Be one with nature
Sweater weather is approaching, and with it gorgeous fall foliage that lures you into wanting to spend more time outside before we hibernate for the winter. Before coronavirus made social distancing a priority, local hiking trails were already go-to spots for respite from city crowds. Luckily, we have some suggestions where you can have the best of both worlds: great views and solitude. Here are seven options in DC.
Created in 1807, Congressional Cemetery is, despite its name, a privately owned 35-acre tract, rising at the exact point in Southeast Washington, D.C., where the city sloughs off its urban grid and bristles up into forested hills. Standing at the cemetery’s summit, you can look down on the Anacostia River and, across the river, to the rumpled beech and maple woodlands of Fort Dupont Park. The altitude is enough to make the place quiet without being…funereal. Walks here are a pleasant revival of the 19th-century cemetery movement that held graveyards should be like public parks, gathering places where well-dressed Victorian crowds held picnics, concerts, or even horse races. At any given hour, droves of dogs are bounding past headstones, bird watchers are squinting for glimpses of hawks and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
Built on land that was formerly a fox hunting club, at Glenstone Museum you'll experience an exceptional and unique fusion of art, architecture, and landscaping at the free Potomac museum that is less than 15 miles from the heart of DC. The grounds feature 11 outdoor sculptures, stone structures, and interactive artistic displays on 300 acres of unspoiled woodland. Walk through trails and paths to discover some of the most well-known contemporary artists on display, including Jeff Koons and Charles Ray.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
Bring binoculars and amble along the River Trail or the boardwalk, where you may see such birds as great blue herons, Canada geese, kingfishers, woodpeckers, and bluebirds. Look up to spot red-shouldered hawks soaring overhead. As you walk, you might also spot foxes, minks, or white-tailed deer.
Kingman and Heritage Islands
Kingman and Heritage Islands are natural parklands found on the Anacostia River in Northeast DC. Locals know it as the site of the popular Kingman Island Festival, but minus the crowds and music stages, there are over 50 acres of green space to be explored on these two island habitats. This Southeast gem is a little off the beaten path, but is perfect for people looking for a spot removed from the crowds. You'll find heavily wooded trails, broad bridges over the river, and peace and quiet. Wooded trails, river views, and wetlands comprise much of the sights to be experienced when visiting the park. But if you pause on the bridge or take to the water in a kayak, you can see RFK Stadium in the distance. More secluded than Roosevelt Island, the park offers hikers the chance to glimpse jasmine trees, monarch butterflies, and other natural beauties.
Scott's Run Nature Preserve
Only one mile from the beltway on Georgetown Pike, the Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is a little piece of wilderness saved from urban sprawl. The great thing about this nature preserve managed by Fairfax County Parks is the range of hiking trails here. You can mix and match your choice of interconnecting trails from gentle inclines to steep hills and cliffs on the preserve’s 384 acres. If you want to follow a more established route, try the 2.5 mile loop mapped out here. It hits all the highlights the park has to offer.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 91-acre wilderness preserve that serves as a memorial to the nation’s 26th president. The Swamp Trail is a gentle, 1.5 mile trail that extends along the perimeter of the island and offers views of the Potomac. This hike is so close to DC that you can see the the Kennedy Center, Watergate Hotel, and the Washington Harbor Complex through the trees. If want to get in some extra steps, try the island’s two short interior trails which adds another mile and a half, . Make sure you stop in the Memorial Plaza to see the large statue of Teddy and read some favorite quotes embedded in the stone memorial.
The island is accesible via public transportation and is about a 15 minute walk from the Rossyln Metro. For more information visit the Theodore Roosevelt Island Memorial website and print out a trail map.
Tucked away between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park is Tregaron Conservancy, a historic woodland oasis where you'll find a magnificent carpet of 20-acres of open fields, woodlands, stone bridges, formal gardens, trails, a pond, and meandering streams. A brick Georgian Revival mansion crowns the hilltop with amazing views in every direction. It feels like getting lost in the English countryside, right in the middle of DC.
In 1940, former Soviet Union Ambassador Joseph Davies and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post (owner of General Foods and the Hillwood Estate in DC), purchased the estate upon their return from the country. They renamed it Tregaron, which is Welsh for “village of three wells.” So enamored with Russia, they added a dacha, among other Russian features, to the estate. There are hidden trails and rustic staircases to explore, plus trails that connect to the Rock Creek trail via the Klingle Valley trail allowing you to easily go from a gentle amble to a more strenuous walk or job.
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Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it