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Hikers are a funny breed: they’re always outdoors, they love weird obstacles like chains and scrambles, and they are OBSESSED with their favorite gear. Ask any hiker what their favorite hiking gear is and they’ll probably spit out a recommendation that has at least 4 words in it. Needless to say, choosing the best gifts for hikers can be challenging, because whatever you give needs to be able to withstand many, many miles of adventures.

Luckily, as avid hikers ourselves, we’ve compiled this guide to the best hiking gifts that your loved ones will actually use out on the trails. Trust us – we’ve used every single one of them ourselves!

Overall Best Gifts for Hikers

Waterproof Hiking Boots

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The only item that a hiker really needs to get out on the trails is a good set of shoes, and a set of waterproof boots is one of the best hiking gifts for an adventurer that loves to be outdoors, rain or shine. The Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof boots (for men and women) are lightweight, durable, and waterproof, with thick treads and Gore-Tex that will keep your feet safe and dry, no matter the conditions. For more hiking boot recommendations, check out our favorite women’s hiking boots and men’s hiking boots.

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

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Hikers often face trails and conditions where extra support is extremely helpful. That’s why one of the most useful gifts for hikers is a set of durable, portable trekking poles. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles are perfect for traveling hikers, as they’ll fit into a standard suitcase and are extremely light weight. (You can also check out our guide to the best trekking poles to see our recommendations at every price point!)

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydration is a very important part of staying healthy while hiking, as hours in the sun and on the trails can dehydrate you. To keep water ice cold (or steaming hot during cold weather), a Hydro Flask water bottle is the perfect hiking companion. Hydro Flask boasts that its bottles keep water cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours…definitely enough insulation capacity for a full day out on the trails in any conditions.

Osprey Day Pack

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Hikers need to carry gear, water, snacks, and extra clothing for longer hikes, and having a day pack that feels good and distributes weight evenly is absolutely critical. Plus, they definitely don’t want to carry all their stuff in your hands while they’re scrambling up rocks, right? Osprey day packs are hands down the best and most durable option for day packs – we recommend a size between 18 and 30 liters for day hikes.

The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

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Every hiker knows that conditions in the mountains can change in an instant. That’s why we recommend a rain jacket as one of the smartest and most practical gifts for hikers. We love The North Face Venture 2 Jacket (for women and men) – it is a versatile, lightweight, waterproof jacket for rainy and wet hiking conditions. Ours have lasted for years and keep moisture out in rainy or adverse weather.

PrAna Hiking Pants

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Comfy clothing is an important piece of gear for any hiker, and pants are no exception. The best hiking pants are sweat-wicking, breathable, and flexible. PrAna’s Brion pants for men and Halle pants for women are the best hiking pants we’ve found – they’re lightweight, stretchy, and durable for day hikes and multi-day treks.

Merino Wool Base Layers

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Many hikers, especially those who hike at higher altitudes, need warm base layers, and they make for some of the most practical hiking gifts out there. Smartwool’s Merino 250 baselayer line offers extra-warm, cozy layers that wick sweat and moisture seamlessly on the trails.

Patagonia Compressible Puffer

Order on Patagonia | Backcountry | REI

When hiking in colder temperatures, it can be important to bring some extra layers, especially if you’re going to be at altitude. The Patagonia Down Sweater is our favorite compressible puffer because it’s a sustainably-made, warm, and cozy thermal layer for cold conditions. When paired with a rain jacket, it can keep hikers warm even in light snow!

Merrell Trail Runners

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Not all trails warrant wearing big, bulky waterproof hiking shoes. In some cases, lightweight, breathable trail runners can be a much better option, especially in hot climates. Merrell Trail Runners are some of the best trail running shoes on the market, and they make styles for men and women in a variety of different colors.

Cheap Gifts for Hikers on a Budget ($25 and Under)

Smartwool Hiking Socks

It might seem obvious, but think, durable socks are a must-have item in any hiker’s wardrobe. Smartwool’s hiking socks are great companions out on the trails! They’re warm, quick drying, and are super cushioned and comfortable. Give one pair or a few as extra special gifts for hikers in your life.

Quick Dry Towel

A towel can come in handy on any hiking trip. From humid, sweaty trails to impromptu swimming sessions, hikers can always use a towel that’s small and thin enough to carry around in a day pack. Youphoria Outdoors makes an affordable quick-dry microfiber towel that comes in a lot of fun colors and is perfect for shoving in your bag on the way out to the trails.

Neff Beanie

In colder or windy conditions, a beanie is one of the most practical gifts for hikers because it can help keep them safe and warm. For hiking, you don’t need anything fancy, so something like this affordable beanie from Neff is a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite hiker.

The North Face e-Tip Hiking Gloves

While only really relevant for colder climates, a good pair of gloves can help hikers stay outdoors later in the season, and in higher altitudes where the air tends to be chillier and windier. The North Face e-Tip Gloves are a great hiking companion because they work with touch screens like phones and tablets…meaning you don’t have to take them off for anything, really.

Hiking Snacks

Snacks are a gift that keeps on giving, especially out on the trails where you’re expending energy and burning calories left and right.

From our own experience, some snacks that hikers like include:

  • Clif bars
  • Kind bars
  • Gu gels (caffeinated and uncaffeinated)
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky (vegan and meat varieties)

Carabiners

Carabiners are literally the most useful and versatile item for hikers. Use them to strap things on your bags, to your pants, or onto trees. Hook your bags to your tent while you’re sleeping, or hang dry wet clothes. You can buy a set of 10 colorful carabiners for cheap, and they’ll last your hiker forever.

Hiking Trowel

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go…and a trowel can help you cover up when you’re doing your business in the woods. The best, most useful trowels are lightweight and have a small loop to hook to the outside of your backpack (with a carabiner!). This hiking trowel is a great, inexpensive gift option for the serious hiker.

Emergency Blanket

What better way to show your loved one you care than by buying them something that will keep them safe? An emergency blanket is a must for hikers, and while its one of the more ‘boring’ gifts for hikers on our list, we truly believe every hiker should bring an emergency blanket with them on hikes, every time. In the event of a natural disaster, or if hikers get lost or injured, an emergency blanket as a thermal insulation tool can mean the different between life and death.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is a hiker’s best friend. Hikers are notorious for destroying their stuff (myself included, no shame!), and duct tape is something we always bring to help mend tears, holes, and animal bites in our stuff until we can get it properly fixed (or, sometimes, forever). If you’re looking for one of the cheapest and most useful gifts for hikers, why not grab a roll or two of Duck Tape duct tape? They come in all kinds of fun colors and will definitely be used at some point or another on the trails by your favorite hiker.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

There are few novels in the hiking genre than Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This popular hiking novel is a classic, especially for adventurous female hikers who are looking for an emotional and physical journey through the Pacific Crest Trail with renowned author Cheryl Strayed.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For a great fireside book or a read for the hammock after a long day on the trails, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a quintessential read. As an intimate, detailed, entertaining journey into the backwoods of the Appalachian Trail, it’s a fantastic and memorable read for anyone who is passionate about exploration, hiking, or seeing the world and nature from a different lens.

Epic Hikes of the World by Lonely Planet

For a more visual read, Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World is an inspiring book to have around any hiker’s home. While it’s a hardcover book and not really suitable for taking on the trails, this book is one of the most memorable and fun gifts for hikers in their homes. Leafing through this book is like taking a hiking adventure around the world, with some of the most fun, beautiful, and treacherous treks all over the globe (and world-class photos, too!).

Super Practical Gifts for Hikers

Buff

For outdoor lovers, there are few things as versatile as a Buff. They advertise that it can be worn in 12+ different ways, and it’s touted as 4 times warmer than microfiber. A Buff is great for hikers to wear as a scarf, to tie hair back, or to protect their faces from dust and wind.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock

When you’ve been hiking for hours and are ready for a rest, there’s no better feeling than setting up your hammock between two tall trees and relaxing with someone you love. An ENO DoubleNest Hammock is one of coolest gifts for hikers that you can give to a person or couple who loves being outdoors…especially out on the trails. It’s super portable, lightweight, and easy to set up basically anywhere.

Black Diamond Head Lamp

Sometimes, the best times to hike are in the early morning and late in the afternoon. However, if your favorite hiker plans to hike in non-optimal daylight, it’s critical to bring a head lamp. Needless to say, a head lamp is one of the best gifts for hikers because it’s truly an essential item. Our favorite head lamp is the Black Diamond Spot – it’s lightweight, durable, and isn’t too expensive.

Polarized Sunglasses

Don’t underestimate how powerful the sun can be on a long day of hiking. One of the most useful gifts for hikers is a pair of high-quality, polarized sunglasses to keep their eyes safe and protected while exposed to the sun. There are tons of polarized sunglasses ranging in style and price available, so you’ll have to choose based on your favorite hiker’s preferences.

Foldable Wide-Brimmed Hat

For hotter or sun-exposed hiking, a brimmed hat is a must to protect hikers’ eyes and faces. As one of the cheaper and more practical gifts for hikers, this wide-brimmed hat is a packable companion for any hiker, especially in places like Zion or Joshua Tree where shady spots can be few and far between.

Platypus Water Reservoir

The only thing better than a sturdy water bottle is not having to bring a water bottle at all! With a water reservoir, a hiker can simply stuff the water bag into their day pack and sip from it as needed from the nozzle throughout the day. The Platypus water reservoir is generally well-liked and durable, and it comes at a reasonable price point, too.

First Aid Kit

While it’s not glamorous, a first aid kit can be one of the best gifts for hikers because it’s a must-have for safety on the trails. A small, portable pre-assembled first aid kit, which includes a small bag to hold everything, is a great starting point for a hike. This one is small and light enough to carry anywhere, including a day pack on the trails.

SteriPen Adventurer UV Water Purification System

For hikers, having access to clean water is a must, so a water purification system is one of the most critical gifts for hikers that you can give. We recommend the USB-rechargeable SteriPen Ultra, which is must lighter than the other products in the SteriPen line, and purifies water using UV light.

Solar Rechargeable Battery Pack

It gets harder to keep your phone charged the longer you’re out on the trails, so you can probably imagine this being a big challenge for hikers. If you give the gift of a waterproof solar battery pack, your favorite hiker can recharge the battery as they’re hiking. Pretty nifty, eh?

Technology Gifts and Gadgets for Hikers

Garmin Instinct Hiking Watch

Like many other athletes, hikers are often obsessed with tracking steps and logging their trails. The Garmin Instinct watch does exactly that and was designed specifically for outdoor adventures. If you want to splurge on a useful and totally awesome gift for an adventurous person in your life, is one of the more innovative gifts for hikers out there.

Garmin Foretrex Hiking GPS

For passionate backcountry hikers, a GPS is a must. While mostly used by adventurous hikers and backpackers, a GPS can come in handy for navigation for any hiker out in the wild. This Garmin Foretrex GPS is wearable and works anywhere, so you don’t need to worry about having “service” of any kind.

Rechargeable Hand Warmers

Keeping extremities warm while out on the trails during cold weather is a real challenges for hikers, and a rechargeable hand warmer can be the perfect solution for long days out in snow or sub-freezing temperatures.

GoPro HERO9 Black

A GoPro Hero Black is an excellent gift for the avid hiker who wants to document their adventures. Portable, weatherproof, and high-quality, a GoPro will help your favorite outdoor lover capture and relive their favorite moments on the trails again and again.

Additional Resources


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While Baltimore may be best known for its Inner Harbor, there are actually several beautiful places to get outdoors in and around the city. Within just a few miles of the city, outdoor lovers can find forests, lakes, canyons, and more! Hiking near Baltimore is a wonderful way to experience nature and get your blood flowing without going too far from the city. We created this guide with some of the best hikes near Baltimore to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Photo Credit: Mike (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Baltimore

Merryman’s Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Loch Raven Reservoir

Boasting beautiful, tranquil trails that run along the Loch Raven Reservoir, the Merryman’s Mill Trail is a quiet, peaceful hike accessible to all levels of hikers. Best done in the early morning hours when the fog hangs over the reservoir waters, this trail combines woodland trails, whispering streams, and varied terrain for a fun hiking experience. You can also find crumbling ruins of historic stone structures along the way! For hikers who enjoy solitude and nature, it’s one of the most peaceful places to go hiking near Baltimore!

Photo Credit: Mark S (Flickr CC)

Kilgore Falls

  • Trail Length: 1.3 miles
  • Location: Rocks State Park

Perfect for families and adventurous hikers of all levels, the Kilgore Falls trail is a short, fun hike to a gorgeous waterfall in Rocks State Park. While it’s one of the more popular (read: crowded) hikes near Baltimore, it’s a fantastic option for those who don’t mind getting a little muddy! The trail is easy and flat and is accessible for children and first-time hikers. Note that the trail also loops above and around the falls – don’t miss out on this part if you want to experience a new perspective!

Stony Run Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.6 miles
  • Location: Wyman Park

For a more urban trail just north of the city, the Stony Run Trail is one of the most convenient hikes near Baltimore for all levels. Waterfalls, tunnels, bridges, and forests are all highlights of this diverse and accessible trail. To make things even better, there have been some recent improvements to the trails, and they’re very well-marked and maintained to ensure hikers’ safety and enjoyment.

The trail does run through neighborhoods and residential areas, so if you’re looking for a complete nature experience, this isn’t it. But if the outdoors is calling you and you don’t want to stray too far, the Stony Run Trail is the perfect option.

Photo Credit: Paul Waldo (Flickr CC)

Swallow Falls Canyon Trail

  • Trail Length: 1.1 miles
  • Location: Swallow Falls State Park

The Swallow Falls Canyon Trail might seem like a short hike, but it really is one of the most beautiful easy hikes near Baltimore. Located in Swallow Falls State Park, the trail brings hikers of all levels to a picturesque waterfall, rocky canyon-like terrain, and peaceful forests. For a quieter hike through some of the most scenic nature in the Baltimore area, the Swallow Falls Canyon Trail is a fantastic, family-friendly option.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Baltimore

Grist Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.2 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

The Grist Mill Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park is the perfect blend of history and nature. With historic tunnels, beautiful suspension bridges, and miles of old trees and forests, this trail is certainly one of the most diverse places to go hiking near Baltimore. On this journey, you’ll wander past train tracks and stone ruins, along streams and large bridges, and through tranquil nature areas with a shady tree canopy.

Photo Credit: Patrick Gillespie (Flickr CC)

Annapolis Rock via The Appalachian Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountain State Park

Have you ever wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail without spending several months on it? The Annapolis Rock Trail is a fantastic place where you can do just that! This absolutely jaw-dropping hike is a 2.5 mile ascent to a very beautiful viewpoint – a rocky outcropping overlooking the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. While the incline can be quite steep, the rewards at the top are well worth the trek.

Pro tip: This is one of the most popular hikes near Baltimore, so go early or on weekdays to avoid the crowds that flock here during peak hours.

Photo Credit: Kay Rodriguez

Maryland Heights Loop

  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Location: Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

History enthusiasts will really enjoy the Maryland Heights Loop at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, an important landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you: Harpers Ferry is less than two hours from the city. It’s a perfect place to go hiking near Baltimore on a day trip or weekend getaway.

There are two trails available that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or want to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we recommend opting for the shorter trail, which brings you to the most stunning viewpoint in the entire park. The viewpoint is full of boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as well as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE MARYLAND HEIGHTS LOOP

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Flickr CC)

Paw Paw Tunnel Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.9 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park (West Virginia)

Another one of the historic hikes near Baltimore is the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail, a former railroad tunnel that was converted into a hiking path. The unique thing about this tunnel is that it’s surrounded by waterfalls, making for an incredibly unique and picturesque setting for hiking near Baltimore. If you’re looking for something different than the forest hikes on this list, the Paw Paw Trail is one you can’t miss.

Photo Credit: Bart

Cascade Falls Trail

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

Locals love the Cascade Falls Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park because it’s a fun, moderate trail through some muddy and varied terrain. It’s a great place to get your hands (and feet) dirty in a totally spectacular environment. A trail through the woods leads you past rocks and trees to a small but scenic waterfall – the Cascade Falls. Though crowded, the Cascade Falls Trail is a lovely place to escape the city and get outdoors!

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston (Flickr CC)

Billy Goat Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park

One of the best hikes near Baltimore, the Billy Goat Trail is a fun and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, right near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead starts at the parking lot of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll need to walk a bit along the canal before the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you are on the trail, you can choose from a few different sections and trails, each ranging from 1.5-2 miles in length.

After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the large, “famous” scramble up the side of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at home – you’ll need your hands AND feet for this hike!

Photo Credit: Rick Schwartz (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Baltimore

Catoctin Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.7 miles
  • Location: Cunningham Falls State Park

The Catoctin Trail is a beautiful point-to-point hiking trail located in Cunningham Falls State Park. Featuring lots of bridges, varied terrain, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, this challenging trail is definitely worth the effort. While we wouldn’t recommend this trail for beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers can enjoy the difficult, technical terrain here. Worst case, you can always shorten the journey or turn it into an out-and-back trail by turning back when you’re ready to wrap up.

Raven Rocks Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.3 miles
  • Location: Bluemont, VA

For hikers who want a short but challenging hike to a spectacular viewpoint of the Appalachian Mountains, the Raven Rocks Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Baltimore. Dirt trails wind through the forests on a challenging but even uphill, bringing you to outstanding views and cool rock formations along the way. There are 4 different viewpoints along the trail, but the final one is by far the most breathtaking, especially in the fall with shades of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also cross the Virginia/West Virginia border during this hike!

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Pinnacle Overlook via Conestoga Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.3 miles
  • Location: Conestoga, PA

Another very special hike within driving distance of Baltimore is the Pinnacle Overlook Trail, located near Lancaster, PA. As part of the Conestoga Trail, the Pinnacle Overlook hike brings you to some very unique and beautiful views over the Susquehanna River. The terrain here is quite rocky and challenging, not suitable for beginners but fantastic for experienced hikers who want a blend of beautiful views and difficult terrain. If you’re a hiker who is itching for a challenge, there are few better hikes near Baltimore than to Pinnacle Overlook.

Additional Resources on Hiking Near Baltimore

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

While Washington DC is an amazing city to explore, there are also tons of hidden natural attractions and fun trails to see nearby. Luckily, DC isn’t too far from some incredible parks and hiking trails… many are even located inside of the city! There are so many amazing places to go hiking near DC, we admittedly had a hard time writing this guide. To help you plan your next outdoor adventure, we created this guide to 15 of our favorite hikes near Washington DC so you can start exploring.

Know before you go: DC locals are lucky to have access to trails that range from leisurely strolls to challenging, technical trails. With that said, it’s important to have the right hiking gear as you get out and explore the wilderness. For many of the moderate to challenging hikes on our list, we recommend wearing breathable hiking clothes and waterproof hiking boots, and packing a set of collapsible trekking poles in case you need extra support on steep trails.

Easy Hiking Near DC

Theodore Roosevelt Island

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: 1.6 miles (Outer Loop)
  • Highlights: Stunning views of the Potomac River, quiet forest trails, boardwalks over waterways with lots of wildlife, and dog-friendly!

Located within Washington DC, in the Potomac River, lies Theodore Roosevelt Island. This small island is a natural escape from the city, with a 1.6-mile loop trail that hikers of all levels can enjoy. This easy trail is one of the best places to go hiking in Washington DC, featuring boardwalks over marsh areas, clean wooded forest paths, and a chance to escape Washington DC while still staying within its city limits.

As it’s in the middle of the city, you can access Theodore Roosevelt Island via public transportation. From the main parking area, there’s a picturesque foot bridge across the river that leads to the island. Once you’ve arrived on the island, hop on the trail and enjoy this lovely, scenic DC hike.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

National Arboretum - Best Hikes in DC
Springtime at the National Arboretum is the perfect time for a stroll on its many trails!

National Arboretum

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: 8.2 miles total (west side only is 2.6 miles)
  • Highlights: Capitol Columns, Asian Collections, cherry blossoms in the spring

The National Arboretum is another less-frequented gem of a park within DC’s city limits, and is home to some of the nicest hiking in DC. The trails are beautiful and well-maintained, perfect for hikers of all levels or people who simply want to get outside for a stroll.

While the park is best known for the historic Capitol columns, there are several trails here through gardens and wildlife areas that are worth exploring on foot. The Asian Collections are our personal favorite, but there are several different garden areas that you can wander through if you have the time.

Rock Creek Park

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Highlights: Quiet, forested trails, Pulpit Rock scramble, Pierce Mill, Valley Trail

One of Washington DC’s largest parks, Rock Creek Park isn’t so much a trail as it is a network of pathways through natural and historic landmarks. Upon arriving in the park, you can choose from a variety of trails and paths, some easy and some more challenging, for a perfect day of exploring what, in our opinion, is one of the nicest green spaces in the entire city.

While you’re in Rock Creek Park, head to Valley Trail for picturesque views and wooded pathways. Inside the park, don’t forget to check out some of the historic attractions, like the Pierce Mill gristmill, the Rolling Meadow Footbridge, and Miller Cabin. If you’re up for some adrenaline-inducing activities, try a rock scramble at Pulpit Rock.

Photo Credit: Joe Flood (Flickr CC)

Mount Vernon Trail

  • Location: Arlington, VA
  • Trail Length: 18 miles total, but can be shortened
  • Highlights: DC skyline views, paved paths for biking, connects with many other regional trails in the area

While not exactly a “wilderness” trail, the Mount Vernon Trail deserves a spot on any list of places to go hiking near DC. This walking, hiking, and biking path extends for 18 miles from Mount Vernon (yeah, George Washington’s birthplace) all the way to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s a perfect spot for families, runners, bikers, and history buffs to enjoy a historic and scenic area for hiking near DC.

On certain parts of the trail, you can catch excellent views of the Washington, DC skyline. Accessible without a car, the Mount Vernon Trail is perfect paired with a day trip from DC to Mount Vernon, or simply as a short hop away from the city.

Scotts Run Nature Preserve - Hikes Near Washington DC
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect short hike to a picturesque waterfall!

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  • Location: McLean, VA
  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Highlights: Clean, wide forest trail, ends in a waterfall!

If you’re craving the tranquility of a waterfall hike but don’t want a long journey to get there, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect trail for you. One of the closest waterfall hikes to DC proper, it’s a short and easy jaunt through the forest to this riverside waterfall viewpoint.

Scott’s Run Trail is a ~2.2 mile loop through the woods, with a stream crossing and some gradual hills here and there. The trail is dog-friendly and is the perfect length for a morning stroll. Completely manageable for young kids, this family-friendly trail is definitely one of the most fun and manageable hikes near Washington DC.

Rapids in the Potomac River at Great Falls, seen from Olmsted Island at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Highlights: Quiet trail along the canal, historic house and canal locks, spectacular views of Great Falls

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is an easy, popular hiking zone that runs along the historic C&O canal. It’s located just half an hour from downtown DC, and is the perfect place for a forest hike, especially in the fall when the trees turn all kinds of beautiful colors. You’ll need to drive to the park, but it’s an easy drive from anywhere in the DC metro area.

While there, don’t miss the historic home located close to the parking lot, as well as the historic canal boat and the wooden locks that still line the canal. Also, be sure to take the turn onto the Great Falls lookout boardwalk, which brings you to the edge of the Potomac River to a stunning viewpoint of the massive falls.

Need more recommendations for beginner-friendly hikes? Here are even more easy hikes near Washington, DC.

Designated as a National Historic Park, there’s an entrance fee to get into the C&O Canal area, but once you’ve parked, you can stay as long as you want in the park. You can also use a National Parks Annual Pass if you’ve got one, and entrance is free.

Maryland Heights Harpers Ferry - Hiking Near Washington DC
The Maryland Heights trail offers stunning views of historic Harpers Ferry.

Moderate Hikes Near DC

Maryland Heights Trail

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Trail Length: 4.5 or 6.5 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning view of the merging of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, old Civil War fortress

One of our favorite hikes near Washington DC, the Maryland Heights Trail offers the best views of Harpers Ferry, a National Historic Park and important landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you – Harpers Ferry is just an hour away from Washington DC.

There are two trails available that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or want to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we recommend opting for the shorter trail, which brings you to the most stunning viewpoint in the entire park. The viewpoint is full of boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as well as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.

Photo Credit: Compass Points Media (Flickr CC)

Whiteoak Canyon

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 7.3 miles
  • Highlights: This trail passes through 8 (yes, EIGHT) waterfalls! Need we say more?

Arguably one of the most epic waterfall hikes near Washington DC, the Whiteoak Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult and stunningly beautiful 7.3-mile trail where you’ll definitely get your fill of waterways and falls. Located in Shenandoah National Park, this trail is perfect as a Washington DC day trip or as part of a longer weekend trip in the park.

During the course of the Whiteoak Canyon Trail, you’ll get to see a total of 8 waterfalls of varying sizes and strength. If you’re hoping to catch some good photography opportunities, go during the fall when the leaves turn all kinds of bright and beautiful warm colors.

Photo Credit: Thomas (Flickr CC)

Dark Hollow Falls

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 1.4 miles
  • Highlights: A beautiful waterfall to reward you after this short, steep hike!

One of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Parks, Dark Hollow Falls has the advantage of being both challenging and short, meaning you can pair it with another day hike in the park (or with a visit to a local brewery or winery after!). This steep uphill hike leads to one of the most stunning waterfalls in the entire park – a giant marvel made up of several smaller cascades.

Photo Credit: Mike Procario (Flickr CC)

Sugarloaf Mountain

  • Location: Dickerson, MD
  • Trail Length: 5.9 miles to summit and back
  • Highlights: Beautiful mountaintop views of the rolling hills and valleys below, wildflowers in the spring and summer

A stunning mountaintop hike, Sugarloaf Mountain is an awesome place to go hiking near DC in Maryland. Within the Sugarloaf Mountain hiking area, there are several different trails you can choose from, including the Blue, White, and Purple trails. Here’s a hiking map of the entire Sugarloaf area.

Most of the trails are moderately difficult with uphill trails leading to spectacular views of the fields and rolling hills of pastoral Maryland.

Photo Credit: MudflapDC (Flickr CC)

Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock

  • Location: Catoctin Mountain Park, MD
  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Highlights: Amazing views on a picturesque rocky outcropping!

A moderately steep, shorter trail located in Catoctin Mountain Park, MD, Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock Trail is a family-friendly but challenging hike up to a few rocky views of the nearby mountains. It’s the most difficult trail in the park, and while we’ve rated it moderate, you should be careful as the trails are quite narrow and can get icy and slippery in wet or cold weather.

Shenandoah National Park - Hikes Around Washington DC
Hiking in Shenandoah is a fantastic day or weekend trip from Washington DC.

Difficult/Challenging Hikes Near Washington DC

Old Rag

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: ~10 miles
  • Highlights: Summit views of Shenandoah National Park, rock scrambles, and bragging rights!

Possibly the most popular (and one of the most challenging) hike in Shenandoah National Park, Old Rag can get fairly crowded during the summer months. But for good reason – Old Rag Mountain offers some of the most spectacular views of Shenandoah National Park, possibly the best on this entire list of hikes near Washington DC. It’s a whopping 8-10 miles from start to finish, largely uphill, so be sure you’re well stocked with water and snacks before you begin.

Also, it’s important to note that you might think you’ve reached the summit a dozen times before you actually do. Old Rag likes to play tricks on hikers with several false summits. The real summit comes after several scramble areas and has a sign designating it as Old Rag Mountain. You can breathe a sigh of relief once you finally see it!

Photo Credit: ehpien (Flickr CC)

Billy Goat Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Trail Length: 1.5 to 4.5 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning Potomac River and Great Falls views, an epic rock scramble up a cliff

One of the best hikes near DC, the Billy Goat Trail is a fun and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, right near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead starts at the parking lot of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll need to walk a bit along the canal before the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you are on the trail, you can choose from a few different sections and trails, each ranging from 1.5-2 miles in length.

After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the large, “famous” scramble up the side of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at home – you’ll need your hands AND feet for this hike!

Loudoun Heights

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Trail Length: 7 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning views of Harpers Ferry, challenging uphill climbs

Located near Maryland Heights Trail in Harpers Ferry, the longer Loudoun Heights Trail is a perfect companion to Maryland Heights for a weekend trip to the Harpers Ferry area, or a perfect day hike for those short on time. This mountainside hike offers amazing views of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, as well as the historic iron bridges that connect Harpers Ferry to the other sides of the waterways.

Photo Credit: katie wheeler (Flickr CC)

Little Devil’s Stairs

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 5.3 miles
  • Highlights: Amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bragging rights for having completed one of the hardest trails in Shenandoah National Park!

Don’t let the name freak you out – Little Devils Stairs is one of the most fun and thrilling hikes near Washington DC. Located in Shenandoah National Park, the trail passes through streams, by waterfalls, and scales a few rocky scramble passes. It’s probably the #1 most difficult hike on our list, but also one of the most rewarding.

We’d only recommend this trail to experienced hikers – the trails can get difficult to cross. Bring trekking poles and lots of snacks and water. Little Devils Stairs is not too long but it sure is exhausting!

Important Things to Know Before Hiking near Washington DC

How to Get Around to Trailheads & Hikes Near DC

For the hikes within Washington DC’s city limits, you can easily get around without a car. There’s ample public transportation available in the form of the public buses and metro system. If you’d prefer, there’s also Lyft, Uber, Via, and regular taxis you can take.

However, if you’d like to go into Virginia and Maryland, we highly recommend renting a car. While there are buses that go out to many suburbs and hikes near Washington DC, you’ll often have to walk long distances and it’s kind of a logistical nightmare. Instead, we;d rent a car for the day and driving to the various hikes near Washington DC you’d like to try.

What to Bring With You for Hiking Near DC

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Additional Links

If you’re going to hike any challenging trail in the White Mountains, there’s no trail I’d recommend more than the Franconia Ridge Loop. This hike has it all – gorgeous waterfalls, stunning 360-degree views, challenging terrain, and 3 summits in New Hampshire’s 4,000-footer club. When I hiked this trail on a sunny October morning, I couldn’t put my camera down because there were jaw-dropping views seemingly around every corner. Don’t be fooled – you’ll have to work hard for these sweeping vistas on this 9-mile trail that climbs and descends nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

For those up for the challenge, the Franconia Ridge loop is one of the best, most quintessential hikes in New Hampshire, and for good reason: there are few trails with views and landscapes as spellbinding as these. We created this guide to help you feel fully prepared and excited to embark on the Franconia Ridge Loop and experience its magic for yourself.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

The Franconia Ridge Loop Trail: An Overview

Not for the faint of heart, the Franconia Ridge Loop trail leads hikers through White Mountain National Forest to the peaks of three 4,000+ footers – Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette. You’ll also pass a handful of scenic waterfalls, several steep, rocky areas, and the Greenleaf Hut, a basic refuge for overnight hikers. On days with clear weather and minimal fog, you can see many of the peaks of the White Mountains for miles with some of the best views in the state of New Hampshire.

If you’re still curious about hiking, here’s a quick snapshot of the Franconia Ridge trail:

  • Trail Distance: ~9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,822 feet
  • Estimated Completion Time: 6 to 8 hours (It took me 6.5 hours to complete the loop)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Parking: There’s a designated parking lot for the trail – the Old Bridle Path parking lot – that fills up quickly on weekends. If that lot is full when you arrive, there is additional overflow parking further north on Highway 93 that requires an extra 2 mile hike each way.

Things to Know Before Hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop

This trail is well-marked and easy to follow, but there are a few things I wish I knew before embarking on the Franconia Ridge Loop trail:

  • This is NOT a trail for first-time or beginner hikers. While many beginner hikers will attempt this hike, I wouldn’t recommend it for families with very young children or beginners. There are several stream crossings, steep uphills, and exposed, slippery sections that could be quite dangerous. If you’re looking for an easier trail in the White Mountains with exceptional views, I’d recommend Artist Bluff & Bald Mountain.
  • It’s best to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop counter-clockwise. While you can technically hike this loop in either direction, going up Falling Waters and down Old Bridle Path is the “path of least resistance.” Falling Waters is much steeper and muddier, and it’s a lot easier to ascend than descend. This is the direction I went and I’d recommend it to anyone attempting this hike.
  • Going in clear weather will make the hike much safer and more enjoyable. Because of the elevation of the peaks you’ll traverse, there’s a good chance they’ll be covered in fog on rainy or cloudy days. This means you won’t be able to catch any of the stunning views this trail is known for. If you’re able, watch the weather and plan your hike on a day that looks to be clear and sunny. This way, you’ll maximize your chances of a safe hike and gorgeous panoramas of the White Mountains.
  • Pack the right gear and layers for a highly variable and exposed trail. There’s often a huge temperature and weather differential between the base of the trail and the summit/ridgeline area, so come prepared with several hiking layers. Wear waterproof hiking boots, as there are several stream crossings on the Falling Waters trail. I’d also recommend trekking poles for the steep descent.

How to Hike the Franconia Ridge Loop Trail: Our Review

Parking & Getting to the Trail Head

On a sunny morning in October, I embarked on a solo hike on the Franconia Ridge Loop, along with my super active, 15-pound dachshund mix, Stella. The night before, I spent the night in my campervan in Littleton, a nearby city, and woke up around 6 AM to drive to the trailhead. Heading north on Interstate 93, the trail head is on the right hand side of the road, marked as the “Old Bridle Path” parking lot.

Since I got there so early on a weekday, the parking had hardly anyone in it. I got a spot right next to the trailhead entrance, packed my bag, and began hiking. Quickly after beginning the hike, there’s a fork in the trail to head to the Old Bridle Path to the left or Falling Waters Trail to the right. Like I mentioned earlier, I chose to go counter-clockwise up Falling Waters.

Ascending via Falling Waters Trail

Immediately after taking the Falling Waters trail, you’ll find the waterfalls, which run basically parallel to the trail for several miles during the ascent. Get your cameras ready, because so many of these waterfalls are photo-worthy!

During the initial ascent is where you’ll find the ~5 or so stream crossings required to stay on the trail – you can absolutely do these without getting your feet wet if you’re creative with your footing over the rocks and have good waterproof boots. I carried Stella over these sections and somehow managed not to end up completely soaked.

The Falling Waters trail begins gradually but quickly picks up steam as the mountainside becomes steeper. You’ll be following blue blazes all the way to the top, so be sure to look out for these if you want the easiest pathways forward. A few times I accidentally strayed from the main trail and I paid for it in extra, unnecessary effort (and overly muddy boots).

After about 1.5 miles or so, we left the waterfalls and hiked up a dirt and rock, forested pathway the rest of the way to the top. There are 8 switchbacks here to take before a steep but gradual slog to the first summit. There’s also an option to take a short detour to Shining Rock, just 0.1 miles out of the way. I didn’t do this but I imagine the viewpoint is well worth the minimal effort. Ascending the rest of the trail is steep, but the trees eventually start to break and the terrain will become rockier, and at this point you’ll know you’re close to the ridge.

Approximately 3 miles in, Stella and I reached the top of your first summit, Little Haystack! The views up here were absolutely phenomenal. We ate a snack and took a break here as we admired the beautiful peaks and silhouettes of the White Mountains, as well as the ridgeline of the Franconia Range toward Mount Lincoln.

Hiking the Ridgeline to the Three Summits

Once we felt rested, Stella and I headed toward the second summit, Mount Lincoln. Yes, that mountain you can see from Little Haystack is Mount Lincoln, which blocked our view of the third and final summit, Mount Lafayette. Here, the blazes change from blue to white, so be sure to look out for the white blazes as you continue toward the ridge on your left.

The ridge area of the trail is completely exposed as it’s above the tree line, and at this point I wished I’d brought a baseball cap or trucker hat to shade my face and eyes from the sun. Oh well…

This area is pretty rocky and steep but doesn’t require too much scrambling. Along the ridge, you’ll continue to see epic panoramas of the surrounding mountains throughout your hike. Watch out for wind up here – when we hiked, it wasn’t too bad but I could imagine it being much windier at times. A good windbreaker or rain jacket would definitely come in handy!

As we summited Mount Lincoln, the peak of Mount Lafayette came into view. We took a short break before the final haul through the saddle and up Mount Lafayette. The Mount Lafayette views are arguably the best of the three mountains, and we took our longest break up there.

All in all, the entire ridge section of the trail was just under 2 miles in length and is absolutely stunning throughout. It took us about 1.5 hours to traverse the ridge, including 20-30 minutes of breaks.

Descending Down Old Bridle Path

The last part of the Franconia Ridge Loop trail descends down Old Bridle Path back to the parking lot. First stop, though, is Greenleaf Hut, a backpacker’s lodge located about 1 mile from the summit. You can actually see it from the ridge, so it doesn’t feel too far away.

Stella and I at first made the mistake of continuing straight in the same direction as the ridge trail to descend Mount Lafayette. This is NOT the way to go if you want to go back to the parking lot. Instead, take a left toward the rock piles and make sure you’re headed toward Greenleaf Hut.

You can see Greenleaf Hut to the left side of this photo…so we knew we were on the right path!

We hiked here the day after it rained, so the descent was very muddy and full of water puddles. Stella loved it, but after I slipped a handful of times, I can’t say I felt the same way. We took a very brief stop at Greenleaf Hut (there’s free drinking water available here but it was otherwise closed) and then continued the last ~3 miles down to the parking lot.

Hiking down Old Bridle Path was mostly gradual, but there were several spots that had steep, rocky sections. These areas of the trail were where I had to use my hands the most. I didn’t bring trekking poles on this hike, but during the descent, I sorely wish I did. My left knee was throbbing at the end of the hike and I think it would have felt a lot better had I brought extra support for the hike down.

The entire 9-mile hike took me 6.5 hours, including ~45 minutes of breaks throughout the course of the day. I began just before 8 AM and finished the hike at 2:30 PM, with enough time to drive to Manchester and meet a friend for an early dinner.

The Bottom Line

In nearly two months spent in New England over the course of September and October, Franconia Ridge was my favorite hike I did. While I still have a few hikes in Maine and Vermont on my list, Franconia Ridge will forever be one of my most beloved hikes on the East Coast.

If you’re an experienced hiker and are willing to take on a challenge, I would 100% recommend the Franconia Ridge Loop as a must-do hike in the White Mountains. For all the effort it takes to get through this strenuous hike, the views are absolutely worth it. I’d do this hike again and again.

You can see all three peaks of the mountains you just hiked from Old Bridle Path

Additional Resources for Hiking in New Hampshire

What to Bring

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Articles

While Breckenridge is arguably most famous for its snow sports and winter activities, there are tons of amazing hikes you can do in the area in the spring, summer, and fall. The gorgeous mountain views combined with miles of evergreen forests makes for a network of super picturesque hiking trails, perfect for all levels of experience. If you’re hoping to go hiking in Breckenridge, there are tons of options to choose from. We’ve created this guide with our favorite hikes in Breckenridge to help you plan your outdoor adventures in the area!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Easy Hikes in Breckenridge

Hoosier Pass Loop

  • Trail Length: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 688 feet

For beautiful mountain views on an easy to moderate trail, Hoosier Pass Loop is one of the best hikes in Breckenridge. Featuring a 2.8-mile gravel trail that spans a rocky summit above the tree line, this hike crosses the Continental Divide and is fantastic for all levels of hikers. We went at sunset (pictured above) and it was breathtaking to watch the last golden rays of sun illuminate the nearby peaks.

Note that there is a gradual incline through the first half of the trail, so good shoes are a must. However, once you hit the pass, stunning views and an easy descent await.

How to get there: Take Highway 9 from Breckenridge south, and the trailhead is located on the right hand side ~10 miles outside of town.

Burro Trail

  • Trail Length: 6.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 918 feet

Known as one of the area’s most popular trails, the Burro Trail is one of the must-do hikes in Breckenridge. With a leisurely 6.1-mile out-and-back trail that winds through forests, along creeks and waterfalls, and between rocky areas, it’s a laid back area that’s great for a walk with your dog or a group hike. While the trail itself does not have any major viewpoints, it connects to other trails near Peak 7 that do offer views of the town and surrounding mountains.

As this trail is one of the most accessible and popular areas for hiking in Breckenridge, it does get quite crowded on weekends and later in the day. We’d recommend heading out early in the morning and/or on weekdays for the most secluded experience.

How to get there: Park near the Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center and walk to the trail head (~5 minute walk).

Sawmill Reservoir

  • Trail Length: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 236 feet

If you’re looking for a short, easy, and scenic hike, Sawmill Reservoir is a great option. The trail starts by running through the forest, then loops around the scenic Sawmill Reservoir, where you can see lots of fishing enthusiasts casting their lines around the glassy waterfront. While there are typically people wandering around the lake, it wasn’t too crowded when we hiked here in the late afternoon, just as the sun started to hang low over the horizon.

This trail is fairly flat, with a few easy inclines to reach the reservoir. We’d recommend bringing bug repellent, as it can get decently buggy in the forest and near the water.

How to get there: Take S Park Ave southbound (Highway 9) to Four O’Clock Road. Turn right onto Four O’Clock Road and the trail head will be on your left.

Gold Run Gulch Loop

  • Trail Length: 2.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 334 feet

Gold Run Gulch Loop is a wonderful, easy spot for hiking in Breckenridge that’s a little bit different than the others on our list. Instead of featuring sweeping mountain vistas and fields of wildflowers, Gold Run Gulch Loop is a stroll through the forest that takes hikers to a few historic sites and cabin ruins in the area. Along the way, you can see still-standing log structures from several decades ago.

How to get there: From Hwy 9 northbound, take a right onto Tiger Road. Then, take another right onto Highlands Road then a left onto Fairways Road. Finally, take a right onto Gold Run Road and the trailhead is located at the end of the street.

Boreas Pass

  • Trail Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 396 feet

For an easy, short hike that offers beautiful views of the town center and the ski slopes, Boreas Pass is one of the most accessible hikes in Breckenridge for all levels of experience. We especially recommend this hike for beginners and solo hikers, as there is a) cell service throughout most of the hike and b) about half of the trail is a shared dirt road with bikes and cars, meaning you’ll never be quite away from civilization. However, the views from the higher points of the hike are absolutely stunning.

We felt a little disappointed that this hike was largely located on a road, but nonetheless, there were a few gems we really enjoyed. First, the views are exceptional. Second, the trail is mostly shaded and very well maintained. Lastly, there are a few rocky outcroppings you can climb for extra views. Check out our full guide to the Boreas Pass hike here.

How to get there: The trailhead of this hike is located on Boreas Pass Road.

Lily Pad Lake

  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 396 feet

Imagine the image that comes to view when you hear Lily Pad Lake, and this trail probably fits that description very closely. This short, easy trail brings hikers through the forest to a beautiful alpine lake that’s usually filled with lily pads and flowers during the warmer months of the year. There’s a somewhat steep incline at the very beginning of the trail that flattens out toward the lake, but it’s still very accessible for hikers of all levels.

The parking is extremely limited, so we’d recommend either getting there very early or late in the day, or planning to find alternative transportation arrangements.

How to get there: Take highway 6 toward Silverthorne, exit onto Stephens Way, then turn left on Wildernest Rd and left again onto Ryan Gulch Road. Follow Ryan Gulch Road all the way to the trail head.

Sally Barber Mine Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 393 feet

Another one of the most popular hikes in Breckenridge for history lovers is the Sally Barber Mine Trail. Similar to the Gold Run Gulch Loop, this hike features a few historic mine structures that you can view and explore. With a moderate elevation gain and an easy, wide trail, the Sally Barber Mine Trail is great for families and beginners, or hikers of any experience level who enjoy discovering historic areas on their adventures.

How to get there: Take Wellington Rd in Breckenridge east to Hwy 2/French Gulch Road. After ~3 miles, the Sally Barber Mine Trailhead will be on your right.

Blue Lakes Trail

  • Trail Length: 1 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 108 feet

For a short, easy hike around a scenic alpine lake, the Blue Lakes Trail is a local favorite. At just one mile, this trail is perfect for those acclimatizing to the altitude or who want a quick, leisurely hike with great views. It’s also a great spot for dogs and families. At the lake, you can often spot white mountain goats meandering along the lakeside, and during the summer, you’ll see excellent views of the surrounding mountains with wildflowers and forests nearby.

Note that visitors say that the trailhead can sometimes be hard to access without a 4WD vehicle.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound, then take a left onto Blue Lakes Road. The trail head is at the end of Blue Lakes Road and is shared with Monte Cristo Gulch.

Photo Credit: Brendan Bombaci (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes in Breckenridge

Lower Mohawk Lake

  • Trail Length: 5.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,486 feet

As one of the most scenic and popular trails for hiking in Breckenridge, Lower Mohawk Lake is a fantastic half-day adventure for all levels of hikers. While the trail is rated as moderate, the incline in steady and gradual throughout, making this a very accessible hike for beginners and more experienced folks. Along the way, you’ll find beautiful wildflowers and views of the snow-capped mountains nearby.

This trail actually passes by 3 main attractions – Mayflower, Continental Falls, and Lower Mohawk Lake. There’s a longer and more challenging version of this hike that’s more suited for experienced hikers, as well.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound and turn right onto Spruce Creek Road (where the Grand Moose Lodge is located). Follow Spruce Creek Road to the end where the trailhead is located.

Mt. Baldy Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,123 feet

As one of the most beloved hiking trails in Breckenridge, Mt. Baldy offers stunning views of the nearby mountains and pine forests. Since it is a longer hiking option with a gradual incline, Mt. Baldy is a great option for those looking for a half- to full-day adventure. Most of the trail is above the tree line, offering panoramic vistas across the valley and the surrounding peaks.

Note that the end of the trail has been closed since July 2020 as it was claimed as private property. However, users report that it’s not well marked where the closed areas begin.

How to get there: Head to Mt. Baldy Road and continue past Gold Point Resort. You’ll find the trail head on your left.

Photo Credit: Jilly Anna Joy (Flickr CC)

Black Powder Pass Summit

  • Trail Length: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

For a shorter hike that will have you working up a sweat, the Black Powder Pass Summit trail is a fantastic moderate option for hikers of all levels. The trail is largely above the tree line, meaning you’ll see stunning, unobstructed views of the alpine meadows, blossoming wildflowers, and surrounding peaks. There are also several opportunities to view local wildlife, like the mountain goats that graze these high elevation meadows.

How to get there: Head to Boreas Pass Road, which will take you all the way to the trailhead. Note that this road is quite narrow and is made of gravel, so it can take around 40 minutes from the center of Breckenridge to arrive.

Lower Crystal Lake

  • Trail Length: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,601 feet

Hiking up to a scenic lake is possible in many parts of the Breckenridge area, and Lower Crystal Lake is a fantastic option for hikers looking for a good workout without going too long or far on the trails. The Lower Crystal Lake trail is fairly steep on the ascent, so we’d characterize this one as a moderate to difficult-level hike. At the top, you’ll see stunning mountain views along a quiet alpine lake, with tons of wildflowers coloring the landscape.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound and turn right onto Spruce Creek Road (where the Grand Moose Lodge is located). Follow Spruce Creek Road to the trailhead at the end of the street.

Difficult Hikes in Breckenridge

Quandary Peak

  • Trail Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet

If you’re looking to bag a Colorado 14er peak, the closest one to Breckenridge is called Quandary Peak. This challenging summit hike will take you to a whopping 14,265 feet of altitude, with 3,100 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit. The hike begins with a moderate incline through a forested area, then poses a much steeper and rockier ascent once you’ve passed the tree line. However, if you’re up for the challenge, the views of the surrounding mountains from the summit are absolutely breathtaking.

While not for the faint of heart, this peak is accessible to experienced hikers who are willing to scramble a little bit and traverse over 2 miles of steep rocky scree paths each way. We’d strongly recommend starting the hike before 7 AM to get the best views from the summit with the least crowded trails. Also, sturdy trekking poles are super helpful for the descent, as the trail can get quite slippery when going downhill from the summit. Click here to read our full guide to the Quandary Peak hike.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound for ~8.5 miles, then turn right onto McCullough Gulch Rd. The trailhead is located on the left hand side of the street. If the trailhead parking lot is full, you may need to drive on nearby streets to find available street parking.

Crystal Lake

  • Trail Length: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,568 feet

One of the most beautiful alpine lake hikes in Breckenridge is the trail to Crystal Lake. From the top, you can see views of Lower Crystal Lake and the surrounding meadows and mountains. Once you get above the tree line, the trail flattens out into a more gradual incline until the end. Note that this trail is very popular with hikers and off-road vehicles, so going early in the morning will minimize heavy crowds.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound and turn right onto Spruce Creek Road (where the Grand Moose Lodge is located). Follow Spruce Creek Road to the end where the trailhead is located.

McCullough Gulch Trail

  • Trail Length: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,578 feet

For a trail that has just about everything, from waterfalls to scenic meadows, McCullough Gulch is a gorgeous and popular spot for hiking in Breckenridge. This 6.2-mile trail packs a punch with several waterfalls, alpine lakes, peaceful forest areas, and stunning mountain views. Don’t forget to bring a camera! The trails are steep and difficult, but doable for most hikers who are open to a challenge and have some hiking experience under their belts.

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound for ~8.5 miles, then turn right onto McCullough Gulch Rd and follow it to the trail head.

Photo Credit: Thomas Elliott (Flickr CC)

Monte Cristo Gulch Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,138 feet

If you’re looking for a challenging hike that isn’t too long, Monte Cristo Gulch is one of the most scenic and difficult hikes in Breckenridge. Over less than 3 miles, you’ll gain well over 1,000 feet of elevation that ends at a scenic alpine lake filled with wildflowers and mountain goats. A good chunk of this trail involves rock scrambling, so come prepared with trusty trekking poles and a willingness to use your hands!

How to get there: Take Hwy 9 southbound, then take a left onto Blue Lakes Road. The trail head is at the end of Blue Lakes Road and is shared with the Blue Lakes Trail.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Breckenridge

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

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