Hiking in Washington, D.C.
Great hiking is available in and around Washington. Hikes and nature walks are listed in the Friday "Weekend" section of the Washington Post. Several area organizations sponsor outings, and many are guided.
Billy Goat Trail. This challenging trail in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park starts and ends at the C&O Canal Towpath for a total hike of 4.7 miles, providing some outstanding views of the wilder parts of the Potomac, along with some steep downhills, rock hopping, as well as some climbs. Be prepared—the hike is mostly in the sun, not suitable for small children, and no dogs are allowed. Near Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD, 20854. 301/413–0720. www.nps.gov/choh.
Potomac-Appalachian Trail Club. Founded in 1927, the club sponsors hikes—usually free—on trails from Pennsylvania to Virginia, including the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail. This is a good resource for books with trail maps, hiking guides, trail cabins, and camping information. 118 Park St. SE, Vienna, VA, 22180. 703/242–0315. www.patc.net.
Theodore Roosevelt Island. Designed as a living memorial to the environmentally minded president, this wildlife sanctuary is off the George Washington Parkway near the Virginia side of the Potomac—close to Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, East Potomac Park, and the Kennedy Center. Hikers and bicyclists can reach the island by crossing the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge or walking from the Rosslyn Metro. Many birds and other animals live in the island's marsh and forests. Rangers are available for an Island Safari, where a statue of Teddy greets you with his arm raised. Washington, DC, 20037. 703/289–2500. www.nps.gov/this.
Woodend Sanctuary. A self-guided nature trail winds through a verdant 40-acre estate that is the suburban Maryland headquarters of the local Audubon Naturalist Society. So bring those binoculars! A Georgian Revivalist mansion, designed in the 1920s by Jefferson Memorial architect John Russell Pope, graces the grounds. You're never far from the trill of birdsong here, as the Audubon Society has turned the place into something of a private nature preserve, forbidding the use of toxic chemicals and leaving some areas in a wild, natural state. Programs include wildlife identification walks, environmental education programs, and a weekly Saturday bird walk September through June. A bookstore stocks titles on conservation, ecology, and birds. The grounds are open daily sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. 8940 Jones Mill Rd., Chevy Chase, MD, 20815. 301/652–9188; 301/652–1088 for recent bird sightings. www.audubonnaturalist.org. Free.
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