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While Washington DC is an amazing city to explore, it’s totally natural to crave some outdoor time during your visit. Luckily, DC isn’t too far from some awesome parks and hiking trails… some are even located inside of the city! There are so many amazing places to go hiking near DC, we had a hard time writing this guide! Luckily, we created this guide to 15 of our favorite hikes near Washington DC so you can get outdoors and explore.

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

The 15 Best Hikes Near Washington DC for All Levels

Easy Hiking Near DC

1. Theodore Roosevelt Island

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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.

2. Rock Creek Park

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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.

If you’re interested in a full-day adventure in Rock Creek Park, this awesome Washingtonian article has got you covered.

3. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  • Location: McLean, VA
  • Distance: 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.

4. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Distance: 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.

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.

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

5. National Arboretum

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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 lesser-known gem of a park within DC’s city limits, and is home to some of the nicest hiking near 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.

6. Mount Vernon Trail

  • Location: Arlington, VA
  • Distance: 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.

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.

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

Moderate Hikes Near DC

7. Maryland Heights Trail

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Distance: 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.

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

8. Whiteoak Canyon

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Distance: 7.3 miles
  • Highlights: This trail passes through 8 (yes, EIGHT) waterfalls! Need I 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.

9. Dark Hollow Falls

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Distance: 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 fall made up of several smaller cascades.

10. Sugarloaf Mountain

  • Location: Dickerson, MD
  • Distance: 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.

11. Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock

  • Location: Catoctin Mountain Park, MD
  • Distance: 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

12. Old Rag

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Distance: 8.6 miles
  • Highlights: Summit views of Shenandoah National Park, rock scrambles, and bragging rights!

Possibly the most popular (and one of the most challenging) hikes in Shenandoah National Parks, and 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, and possibly the best on this entire list of hikes near Washington DC. It’s a whopping 8.6 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!

13. Billy Goat Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Distance: 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!

14. Loudoun Heights

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Distance: 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.

15. Little Devil’s Stairs

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Distance: 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 About 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

Although it’s fairly mild for most months of the year, the weather in the Washington DC area is totally unpredictable. You can see all four seasons in a day sometimes. So, in addition to your normal hiking attire, I’d strongly recommend bringing the following:

  • A waterproof rain jacket
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • A light hoodie or fleece
  • Sunglasses & sunscreen
  • A day pack with a waterproof cover
  • Lots of water and snacks

Additional Links


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Washington DC is one of those cities that has a surprising number of unique things to do outdoors, including hiking! If you’re a beginner, it’s natural to worry about whether a hike is easy enough to accomplish. Good news – there are a lot of beginner-friendly trails perfect for people wanting to tackle some of the easy hikes near DC. Does this sound like you? If so, read on for our complete list of beginner-friendly, easy hikes in Washington, DC.

Beginner-Friendly, Easy Hikes Near DC

Photo Credit: GPA Photo Archive/Ken White (Flickr CC)

1. Theodore Roosevelt Island

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Flickr CC)

2. Rock Creek Park

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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.

If you’re interested in a full-day adventure in Rock Creek Park, this awesome Washingtonian article has got you covered.

Photo Credit: MostlyDross (Flickr CC)

3. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  • Location: McLean, VA
  • Distance: 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.

Photo Credit: NCinDC (Flickr CC)

4. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

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

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is a popular recreation 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 trip from anywhere in the DC metro area.

While there, don’t miss the historic visitor center located close to the entrance, 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.

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.

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

5. National Arboretum

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Distance: 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 hidden gem of a park with lots of easy hikes in DC. Here, 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 Arboretum is best known for the historic Capitol columns, there are several trails here through gardens and forests that are worth exploring as well. The Asian Collections are a Skyline Adventurer favorite, but there are several different areas that you can wander through if you have the time.

Photo Credit: MWander (Flickr CC)

6. Mount Vernon Trail

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

The Mount Vernon Trail deserves a spot on any list of places to go hiking near DC, but is especially great for beginner hikers. 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.

As you hike here, you’ll see planes zooming overhead as they land and take off from Ronald Reagan National Airport, with stunning views of the Potomac River and the 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.

Photo Credit: Leo Leung (Flickr CC)

7. Great Falls Park

  • Location: Great Falls, VA
  • Distance: 15 miles of trails total, Patawmack Canal Trail is 2.5 miles
  • Highlights: Views of Great Falls and Mather Gorge

Great Falls Park is one of the DC area’s best (or worst?) kept secrets. It’s far enough away from the city center to deter the die-hard urbanites, but close enough to get to in less than an hour (with DC traffic). The best part? Great Falls Park is home to some of the best easy hikes in DC, and boasts some of the most beautiful views.

There are 6 trails on the Great Falls Park premises, with even more on the C&O Canal side (in Maryland). Try the Patawmack Canal Trail for an easy, gravel pathway that runs parallel to the river, providing tons of nice views of Great Falls and Mather Gorge, as well as offshoots onto some of the park’s moderate and difficult trails.

8. Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

  • Location: Eastern Washington, DC
  • Distance: 20 miles total (can be shortened based on how long you want to hike)
  • Highlights: River views, picturesque bridges and trails

Located along DC’s lesser-known river, the Anacostia, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is one of DC’s coolest multipurpose trails. It’s paved and perfect for beginners, making it one of the best easy hikes in Washington DC for those wanting to explore the eastern side of the city.

Currently, the trail extends ~20 miles along the river, with a few bridges and offshoots that you can take. From the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, you can connect to the Rock Creek Pakr Trail as well as the Oxon Hill Farm Trail. However, the trail is still being expanded and eventually will extend all the way to the Arboretum.

Photo Credit: I r (Flickr CC)

9. Glover-Archbold Park Trail

  • Location: Glover Park, Washington, DC
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Highlights: Beautiful, forested pathways and vibrant fall foliage

If you’re looking for a short, urban hike that doesn’t feel urban at all, the Glover-Archbold Park Trail might just be the perfect spot for you. It’s one of our favorite easy hikes in DC because it is accessible by public transportation and is beginner friendly, but it’s fully forested and feels like a rural hideaway.

The trail itself is completely surrounded by greenery and is especially beautiful in the fall, when the leaves start to turn bright red, orange, and yellow. You can head here on the DC Metro via the Tenleytown stop (on the red line).

Additional Resources for Easy Hiking Near DC


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Washington, DC’s convenient proximity to the famous Blue Ridge mountains makes it a surprisingly great place for people who love to ski and snowboard. If you know where to go, you can definitely find some pretty epic places to go snowboarding and skiing near DC. To help you plan your winter sports travels, we’ve compiled this list of the absolute best ski resorts near DC.

Our Top Picks for Snowboarding & Skiing Near DC

Canaan Valley Resort

  • Location: Davis, WV
  • Distance from DC: 179 miles (~3 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? Yes, in the Canaan Valley Resort Lodge

While there are several fabulous ski resorts near DC, we’ve decided to start our list with Canaan Valley because it’s a beloved, well-rounded option for all levels of skiers in the East Coast region. With 48 ski and snowboard trails with a vertical drop of 850 feet, Canaan Valley Resort draws in new and repeat visitors from all over the East Coast year after year.

Complete with a year-round resort, as well as a spa, fitness center, and several dining options, Canaan Valley Resort is a perfect spot to enjoy winter in West Virginia. Even if you’ve never skied before, there are plenty of options to rent gear and take lessons. More advanced skiers can take advantage of the several black diamond-rated trails and the economic season passes.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort

  • Location: Somerset County, PA
  • Distance from DC: 193 miles (~3.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? Yes, in the Seven Springs Mountain Resort

Known as one of the best ski resorts near DC to “get some air,” Seven Springs Mountain Resort’s slopes include beginner-friendly bunny hills to adrenaline-inducing double black diamond slopes and terrain parks. For the thrill-seeking skier, there are few competitors to Seven Springs’ 33 ski trails.

For beginners (kids and adults), there are group and private lessons available with a handful of easy slopes to practice on. There are gear rentals available as well that you can pick up at the lodge. Ten different ski lifts dot the park to help you get around from trail to trail, and there are a handful of different lodges on the resort grounds where you can grab a hot meal or take a break from the slopes.

Photo Credit: Seth Youngblood (Flickr CC)

Snowshoe Mountain Resort

  • Location: Snowshoe, WV
  • Distance from DC: 221 miles (~4.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? No, but many nearby including the Inn at Snowshoe

To many, there is perhaps no more beloved place to go skiing near DC (and on the East Coast) than Snowshoe Mountain. Home to a few beautiful mountain condos, this family-friendly ski hideaway is a place many families come back to year after year.

The largest ski area in the resort is Snowshoe Basin, which houses almost all of the beginner-friendly slopes in the area. For more experienced and adventure-seeking snowboarders and skiers, the Western Territory is where you’ll find several of the black diamond and double black diamond slopes. After you’ve flown down each slope, there are 10 lifts around the park to take you back up to the top for another round, or to call it a day at one of the many beautiful condos and lodges nearby.

Best Ski Resorts Near DC for Beginners

Beginner skiers have a different set of needs than their more experienced counterparts, and certain ski resorts are better for learning than others. The following ski resorts near DC are great if you or your companions are new to winter sports – they have great class offerings, affordable gear rentals, and fantastic all-inclusive packages so you can learn quickly!

Wintergreen Ski Resort

  • Location: Nellysford, VA
  • Distance from DC: 182 miles (~3 hours)
  • Experience Levels: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Accommodation? Yes, at the Wintergreen Resort Lodge

Author side note: I grew up skiing at Wintergreen Resort and absolutely love it here. While it’s quite a bit smaller than some of the larger ski resorts near DC, it’s a fun, family-friendly environment that’s perfect for beginner to intermediate skiers.

If you’re a beginner skier looking for a fairly accessible set of slopes in a comfortable resort setting, Wintergreen is a great place to go skiing or snowboarding near DC. Located outside of Charlottesville, VA in Nellysford, Wintergreen Resort is a smaller, family-friendly ski resort located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the premises, there are ski trails, a large lodge with a few restaurants, and a spa.

With daily group classes, ski and snowboard rentals, and a wide variety of easy to intermediate slopes, Wintergreen is a fantastic place to go skiing or snowboarding near DC for beginners. Their Discover Ski/Snowboard programs include three days of rentals, classes, and lift tickets at very affordable rates. Wintergreen Resort also offers night skiing, a different, interesting alternative to your average daytime slopes.

Bryce Mountain Resort

  • Location: Basye, VA
  • Distance from DC: 116 miles (~2 hours)
  • Experience Levels: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Accommodation? No, but there are a few hotels and vacation rentals nearby

Known as a year-round recreation area for snowboarders, skiers, golfers, and bikers, Bryce Mountain Resort has a tiny ski area with beginner and intermediate slopes that are great for learning. Located just 2 hours from Washington, DC, the resort is a fairly reasonable day trip or overnighter from the city.

You may look at Bryce Mountain’s trail map and notice it’s a lot smaller than other resorts on this list. But don’t be fooled – this set of slopes has everything you need to learn how to snowboard or ski, including rentals, guided classes, and beginner-friendly packages. Also, for those who aren’t interested in skiing or snowboarding, there’s also tubing available at the resort (which is a fun way to enjoy the snow without needing any ski/snowboarding skills).

Massanutten Resort

  • Location: Massanutten, VA
  • Distance from DC: 120 miles (~2.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Accommodation? Yes, at the Massanutten Resort

For families wanting to learn to ski together, Massanutten Resort is one of the most well-rounded and fun places to go skiing and snowboarding near DC for beginners. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, it’s a great place to learn to ski or snowboard in a beautiful and accessible place. Aside from skiing, the resort also has tubing, an indoor water park, and a spa – perfect for the whole family!

What we love about Massanutten for beginners is that they have learn-to-ski and snowboard packages from beginner to intermediate, meaning that there are lessons to suit your needs as you acquire new skills. There are 3 beginner-friendly ski slopes and 6 intermediate ski slopes, meaning those new to snow sports can keep coming back again and again as they learn.

Wisp Ski Resort

  • Location: Garrett County, MD
  • Distance from DC: 180 miles (~3 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? Yes, at the Lodge at Wisp

As one of the few places to go skiing and snowboarding near DC located in Maryland, Wisp Ski Resort is a fantastic place to learn how to ski. Like the other resorts in this section, there are many lessons and packages available to new skiers and snowboarders, and the resort is welcoming of those who have never set foot on a slope before. Within the resort, there are slopes ranging from very easy to “black diamond” difficult, meaning the resort attracts a wide variety of experience levels.

Even though Wisp Resort caters to all levels of skiers and snowboarders, we’ve included it here because it has one of the widest selections of easy/beginner-friendly slopes on our list. With 10 trails rated as green and another 14 with a blue/intermediate rating, there’s a LOT of skiing and snowboarding you can do here, even if you’re new to the sport(s).

Closest Places to Go Skiing and Snowboarding Around DC

Liberty Mountain Resort

  • Location: Fairfield, PA
  • Distance from DC: 78 miles (~1.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? Yes, at Liberty Mountain Resort

Clocking in at just 1.5 hours from Washington, DC, Liberty Mountain Resort is the closest ski resort to the capital city on our list. With fantastic ski packages and resources for beginners, Liberty Mountain Resort is a fantastic place to learn to ski among friends and family. Because it’s so close to DC, you can take a day trip to the resort or stay the night at the resort’s beautiful lodge.

Aside from being the most convenient ski resort to access from DC, they also have fantastic specials to encourage you to return over and over again. One of its most popular offerings is the 3X deal, which is a steep discount on lift passes and (optional) rentals for one price. What’s even better is that this 3X deal is good for many different resorts, including a few on this list.

As do the others on this list, Liberty Mountain does offer beginner lessons, rentals, and packages, so don’t sweat it if this is your first time on the slopes! The resort will make sure you’re in good hands to learn how to ski or snowboard with ease.

Whitetail Ski Resort

  • Location: Mercersburg, PA
  • Distance from DC: 89 miles (~1.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? No

Located in Pennsylvania just 1.5 hours from DC, Whitetail Resort is another fantastic option for those wanting to hit the slopes as close as possible to the city. Whitetail Resort is a day use recreation area with access to ski slopes, gear rentals, dining, lessons, and more.

Complete with 23 ski trails for all levels, beginner to advanced, as well as a terrain park, there’s no shortage of activities at Whitetail Ski Resort. And, because it’s so close to DC, you can definitely come to Whitetail Ski Resort on a day trip (as there’s no resort on the premises).

Best Places for Cross-Country Skiing Near DC

White Grass Touring Center

  • Location: Tucker County, WV
  • Distance from DC: 178 miles (~3 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels of Cross Country
  • Accommodation? No

For those wanting to avoid the slopes but still go skiing, cross country skiing is the perfect opportunity. Luckily, in the Canaan Valley, there’s a wonderful cross country ski resort called White Grass Touring Center. Whether you’re a beginner skier or have skied cross country your whole life, the grounds at White Grass are a great spot to enjoy the snow and ski near DC.

White Grass is different because it’s got several trails over largely flat terrain, which requires a whole different skill set than skiing on mountain slopes. Luckily, the resort offers cross country ski lessons, and very affordable day rates and rental fees. For just $65, you can get an hour-long lesson, a ski rental, and a day pass for the area.

Blue Knob Resort

  • Location: Claysburg, PA
  • Distance from DC: 166 miles (~3 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? Yes, at Blue Knob Resort

Blue Knob Resort is a year-round resort that offers winter sports, namely skiing and snowboarding, but we’ve included it in this section because it’s one of the few resorts that offers cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing. With its immense variety of snow sports, as well as an on-site lodge, Blue Knob is a well-rounded resort where you can try all kinds of winter activities.

Day use and rental fees for the Nordic/cross-country ski area are very affordable, giving all visitors the opportunity to give this different type of skiing a try. There are also lessons available for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for beginners wanting to learn new skills and techniques for the sport. Of course, if you realize that cross-country isn’t your thing, you can hit the regular, downhill trails on skis or a snowboard as well!

Other Great Places to Ski Near Washington, DC For All Levels

Ski Roundtop

  • Location: Lewisberry, PA
  • Distance from DC: 113 miles (~2 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? No

For families or couples that want to ski and play, Ski Roundtop is a fantastic Pennsylvania ski resort that’s home to several ski slopes suitable for all levels. At just 2 hours from Washington, DC, it’s easily accessible from the city center, perfect for a day trip or a short weekend getaway.

At this medium-sized resort, you’ll find several ski slopes ranging from easy, beginner-friendly bunny hills to double black diamond, thrilling trails. There are also lessons, rentals, and tubing available for those who have less experience.

Ski Roundtop is also part of the 3X program, which gives a discount for a 3-visit pass that’s valid at several East Coast ski resorts. Note that there’s no accommodation on the resort’s grounds, but you can find some places to stay nearby.

Omni Homestead Resort

  • Location: Hot Springs, VA
  • Distance from DC: 214 miles (~3.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: Beginner & Intermediate
  • Accommodation? Yes, at the Omni Homestead Resort

If you’re the luxury-loving type looking for more of a relaxing ski getaway than an extreme winter sports adventure, the Omni Homestead Resort might be the perfect place for you to go skiing and snowboarding near DC. This historic estate has hosted the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ronald Reagan, and several other US presidents and celebrities.

The slopes here are best suited for beginner and intermediate level skiers, as they’re mostly green and blue-rated trails. Once you’ve had enough skiing, you can relax in one of the resort’s many naturally-heated pools, wander the opulent hallways and lobbies of the hotel, or book a spa treatment.

Montage Mountain

  • Location: Scranton, PA
  • Distance from DC: 240 miles (~4 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? No, but rooms are available at the Hilton Scranton

For adventure junkies, Montage Mountain Resort boasts some of the most challenging ski trails near Washington, DC. Only 20% of the resort’s 26 trails are beginner-friendly, with 45% tagged as intermediate and another 35% recommended for experts only. Complete with a terrain park, several black diamond and double black diamond trails, and night skiing, Montage Mountain isn’t for the faint of heart.

However, if you’d like to visit but don’t have much experience with skiing, there are rentals and lessons available for beginners, as well as tubing that’s suitable for all ages. While there’s no lodge on the premises, you can eat at the Slocum Restaurant or in the no-frills food court on-site.

Elk Mountain

  • Location: Union Dale, PA
  • Distance from DC: 270 miles (~4.5 hours)
  • Experience Levels: All Levels
  • Accommodation? No

At a whopping 4.5 hours from Washington, DC, Elk Mountain isn’t quite close enough for a day trip. However, we’ve included it because it’s one of the best options for terrain skiing near DC in the beautiful Endless Mountains (near the Poconos). It’s got trails for all levels of skiers, night skiing, and several challenging terrain areas to cater to any experience and thrill level you’re looking for.

On the resort’s grounds, you can rent or buy gear, take lessons up to intermediate level, and enjoy the terrain park. While there’s no lodge on the resort, you can hang out in the Winter Garden restaurant and a cafeteria to warm up in between hitting the slopes.

Skiing Additional Resources

What to Bring on a Ski Trip

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

For our complete (downloadable!) list of things to bring on a ski trip (and our favorite gear suggestions), head to our complete ski trip packing list.

Skyline’s Resources for Skiing

Related Destinations


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One of the best ways to explore Washington DC is from one of its many waterways. While we love kayaking in DC, stand up paddle boarding is a different and equally as interesting way to see the city. Located where the Potomac River meets the Anacostia River, there are tons of great spots for stand up paddle boarding in DC.

We’ve compiled this list of 7 of the best places for paddle board in DC for all levels…even people who have never done it before!

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in DC

Photo Credit: Alan Kotok (Flickr CC)

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go stand up paddle boarding in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, historical sites, and tree-lined streets, the best part of Georgetown is its bustling waterfront, which offers several opportunities to get out on the water.

While there are boat tours and dinner cruises aplenty, we strongly recommend exploring the Potomac by paddle board. If you choose to go stand up paddle boarding in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Georgetown: Georgetown’s rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $22/hour for a stand up paddle board.

2. The Wharf

Home to a marina and DC’s historic Fish Market, The Wharf is now a bustling waterfront area full of upscale restaurants, high-end apartments, and a popular concert venue, The Anthem. The Wharf also a prime location for stand up paddle boarding, as it’s located near Navy Yard and the eastern side of DC.

Here, you can paddle through the marina area along the banks of East Potomac Park, an especially beautiful area during cherry blossom season in the spring. From the waterways surrounding The Wharf, you can catch glimpses of the new International Spy Museum, or head all the way over to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Boar in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

3. Navy Yard/Anacostia River

Navy Yard is one of DC’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Situated near Nationals Park, this riverfront area is the perfect place to grab a kayak and explore the eastern side of the city.

From the Anacostia River, you can see the historic Navy Yard and the Nationals ballpark to the north and the greenery of Anacostia Park to the south. Or, alternatively, you can paddle to Hains Point, the southernmost point of East Potomac Park.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr CC)

4. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your stand up paddle boarding adventure. The Washington Sailing Marina is technically located in Alexandria, VA, but we’ll count it since it’s within eyeshot of Washington, DC… With access to the Potomac River as well as the mouth of the Four Mile Run, it’s a great area to spend a few hours paddling around between DC and Virginia.

From the Washington Sailing Marina, you can head all the way up to the south end of East Potomac Park, which is a beautiful urban green space in DC. Alternatively, stick around the nearby areas of the Potomac and watch as planes land and take off above you from Reagan National Airport.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in the Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina has its own boathouse where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. You can also take sailing lessons here, or enjoy a riverside meal at Island Time Bar & Grill.

  • Address: 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, VA 22314

5. National Harbor

Like the Washington Sailing Marina, the National Harbor isn’t technically in DC, but we’ve included it here because it’s close enough and can be reached by public transportation from downtown. It’s also a unique area to go stand up paddle boarding in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Paddling here will give you a different perspective of the National Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Located across the Potomac River from Alexandria, you can catch great views of the banks of Old Town Alexandria, or paddle along the banks of the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has stand up paddle boards available for rent for reasonable prices. Since it’s run by the same company as the others listed in this post, the prices are the same: $22/hour for an hour.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

6. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to paddle in a more natural setting without the adrenaline rush of Great Falls, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal is an excellent choice. This historic canal was once used as a shipping route, as it extends all the way to Ohio! Today, it’s a gorgeous recreation area with miles of trails and calm waterways, perfect for exploring by foot or boat. As far as stand up paddle boarding near DC goes, it doesn’t get much better than the C&O canal.

The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River for several miles and has much more controlled rapids than at Great Falls. Renting a stand up paddle board to explore the C&O Canal is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in quiet nature, without having to stray too far from DC’s city limits.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board Near the C&O Canal: Fletcher’s Boathouse is located right next to the C&O Canal and is the perfect place to rent a stand up paddle board, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River and prices starting at $22/hour.

  • Address: 4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

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While DC is best known for its museums, monuments, and memorials, it’s also a city full of waterways and green spaces to explore. One of the best ways to explore the city is from the river, and kayaking in DC is the perfect way to do it. Luckily, there are tons of places to go paddling around the city that give you a unique perspective of the Capital City’s famed buildings and monuments.

In this guide, we’ll share the best places to go kayaking in and around Washington, DC, as well as some of our top recommended kayak rental companies in DC. We’ve also included a few of our favorite kayaking tours in DC, in case you’d like to opt for a guided experience.

Best Places to Go Kayaking in DC

If you’re looking for a short, convenient kayaking adventure, there are tons of options for places to go kayaking in DC’s city limits. Read on for some of the best places to paddle in the capital city!

Georgetown is one of DC’s most popular kayaking spots for a reason: tree-lined riverbanks and historic views.

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go kayaking in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, and tree-lined streets, Georgetown is a wonderful area to spend a day.

However, the best part of Georgetown is its bustling waterfront, which offers several opportunities to get out on the water. While there are boat tours and dinner cruises aplenty, we strongly recommend exploring the Potomac by kayak. If you choose to go kayaking in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Kayak in Georgetown: Georgetown’s kayak rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 3500 Water Str. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Click here to see our complete list of kayaking gear essentials to bring with you 

2. Rock Creek Park

For a bit of a quieter, greener location to go kayaking in DC, Rock Creek Park is a fantastic choice. Situated in the West End neighborhood, this is one of the largest parks in the city, spanning over 1,700 acres of green forests and walkways to escape the city streets for a while.

While there are plenty of running and biking trails all over the park, you can also paddle through the waters of Rock Creek. Be warned – there are definitely more rapids here than in the Potomac River, but it can make for a fun and slightly more adrenaline-inducing experience.

Where to Rent a Kayak near Rock Creek Park: The nearest kayak rental to Rock Creek is Thompson Boat Center. It’s located on the far end of the Georgetown Waterfront where the Potomac meets Rock Creek. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 2900 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
The kayaks are located in a prime location on the Wharf – right on the main pier!

3. The Wharf

Home to a marina and DC’s historic Fish Market, The Wharf is now a bustling waterfront area full of upscale restaurants, high-end apartments, and a popular concert venue, The Anthem.

The Wharf also a prime location for kayaking, as it’s located near Navy Yard and the eastern side of DC. Here, you can paddle through the marina area along the banks of East Potomac Park, an especially beautiful area during cherry blossom season in the spring. From the waterways surrounding The Wharf, you can catch glimpses of the new International Spy Museum, or kayak all the way down to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

4. Navy Yard/Anacostia River

Navy Yard is one of DC’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Situated near Nationals Park, this riverfront area is the perfect place to grab a kayak and explore the eastern side of the city.

From the Anacostia River, you can see the historic Navy Yard and the Nationals ballpark to the north and the greenery of Anacostia Park to the south. Or, alternatively, you can paddle to Hains Point, the southernmost point of East Potomac Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Washington Sailing Marina -- Daingerfield Island Alexandria (VA) June 2016
The Washington Sailing Marina is a lovely place to begin a kayaking adventure in DC!
Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr Creative Commons)

5. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your kayaking adventure. The Washington Sailing Marina is technically located in Alexandria, VA, but we’ll count it since it’s within eyeshot of Washington, DC… With access to the Potomac River as well as the mouth of the Four Mile Run, it’s a great area to spend a few hours paddling around between DC and Virginia.

From the Washington Sailing Marina, you can kayak all the way up to the south end of East Potomac Park, which is a beautiful urban green space in DC. Alternatively, stick around the nearby areas of the Potomac and watch as planes land and take off above you from Reagan National Airport.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina has its own boathouse where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. You can also take sailing lessons here, or enjoy a riverside meal at Island Time Bar & Grill.

  • Address: 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, VA 22314

6. National Harbor

Think about your classic, Ferris wheel-laden boardwalk with tons of tourists, shops, and restaurants, and you’ve got DC’s National Harbor. Yup, you heard that right – the National Harbor is an entertainment hub, with tons of places to eat and drink, a large Ferris wheel, and an enormous MGM casino/resort.

Like the Washington Sailing Marina, the National Harbor isn’t technically in DC, but we’ve included it here because it’s close enough and can be reached by public transportation from downtown. It’s also a unique area to go kayaking in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Kayaking here will give you a unique perspective of the National Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Located across the Potomac River from Alexandria, you can catch great views of the banks of Old Town Alexandria, or paddle along the banks of the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has kayaks available for rent for reasonable prices. Since it’s run by the same company as the others listed in this post, the prices are the same: $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Map of DC’s Best Kayaking Spots

For you visual folks out there, here’s a handy map that shows all 6 of the places to go kayaking in DC that we’ve listed above (click on the point to see more information):

Best Places to Go Kayaking Near DC

While there are lots of places within DC to go kayaking, there are also plenty of awesome nature kayaking opportunities withing a few hours of the city. Based on locals’ recommendations, here are some of the most beautiful and popular places to go kayaking near DC:

There are some serious rapids at Great Falls – not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart!

7. Great Falls Park

People don’t usually think of whitewater rapids when they think of Washington DC. However, you can find both at Great Falls! Located just outside of Washington DC, Great Falls Park is a federally protected area that straddles the Potomac River into Virginia and Maryland. Marked by tons of hiking trails and lookout points, the main attraction is the Great Falls cascade, which is a series of waterfalls spanning the width of the river.

Not for the faint of heart, Great Falls has rapids up to class 6, so this definitely isn’t an area for beginner kayakers. However, if you’ve got the experience and you’re up for the challenge, advanced kayakers will find a unique and thrilling experience in the rapids of Great Falls.

*Note: There’s no place to rent a kayak at Great Falls, but you can take a guided tour/lesson with Potomac Paddle Sports that provides equipment. For more detailed information about this route, check out this guide.

The calm waters of the C&O canal are a beginner-friendly contrast to Great Falls.

8. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to kayak in a more natural setting without the adrenaline rush of Great Falls, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal is an excellent choice. This historic canal was once used as a shipping route, as it extends all the way to Ohio! Today, it’s a gorgeous recreation area with miles of trails and calm waterways, perfect for exploring by foot or boat. As far as kayaking near DC goes, it doesn’t get much better than the C&O canal.

The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River for several miles and has much more controlled rapids, meaning calmer waters for kayakers of all levels. Renting a kayak to explore the C&O Canal is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in quiet nature, without having to stray too far from DC’s city limits.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near the C&O Canal: Fletcher’s Boathouse is located right next to the C&O Canal and is the perfect place to rent a kayak, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: 4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

9. Dyke Marsh

Located less than 30 minutes outside of DC’s city limits, Dyke Marsh is a fabulous place to go kayaking near DC. Dyke Marsh is actually a wildlife preserve and is home to dozens of species of birds, plants, and other wildlife. Much of the area where Washington, DC now stands used to be made of these freshwater tidal wetlands, but today, Dyke Marsh is one of the few remaining conservation areas.

Luckily, there are several ways to explore Dyke Marsh, with kayaking as one of the best. You can paddle through the wetlands and keep an eye out for bird species like loons, egrets, and herons.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near Dyke Marsh: Belle Haven Marina is a boating marina that offers kayak rentals. From there, you can paddle to Dyke Marsh and its surrounding areas.

  • Address: 6401 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22307
Photo Credit: F Delventhal (Flickr CC)

10. Mallows Bay

Possibly one of the most unique areas to go kayaking near DC is at Mallows Bay, MD. Here, you can find hundreds of abandoned or wrecked ships that dot the shoreline, some dating back to as early as the 1770s. For the urban explorers out there, this DC kayaking spot is one of the coolest and most unique spectacles of history, abandonment, and decay.

To kayak at Mallows Bay Skip Graveyard, you have to book a guided tour. This will not only take you to the best spots, but will also provide you with a local expert who can share historical information about the ships.

How to Kayak in Mallows Bay: Atlantic Kayak offers guided tours to Mallows Bay and they have excellent reviews from locals and travelers alike.

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina (Flickr)

11. Patuxent River

For peace and tranquility just a few minutes outside of DC, the Patuxent River Park area in Price George’s County spans 7,500 acres of conservation land. Here, you’ll trade museums and monuments for leisurely riverbanks and greenery.

Wildlife lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and bird watchers will love everything the Patuxent River has to offer. Moreover, there are several picturesque places to go kayaking near DC in the Patuxent River area, and it’s suitable for kayakers of all levels. Pair a day of kayaking with an evening of camping or an afternoon of hiking and you’ll be sure to have a memorable adventure!

Where to Rent a Kayak at the Patuxent River: The Patuxent River Park authority offers its own canoe and kayak rentals at very reasonable rates (just $20/day!).

  • Address: 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737

Where to Rent a Kayak in DC

Wondering where you can get your feet wet with kayaking? Here are a few of the most highly-recommended places where you can find DC kayak rentals:

  • Boating in DC is the biggest (and most prevalent) boat rental company in the DC area. They offer the largest selection of kayak rentals in DC, including all of the places listed previously in this article. Their rates are affordable ($16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak, with a maximum of $88/day). Most days, you can simply walk up to a boathouse to rent a kayak without a reservation. Life jackets are included in the price of any kayak rental.
  • Outside of the city, there are several other kayak rental companies near DC, depending on where you want to go. We’ve included several options throughout this post, but if there’s somewhere specific that you want to go, Google Maps is a great resource for finding a nearby kayak rental company.
Even if you’ve never been kayaking before, there are plenty of safe places to learn in Washington, DC!

Best Lessons & Kayaking Tours in Washington, DC

Interested in learning more about kayaking in DC? Look no further than these guided tours and kayaking outfitters, which offer a wide range of services tailored to paddlers of all levels:

  • Potomac Paddlesports is a kayaking lesson provider in the DC metropolitan area. They offer longer excursions in the area as well as across Maryland.
  • Active Nature offers beginner-friendly kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP) lessons in Washington, D.C.

Additional Resources


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Looking for fun things to do in Washington DC? Kayaking easily tops the list! With so many waterways and historic sites, there are tons of places to go kayaking in DC. This is the most comprehensive guide out there for kayaking in Washington DC! #WashingtonDC #USA #Kayaking #Outdoors

*The featured image in this post was taken by Potomac Conservancy and used by Skyline Adventurer under a Creative Commons license.