One of the best ways to switch up your fitness routine this summer is by taking to the great outdoors and going on a nice summertime hike. Not only is hiking good for your cardiorespiratory system, it’s a great way to get in a fantastic leg workout. Here are my picks for the some best hiking trails around the D.C. area.
Rock Creek Park: West Ridge Trail
While I have mentioned Rock Creek Park in prior articles, I continue to bring it up because many D.C. folks don’t recognize all the activities Rock Creek Park has to offer, including great hiking. For me, one of the best-kept secrets in Rock Creek Park is the Western Ridge Trail. I like the trail because it is primarily a dirt path, doesn’t allow bikes and provides a little bit of challenge while hiking or even running the path.
It’s also extremely quiet and doesn’t have the same foot traffic as the traffic along the Rock Creek Park Trail on the eastern side of the park. It’s a very good trail for a beginner because it’s only about 4.5 miles in length and its highest ascent is about 100 feet. It’s an extremely manageable trail and you can achieve it in a relatively short period of time. You can pick up this trail at the intersection of Piney Branch Parkway and Park Road.
Great Falls: Billy Goat Trail
About 30 minutes outside the city you’ll find one of the most popular hiking trails in the D.C. area: the Billy Goat Trail. One of the primary reasons this trail is so popular is because it provides you with a little bit of everything along the way. Depending on what section you pick, Section A, B or C, the trail can take you from small beaches along the river to panoramic views of Maryland and Virginia, to rock hopping and climbing your way to higher elevations.
I would rate this trial as moderately difficult and recommend that you pack some water, a snack or lunch along with you because you will get hungry. The trail can range anywhere from four miles to 14 miles depending on the section you choose and whether or not you want to circle back around and do the loop. Don’t be fooled by the trail’s highest ascent, which is only about 240 feet, because it is extremely challenging as some climbing is involved. If you aren’t sure exactly what you sections of trail you want to hike, the attendants at the entrance to the Great Falls Visitor Center are super helpful at giving you guidance. To get to the head of trail head more easily, be sure to take MacArthur Blvd on the Potomac, Md., side of the park.
Luray, Virginia: Strickler Knob
While it’s a good two-hour drive outside of the city, the Strickler Knob hike is well worth the drive. This 10-mile loop will not only test your physical and mental endurance, it will also give you some of the most amazing views of the Luray River valley. This trail is not for the faint of heart. From the steep descent and ascent (which is about 2,200 feet) at the beginnings and ends of the trail, to the rock climbing, watery terrain and quick and aggressive changes in elevation, this hike is definitely for the avid hiker.
If you want to make sure to get the most out of this hike, be sure to pack lots of water, snacks and build in a nice 30-minute break for lunch. This is a full day trip so plan your drive and your hike accordingly. To get to the head of the trail be sure to take Crimson Hollow road (VA 211) to begin your journey. Happy hiking!
Bucky Mitchell teaches “Couples Cooking: Healthy Summer Favorites” June 13 and 27 from 1-4 p.m. at CulinAerie (1131 14th St., N.W.). He will teach attendees how to make a crunch wasabi green bean salad, summer shrimp and basil salad, pan-roasted chicken cutlets and more. The fee is $175 for couples. Register online at culinaerie.com.