Having a 4 legged trail buddy will enhance the experience in a unique way. It will help you and your dog get out of the urban life stress while enjoying some time together in nature.
Hiking with your dog has numerous health and mental benefits and provides opportunities to train in new and different locations.
Luckily, DC area has numerous close by parks and trails. Here is our favorite ones:
1.Shenandoah National Park
Only two hours away from DC, the Appalachian Mountains as you’ve never seen them before. Cascading waterfalls, big mountain stretches and beautiful scenery all around this huge state park.
There are many easy trails and a few long hikes to pick from. All trails are dog friendly except for the following:
- Fox Hollow Trail (mile 4.6)
- Stony Man Trail (mile 41.7) except for portion that follows the Appalachian Trail
- Limberlost Trail (mile 43)
- Post Office Junction to Old Rag Shelter
- Old Rag Ridge Trail
- Old Rag Saddle Trail
- Dark Hollow Falls Trail (mile 50.7)
- Story of the Forest Trail (mile 51)
- Bearfence Mountain Trail (mile 56.4)
- Frazier Discovery Trail (mile 79.5)
Shenandoah hiking is accessible and has a lot of options for everybody. I do not recommend going from January to March, since the snow is too deep and you can get easily injured. October is my favorite month to visit, the weather is favorable and you can enjoy fall foliage.
Dogs are required to be on a leash at any time. Watch out for park staff notifying you about bears and cubs in your area. The mom can get overprotective and charge at your dog if you are not very careful. Do not approach bears or other animals.
If your pup enjoys swimming, take him to run Falls Trail, Rose River Falls Trail, Dark Hollow Falls Trail and Lewis Falls Trail.
2. Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park
These amazing parks are located right next to each other. Northern Maryland, 60 minutes from Washington DC or Baltimore.
Cunningham Falls is home to the largest cascading waterfall in the state of Maryland. Catoctin Mountain Park rises 1885 feet. This mountain range provides a sanctuary for wildlife.
There are plenty of hikes to choose from. Catoctin, there are trails that can fit any skill level.
Your pup can go on any of the hikes. Remember to start slow, if you are both new at hiking do a 2-3 km trail and start building up slowly. There’s a camping area too if you want to spend the night.
3.Rock Creek Park
Called the lungs of the city, Rock Creek Park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. Now it is one of Washington DC’s city retreats.
The park stretches around 2,000 acres and provides an escape from urban life. Hiking is easy. It offers other activities like biking, horse riding, tennis and golf.
The paved Rock Creek Park Trail hooks up at Beach Drive and meanders southward to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial passing the Kennedy Center. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate the cherry blossoms at springtime or watch the fall foliage next to the beautiful historic buildings DC has to offer. Your dog will love it as much as you do!
4. Great Falls
These amazing rock formations are located in McLean, Virginia. This park offers breathtaking views. It is home to one of the nation’s first canals, as well as hiking trails along Mather Gorge’s dramatic cliff tops.
There are plenty of hikes to choose from. All trails are pet friendly. Dogs must be on a 6 foot leash at all times. Swimming’s prohibited in some areas. If you want to take your dog to swim you can go to Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
My favorite hikes in Great Falls are: Great falls Overlook Trail (easy) and Billy Goat Trail (moderate).
5. The National Arboretum
Located inside of Washington D.C, This gorgeous, 446-acre property makes for an inspiring and visually captivating visit and is a center for nature research and preservation.
One of the most Instagrammed spots at the National Arboretum is the Capitol Columns, an arrangement of 22 of the original Corinthian sandstone columns taken from the Capitol building while it was under construction in 1958.
Dogs are allowed everywhere. You can hike the east or west sides of the property. Hiking is easy and very relaxing since it doesn’t have any hills. The National Arboretum is home for numerous flowers and plants, which makes it a peaceful place to connect with nature while walking with your best friend.