The mid-Atlantic portion of the country offers a sheer array of landscapes than meets the eye. As discussed in previous articles, Sudir Raju is an avid advocate of seizing the existing national parks, trails, mountains and rural areas in general to perform outdoor activities such as hiking. When it comes to deciding where to hit the trail, the D.C. area is full of amazing paths and roads you can visit. Therefore, we have compiled several options for all the hiking enthusiasts out there looking for new challenges, new trails and new landscapes to enjoy the beauty of a mid-Atlantic state.
The Prince William Forest Park is the option for having a great time outside. Being a 15,000-acre sanctuary, the park is rather an overlooked place. Comprising more than 35 miles of paths and trails, it embodies the most extensive hikes hikers can find in Northern Virginia. If you are just getting used to what hiking is about, it would be advisable to head towards the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine Trail as it is one of the park’s easiest routes. This trail is just about a mile long but links to other roads for a total 3-mile trek. But if you have done hiking before, Farms To Forest Trail is definitely a much better choice: being a 3-mile trail, the road starts near Oak Ridge Campground and runs all across farmlands.
If you are looking for a much longer hike, the South Valley Trail is the place to go: this almost 9-mile trail starts at the same point, Oak Ridge Campground, and goes all the way south to Quantico Creek. The landscape varies as you go and a couple of lakes can be seen. If you get tired, make sure to pay Harold and Cathy’s Dumfries Cafe a visit to replenish your energy.
Another great place, just about 65 miles away from DC, is the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. This is one of the most appealing places to enjoy some quality time. Some of its attractions are the river views, the Blue Ridge Mountain view and, if you happen to be a visitor, the place offers a no less than important lesson of Civil War history. Besides, this place tends to be alluring enough for hikers and runners due to the fact that it embodies more than 20 miles of different paths and trails—including the famous Appalachian Trail: a 2,170-mile road—with challenging areas, rocks and terrain.
But although this vast area comprises several hard hikes, there are also easy trails unexperienced enthusiasts can attempt in case you feel like one. The Appalachian Trail North, for instance, starts at the information center and crosses the Potomac River, tracing all the way the C&O towpath throughout its length, which is about 2.5 miles across the Appalachian Trail. But if you are feeling more adventurous perhaps you should head towards Maryland Heights: an almost 7-mile trail highly demanded on weekends, which is why it is recommendable to plan ahead your visit. Departing directly from the information center, this road leads to an ancient stone fort, trenches, and other Civil War related relics; the possibility to hike or walk near such historical place is accompanied by the possibility to also learn more about one of America’s greatest events. That being said, this trail offers a great reward: a breathtaking view of not only the historic Harpers Ferry but also of the Shenandoah Potomac rivers.
Make sure to pay special attention to other views such as Loudoun Heights: since it has an 80-foot gain when it comes to elevation, this no less than challenging 8-mile hike is not particularly tailored for inexperienced hikers. Directly from the information center, the road takes you across the Shenandoah River bridge and ends near the Split Rock.
The park also offers several options for those who are just looking to spend the day with their families and for those hikers who just finished their circuit: the park operates more than 25 historic structures and several food places can be found. Make sure you get all the information you need at the information center.
Both places offer hikers and families a great opportunity for them to have a great day. If you are planning on hiking or taking on the most challenging routes, remember to bring proper equipment and your ID aside from sunscreen and, since mid-Atlantic weather can change all of a sudden, an extra change of clothes is recommendable. It is important to mention that both areas offer less challenging routes so families can walk together with their little ones. After all, having the opportunity to leave DC for a while should always be turned into an adventure, so make sure to plan your day in advance to avoid any possible setback. You will definitely not regret it.