Thursday, May 21, 2009

Natural Escapes (in DC!)

Washington is great for many, many reasons; one of them being its beautiful nature trails/pathways and access for active Washingtonians. Washington not only is bordered by the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Mountains, but is just a hop-skip and a jump away from the beach. Great thing about DC is you don't even have to drive for 2 hours to be one with nature.
The GW Parkway's Mount Vernon trail follows the Potomac River for 18 miles, and on the Maryland side the C&O Canal is just as accessible for runners and bikers.
In the past week, I set out to hike three great (and very close) spots; Roosevelt Island, Great Falls and Old Rag Mountain.
1. Roosevelt Island
Maintained and operated by the National Park Service, Roosevelt Island is tucked away in between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Named appropriately for the nature loving 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. The island is only accessible from the north bound lanes of the GW Parkway, but offers a parking lot attached to the island and the Mount Vernon Trail. The trails offer a leisurely hike and trust me you will be shocked that this little gem sit only yards away from bustling Georgetown.

2. Great Falls, MarylandGreat Falls is a prime example of nature's awesome power, and is only 14 miles upstream from Washington. The Maryland side of the falls offers access to the C&O Canal trail and boardwalk through Olmstead Island crossing the falls. Its really stunning; if you have never been, you need to go!

3. Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
For the more adventurous Washingtonians who enjoy a good hike, Old Rag is the best spot within 3 hours. Its part of the Shenandoah National Park and located near Washington, Virginia (think Inn at Little Washington.)
Old Rag's summit reaches 3,291 ft and once you reach it, its a prime location for a picnic (and time to catch your breath!)
There are two options; for hikers looking for an easier hike, there is the 7.1 mile circuit trail. Then for those really looking for a workout, there is the 5.4 up&out trail which heads straight up the mountain to the summit. Old Rag is a great playground for those who love to rock crawl- just make sure you have appropriate shoes! Beware, the mountain gets pretty crowded on nice weekends. Try and go on a weekday, if your schedule allows.
Click here for directions to Old Rag.
Below are some shots from a trip my brother and I took a few months back.

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