Friday, February 24, 2017

My favorite hikes to lookouts near Washington, D.C.

I feel lucky to live in a place that has many different hiking options nearby. I love the excuse to escape the city and get a different workout than my usual soccer game or yoga class. And honestly, what better feeling is there than standing on top of a mountain?

For me, a good hike has some type of reward. Usually, it's a great lookout point, but sometimes a waterfall or other interesting site will do. Below is a collection of a few of my favorite day hikes with incredible vistas at the top. And each one is less than a 2-hour drive from Washington, D.C.!

Little Stony Man

3.4 mile hike
88 miles from D.C.

This incredible view is off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. While you can walk the short trail to the lookout and back, I recommend doing the full loop. Hiking the loop, you'll come across many lookouts with a lot fewer people. I last visited this spot on a sunny summer day and the blue-green landscape was gorgeous.

Insider's Tip: Entrance to the National Park is normally $25. Choose to go on fee free day.





Maryland Heights

3.9 mile hike
65 miles from D.C.

A very steep hike up, but well worth it for the views of the cute town of Harpers Ferry. I last hiked this on an extremely hot and sweaty day in July. It was a great workout, but exhausting. Make sure you prepare yourself for this uphill hike and bring plenty of water.

Insider's Tip: Make a day of it. Go early and complete the hike, then go tubing down the Shenandoah River. Try River Riders Inc. or Harper Ferry Adventure Center.




Billy Goat Trail

4.3 mile hike
13 miles from D.C.

This hike is fun for scrambling over rocks and catching great views of the Potomac River. There are three trail options: A, B, and C. The most popular and most challenging is Trail A. Trails B and C are good for more casual walks or trail runs. I liked Trail A because of the great lookouts. It's also nice that you're not dealing with uphill or downhill hiking, but rather climbing over rocks to again reach flat ground.

Insider's Tip: Located close to the city, this gets crowded. The earlier you arrive, the better. 



Raven Rocks

5.5 mile hike
57 miles from D.C.

I only recently discovered Raven Rocks and loved the hike. It was tough with a lot of uphill and downhill movement. The day of, I was debating on wearing flimsy sneakers but I'm so glad I stuck with my ugly hiking boots. We completed this trail fast with my hamstrings burning, but most people should slow down and enjoy it. Pack some snacks to refuel while taking in the incredible views at the top.

Insider's Tip: After hiking, reward yourself with a drink at Bluemont Vineyard or Dirt Farm Brewery.




Bull Run Mountains Conservancy

4.3 mile hike
40 miles from DC

This nice, easy hike is not too incredibly steep but leads to High Point, a great 180-degree overlook. It's a good trip for kids or those seeking a more leisurely trek. From the highpoint, you can see the city of Warrenton and the mountain silhouettes from Shenandoah National Park. Be prepared to find a little mud and hop over a few creeks on your way to the lookout.

Insider's Tip: The Virginia Outdoor Association occasionally closes the High Point cliff area and some trails for preservation. Be sure to check the status of the area when planning your trip.



I'm always looking for nice hikes in the Washington, D.C. area (especially those that have great views at the top)! Am I missing any fun trails? Let me know!

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