Washington D.C. is a bustling place full of history, monuments, and busy streets. Sometimes it may feel like a true Outdoor Adventure is nearly impossible when seemingly trapped inside its stone walls. But the nation’s capital is a gateway to a vast array of Outdoor Adventure. From climbing the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to kayaking the Chesapeake Bay, Washington D.C. offers ample adventure opportunities. To get you started, we've assembled a list of 10 incredible adventures from the D.C. metro area, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Eastern Shore. Get out there and start exploring!
D.C. metro area
These great adventure spots are all less than 40 minutes from Washington D.C.
- Great Falls Park: Hike, bike, climb, or picnic. Great Falls Park has it all. Take the riverside trails to view the massive waterfalls that spread across the Potomac River. If you’re lucky, you may even see some brave kayakers take on these rapids.
- Manassas National Battlefield Park: Learn about some of the rich Civil War history that northern Virginia has to offer. Manassas Battlefield hosted two major battles during the American Civil War. The park has several trails that meander through the battlefield and are complete with informational posting and canon replicas.
- Mason Neck State Park: A tranquil state park, located on the Potomac River. A boardwalk trail leads visitors through wetlands and offers great opportunities for bird watching. The park is complete with a kayak and canoe launch and plenty of picnic facilities.
- Bonus - Rock Creek Park: A large urban park that bisects the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C and boasts over 2000 acres of green space. Throughout the park there are various recreation facilities, including tennis courts, an equestrian center, and a nature center.
Shenandoah Valley Region
West of the nation’s capital lies Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Mountains. This area offers a variety of different adventures, all about 1.5 to 2 hours away from D.C.
- Hawksbill Summit: A short loop with decent elevation gain. Hawksbill Summit is the tallest peak in Shenandoah National Park. The summit boasts spectacular 360-degree views.
- Old Rag Mountain: Perhaps the most iconic hike in the region. This is a 10-mile hike with a lot of elevation gain and a few rock scrambles. Plan on a full day trip and start early; this hike can get crowded.
- Whiteoak Canyon + Cedar Run: The perfect Shenandoah summer hike. This 8-mile loop follows two streams down two parallel valleys. The trail boasts some of the tallest waterfalls in the park, ample swimming opportunities, and some natural slickrock water slides.
- Luray Caverns: Explore Virginia’s underground. Luray Caverns offers daily tours seven days a week. A great way to keep cool on a hot summer day!
East of Washington D.C. is a coastal playground that is perfect for paddling, fishing, and enjoying the beach.
- Assateague Island National Seashore: This place is a beachgoer's paradise, and with access from both the Maryland and Virginia side, this island has miles of untamed coastline that is perfect for fishing and ocean kayaking. And the wild ponies that roam the dunes add a unique twist!
- Cape Henlopen State Park: A great beach with a splash of history. Cape Henlopen State Park is one of Delaware’s top beaches and a perfect place to spend a summer day. Scattered around the park are the remains of a World War II fort that is now an open-air museum.
- Jane’s Island State Park: Miles of water trails. Grab your canoe or kayak and head over to Jane’s Island State Park. The park contains over 30 miles of water trails that allow visitors to explore the rich ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at the park office.