-tailed deer are abundant. It’s open daily until one hour before sunset. Caretakers request a voluntary $5 donation to support upkeep.
Where to Eat near Sugarloaf Mountain with Kids
On the way back from one of the best hikes near DC for families, hit up Clarksburg Premium Outlets for a little shopping and food court fare, or one of at least a dozen chain restaurants just off I-270 in Germantown (we’re partial to local chain Moby Dick’s House of Kabob).
Washington, DC-area families up for an outdoor hiking adventure need to look no further than this list of The Best Hikes Near DC For Families. Come enjoy one of the region’s best seasons while making memories with kids of all ages. Take in scenic views, fresh air, and time outside among nature. Happy trails!
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
Megan Tucker is a public relations professional, wife, mom and lover of all things travel and travel planning, based in Arlington, Virginia. While she grew up in New England, she's lived in the Washington, DC area, London and Abu Dhabi, and has traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, Western Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania with and without her husband and two sons.