(Note: I put up a similar post once already, sorry, but ran into a technical glitch with my account. I have a new account now and am trying again.)
Hi! I have been a lifelong dabbler in the outdoor lifestyle but am hoping to get more serious about hiking and biking in the coming months. I have lived in the DC area for a few years and have explored a number of hiking trails but am open to suggestions of interesting ones within a 2 hour drive. It has been a long time since I have done an overnight backpacking trip and would be very interesting in getting back into that but would need to do some training first. Anyway, I just signed up here and am glad to be a part of this community!
On another note, when I was in the Rockville REI store Saturday I met a woman (red/white striped shirt, jeans, sandy/red hair) who was trying on shoes and we chatted about footwear for hiking. I was trying on sandals and mentioned that my last pair lasted 10 years. In the offhand chance you are reading this, please reach out if you are interested in hiking!
Hi @azure_sky - Welcome to the community! It's great to hear that you've enjoyed the outdoors for a long time and are now looking to lean more into biking and hiking!
This community is a great spot to ask questions you have, share tips, and connect with others passionate about the outdoors. Taking a look at the hiking, cycling, and backpacking boards is a great place to start! The DC Area board also has some existing threads that talk about hiking locations in your area, as well as folks looking to connect with others to hike with. Maybe the woman you chatted with in the Rockville store will find your note here - that would be fun!
We're happy to have you here too. Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself!
@azure_sky - Welcome (again) to REI Conversations. The C&O Canal Towpath is in your back yard and offers hiking and biking opportunities, though I am more familiar with it from having biked it. You are also with a two hour drive of Shenandoah National Park, with some great hikes, including but not limited to the AT, and you must hike to the top of Old Rag. There is also some good hiking around Harper's Ferry, such as Maryland Heights, in addition to the AT, and a little father west there is some good hiking in West Virginia's Caccapon State Park. It would be a longer drive, but the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest is a must see, but not one a week end, especially not a holiday weekend or a weekend when the leaves are in color. A little west and south is the Otter Creek Wilderness Area and the Cranberry Wilderness Area and Cranberry backcountry.
Yes, I am familiar with the towpath. This time of year there are lots of pawpaws falling onto the trail if anyone is interested in trying our largest native fruit! I am not so familiar with the other suggestions you made such as the Maryland Heights, Caccapon State Park and Otter Creek Wilderness area. I will definitely look into those.
Paw Paws!! So nice to hear from someone else that knows of and appreciates them! Thank you @azure_sky !
They have such a short season and shelf-life, unfortunately. Every year I go on a paw paw excursion, typically along the Susquehanna River. The past few years I've picked so many that I donated them to a local brewery to make a paw paw infused beer.
@azure_sky - Patapsco Valley State Park might be a nice area for you to train. I'm not sure if the camping areas are open right now but it has a number of day hikes ranging in skill-level and with hiker-only paths. It's a little bit southwest of Baltimore. It's mostly well-maintained and you'll find a lot of interesting historic/abandoned buildings and waterways along the way. They also have rec areas for picnics and I think people even go creek swimming there. It's super popular with families though so I would probably go on a week day to avoid crowds: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pages/central/patapsco.aspx
Thank you for that suggestion! I was in that park once to take a casual hikes with friends who live in Ellicot City but we didn't go very far and I didn't realize what all was there. I do vaguely remember kids swimming in the stream but not the other features you mentioned. I'll have to check it out some weekend for sure.
Welcome @azure_sky !
Depending upon how far you are willing to travel, there are a lot of day-hiking opportunities just north of Baltimore. Susquehanna State Park in Harford County. Gunpowder State Park on the border of Baltimore and Harford Counties, which includes the Torrey C Brown (NCR) Rail Trail. Rocks State Park has some incredible cliff faces if you're into climbing.
Stealing some of @agraciouspearl thunder, here's the Locator Map page of the Maryland DNR, which displays all the state parks. The only one in Maryland that I know of with backcountry camping is the Savage River State Forest.
And if you travel a bit further north into Pennsylvania, there are lots more opportunities. Let me know if you'd like some more specific recommendations.
Good luck, and again, Welcome!