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Brit abroad looking for hikes


I’ve recently moved to D.C. to join my wife, who has started law school. As a result, I don’t know anyone and she is quite busy.

I’m looking for medium-hard trails in the greater D.C. area - any top tips for a short or big day out in Shenandoah, or anywhere else? I’d be happy to be shown around if anyone has the time. I’m familiar with the Lake District and Scottish Highlands, not the US. I’m excited to get exploring! I also road cycle, if anyone is interested in that.


5 Replies

Welcome to the US!  You started out great, the Shenandoah National Park area has lots of trails, including the Appalachian Trail, but they have lots of challenging side trails.  I've enjoyed the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail also.  If you're looking for big distance, then the Chesapeake & Ohio Towpath trail is easy but good for big miles.  I would check out the Maryland & Virginia state parks websites for a good listing.  Also a valuable tool I go to regularly is .  That's a great database for trails across the country.  Best of luck!

Hi @jonmd - Welcome to DC! The Shenandoah Valley is an amazing area to be able to roam around, as well as many other spots nearby. @Rob6@Philreedshikes@John@Tomcat@Bonfire@MarkB - do you all have any favorite locations for hiking/cycling to point Jonny in the direction of? 

We look forward to hearing about what you find in the months ahead. Have fun!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank you everyone - appreciate the advice and look forward to hearing what else is out there!


Hi @jonmd , and welcome to the U.S., and the mid-Atlantic region!

And thanks for the shout-out @REI-CarterC !

I have a special connection here, as my daughter attended Durham University in the UK, studying archaeology.  I visited a few times and we traveled around Northern England and the Edinburgh region of Scotland.  She has visited the Lake District, but, unfortunately, neither of us have made it into the Highlands yet.

Now, on to your question.  Despite the population density of the area, there's a surprising amount of nature within a reasonable distance from DC.  The closest to you would be Great Falls National Park, and, specifically, the Billy Goat Trail.  It's a fun hike, as it's mostly rocks to scramble over, not just a stroll through the woods, but it does get crowded. Some beautiful views of the Potomac River, but no solitude.  Adjacent to that is the C&O Canal Trail, which is, IMHO, more of a bike trail. Flat and open.  Not much challenging about it other than the length.

Venturing further out, you have a bevy of state parks in Maryland.  Here's a link to the state park map.

Western Maryland has the most mountainous areas and wilderness.  The Chesapeake Bay has some tremendous water trails for flatwater canoeing and kayaking.  I live near the Susquehanna River in northeastern Maryland, in Harford County (see map), and there are several trail systems that parallel the Susquehanna through Maryland and into Pennsylvania.  And, speaking of southern Pennsylvania, there's the Michaux State Forest, among others.

Virginia and West Virginia have tons of hiking and camping opportunities.  Harper's Ferry is the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail, and might be a good place for you to check out.  @Philreedshikes can probably provide you better recommendations for the Virginia spots.

Most of these places are only about a 1-1/2 hour drive from DC, and within 3 hours you can get to some really gorgeous and remote locations.

I think I've rambled on enough for now, but feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or would like some more info.

Good luck!

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Thank you Rob! I appreciate the tips, I’m spoilt for choice by the looks of things! I’ll dig in to the details once back in DC and may be in touch directly if I’ve got any queries.

again, thank you everyone!