The best long distance walking path in the Washington DC area is the C&O Canal National Park. Except for a short stretch through lower Georgetown where the water is often low and litter occasionally piles up, the C&O Canal on the Maryland side of the Potomac River is a splendid stretch of Nature’s Bounty. You can walk nearly 200 miles without turning around in this National Park.
On the opposite side of the Potomac, the path along The Pawtowmack Canal also known as the Great Falls Canal on the Virginia side of the Potomac River isn’t as well known. Segments of this canal were built on the instruction of George Washington and never completed. Kayakers not yet ready for the really challenging river rapids use the canal on the Virginia side for skill development.
Rock Creek Park offers the serene pleasures of a rare urban forest accessible by public transport. Consult maps before deciding which Metro station or bus line to use for access to Rock Creek Park.
In suburban Maryland, among an abundance of marked trails, there’s Seneca Creek Park, the Anacostia Tributary Trails, the Rachel Carson Greenway – Northwest Branch trail system and the Audubon Naturalist Sanctuary at Woodend.
The Capital Crescent Trail is usually busy on weekends, but just a few blocks from Bethesda Metro station.
Virginia’s northern suburbs offer the urban hiker many choices: the WD&O trail, the Mount Vernon Trail and Huntley- Meadows Park. The Potomac-Appalachian Trail Club maintains the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail in Virginia
A few of these trail networks are extensive, long enough for multi-day excursions with overnight stays in nearby inns, motels or camping. Pick short segments suitable for half day and day hikes.
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