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New York City might seem like all skyscrapers and concrete from afar, but if you look closely, it’s also a city with tranquil green spaces and fantastic access to hiking trails. Case in point: the fantastic variety of hikes near NYC that you can get to easily on public transportation! We asked locals, snooped online, and wandered the Big Apple ourselves to come up with our guide to the best and most beautiful places for hiking near NYC.

…and the added bonus? All 18 of them are accessible without a car!

Incredible Urban Trails for Hiking In NYC

The High Line

  • Location: Western Manhattan
  • How to get there:
  • Distance: 1.45 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Known as a tourist hotspot, the High Line is an industrial trail that starts in New York’s Meatpacking District, runs through Chelsea, and ends near the Javits Center. Originally, the trail historically served as a viaduct for the New York Central Railroad, and opened in 2009 as a hiking trail after being repurposed by the city.

Boasting beautiful city skyline views, paved pathways, and a central location, this short and leisurely hike is a fantastic one to do on your own or with the family. Here, you’ll trade forests and mountains for buildings and people watching, but we promise it’s a great way to see New York City outdoors.

Pro tip: Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and get some solitude before the rush of tourists hits the trail.

Stunning tree-lined pathways in Central Park, NYC

Central Park

  • Location: Central Manhattan
  • Distance: Varies
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Everyone who knows New York City knows Central Park, the expansive, wooded green area that lies right in the middle of Manhattan. On sunny weekends it seems like the whole city is here, running, reading on the grass, or chatting with a friend on a park bench. While there’s no specific route here we recommend the most, we do love getting lost on the tree-lined trails for hours and people watching along the way.

Pro tip: Central Park is a nice place for a walk or a hike during any season, but we’d recommend heading there in the fall. Fiery colors light up the park for a truly magical scene.

Bronx River Greenway

  • Location: The Bronx
  • How to get there: Take the 5 train all the way to 241st Street, the trail begins near the train exit
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

A hidden gem in the Bronx, the Bronx River Greenway is popular with local paddlers and anyone wanting to soak in the peaceful forest vibes this river trail has to offer. Extending 8 miles, the river here was recently restored and has cool, clean water to swim in. On summer days you can find nature lovers out here to play – splashing in the water or hiking through the meandering trails of the park. If you’re looking for true nature hideaways for hiking in NYC, you’ll certainly find one here.

Pro tip: Bring a swimsuit! You can easily pair your hiking adventure with a kayaking excursion down the Bronx River or a quick swim.

Brooklyn-Queens Greenway

  • Location: Brooklyn & Queens
  • How to get there: Take the 7 train, then get off at the Main Street-Flushing stop and find the trail head nearby
  • Distance: Varies, total length is 40 miles
  • Difficulty: Varies

If you’re looking for hikes in NYC that take you through diverse urban and nature areas, the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway might be a great choice for you. This massive trail system runs through two boroughs and spans wildlife areas, forests, marshes, residential streets, and city parks. For runners, the trail offers an excellent stretch of largely uninterrupted running that will keep your senses stimulated for miles and miles.

Pro Tip: Near Alley Pond Park, you can spot what some say is the oldest living organism in New York City – a tulip tree lovingly named the “Queens Giant”.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Dellaquila

White Trail at Alley Pond Park

  • Location: Queens
  • How to Get There: Take the QM6 bus to Union Tpk/226th St, then walk ~15 minutes to Alley Pond Park
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Speaking of Alley Pond Park, this beautiful park area is definitely worth a visit if you want to go hiking in NYC, even if you aren’t exploring the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. Like we mentioned, you can find LOTS of trees here, including pine forests and the famous “Queens Giant” tulip tree. The White Trail is a family-friendly, easy hike that brings hikers of all levels away from the city streets and into what feels like pure, serene woods. The park sits on a moraine formed by a glacier and is home to many ecosystems across its forests, wetlands, and other terrain.

Gerritsen Creek Nature Trail

  • Location: Brooklyn, near Jamaica Bay
  • How to get there: The B3 bus goes directly to Marine Park, where you can find Gerritsen Creek Nature Trail
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy

If you’re an avid bird watcher or wildlife lover, the easy, shoreside Gerritsen Creek Nature Trail is a fantastic spot to see all kinds of wetland wildlife, from herons to fish species. Located on the site of a former indigenous fishing settlement, Marine Park (where Gerritsen Creek is located) has undergone significant changes of the centuries, from industrialization to revitalization into a nature area. Nearby, you can also walk to numerous beach areas to enjoy the bay and the seaside vibes.

Photo Credit: Dana (Flickr CC)

Blue Trail at Inwood Hill Park

  • Location: Manhattan
  • How to Get There: Take the A train to 207th St station
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Inwood Hill Park is a beautiful spot in Manhattan for hiking in NYC. The Blue Trail is its longest trail, winding through the park for a modest 1.7 miles. In this short hike, you’ll have the chance to see caves, ancient rock formations, and glacial potholes. At the Overlook Meadow, you can catch stunning views of the Hudson River across to the New Jersey Palisades. From the trail, you may also have the chance to spot a majestic bald eagle – Inwood Hill Park is known as one of the best areas in NYC to see them.

The Yellow Trail at Staten Island Greenbelt

  • Location: Staten Island
  • How to get there: Take the Staten Island ferry, then from the terminal, take the S62 bus. Disembark at Bradley Avenue and transfer to the S57 bus, which will take you to Brielle & Rockland Ave. The entrance is nearby.
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

We couldn’t leave off New York’s final borough, Staten Island, and its lovely Greenbelt Conservancy & Nature Center. This diverse green area has 6 trails, including four that are only for hikers (no bikes allowed!). The Yellow Trail is unique because it’s a bit more challenging compared to other hikes in NYC. Gems like Todt Hill and Moses Mountain, as well as bald eagle spotting, await hikers who make the trek out to this nature center.

Photo Credit: Tom’s Playground (Flickr CC)

Hudson River Greenway

  • Location: Western Manhattan
  • How to get there: Any train or bus heading west in Manhattan
  • Distance: 12.9 miles total
  • Difficulty: Easy

As one of Manhattan’s most popular walking, hiking, and biking trails, we absolutely could not leave off the Hudson River Greenway as one fabulous spot for hiking in NYC. While this isn’t a place to go for nature or wildlife, it’s fantastic for people-watching and for soaking in the cosmopolitan feels of Manhattan. Along the trail, you’ll get fantastic views of both the city and the river, and on sunny, warm days, you’ll be in good company, as it’s a beloved outdoor hotspot that’s centrally located.

Best Hikes Near NYC (That You Can Visit Without A Car)

Breakneck Ridge - Best hikes near NYC
Photo Credit: Jeff P (Flickr CC)

Breakneck Ridge

  • Location: Cold Spring, NY (~1 hour from NYC)
  • How to get there: On weekends, take Metro-North from Grand Central Station all the way to Breakneck Ridge
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult

A local favorite for a more challenging, mountainous trail, Breakneck Ridge combines gorgeous scenery with accessibility to the city. At just one hour away from Gran Central Station, Breakneck Ridge is a fantastic spot for hiking near NYC that’s perfect for an adventurous day trip. The trail is about 4 miles of moderate to challenging terrain, including a few areas that require scrambling. Tough inclines are worth it, though – the views from the top of surrounding forests and mountainsides are absolutely jaw-dropping.

Lake Skenonto Trail at Harriman State Park

  • Location: Sloatsburg, NY
  • How to get there: Take the NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Tuxedo Station, then walk 0.5 miles to the trail head
  • Distance: 8.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re looking for a true escape from New York City, the Lake Skenonto Trail at Harriman State Park winds through forested areas and rolling hills to a serene lake. Here, you can expect a moderate level of hiking, namely a few steep uphills to hike through the mountains before arriving at the lake. The trail is largely forested, but opens up to blue skies as you approach the lake. At just one hour from the city, the Lake Skenonto Trail is one of the most easily accessible nature hikes near NYC on our list.

Pro tip: If you’re visiting in the heat of summer, be sure to pack a swimsuit and towel and enjoy the cool, fresh waters of the lake as a reward!

Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim (Flickr CC)

Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

  • Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY
  • How to get there: Take Metro-North from Grand Central Station to Ossining; you can begin your hike on the trail 0.5 miles from the station (click here for detailed directions)
  • Distance: 26 miles total (can be shortened)
  • Difficulty: Easy

For history lovers, the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail is one of the best hikes near NYC, where you can walk through the former area that ran fresh water from upstate into New York City.

Aside from being in the aqueduct itself, the trail also features some really interesting sites dating back 175 years or more, like the New Croton Dam, historic homes, and the real life Sleepy Hollow village (yes, the one with the Headless Horseman…). As an easy trail that’s suitable for hikers of all levels, Old Croton Aqueduct is a wonderful place to trade the city for tree-lined trails.

Arden Point and Glenclyffe

  • Location: Cold Spring, NY
  • How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson train to Garrison, then find the signs at the station for “Arden Point – Hudson Highlands State Park”
  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Easy, beautiful, and accessible – what makes for a better hike than that? Arden Point and Glenclyffe is a strikingly beautiful trail through pathways used during the Revolutionary War. Aside from the history, there are tons of scenic lookouts and breathtaking views from this loop trail, including views of the Hudson River, West Point, and some pretty lavish upstate homes.

Once you head towards the trail from the train, you’ll cross a steel bridge before starting towards Arden Point. Along the loop trail, you’ll find ruins of old buildings and serene forest areas dotted with lots of pretty views.

Storm King Art Center is a collection of more than 100 carefully placed sculptures

Storm King State Park & Art Center

  • Location: New Windsor, NY
  • How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Beacon Station, then a shuttle to Storm King. There’s also a discounted pass sold at Grand Central called the Metro-North Getaway Package.
  • Distance: Varies
  • Difficulty: Easy

One of the most unique places for hiking near NYC is Storm King State Park – kind of like a state park meets an art exhibit. The park a naturally beautiful and scenic area with rolling hills and large meadows, and there are several trails all over the area that lead to various, massive art structures. Art lovers will enjoy this cross-section of nature trails, permanent art fixtures, and shifting exhibitions, and nature lovers will enjoy the many twists and turns the trail takes through the park area.

Stairway to Heaven (Appalachian Trail)

  • Location: Vernon, NJ
  • How to get there: Catch the NJ Transit bus #196 or #197 to Warwick. From there, it’s a 10-minute Uber or taxi to the trail
  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

For hikers who enjoy a challenge, as well as lots of surprises along the trail, Stairway to Heaven is one of the best spots for hiking near NYC. Located in New Jersey, the trail takes you to the top of Mount Wawayanda, twisting through rocky areas and forests to the summit, which boasts stunning views of the surrounding hills. Along the 2.9 mile trail, there are tons of beautiful rock formations as well as a picturesque suspension bridge.

Pro tip: With large, varied rock formations, climbers should come with gear to take advantage of the bouldering and scrambling opportunities.

Historic Fire Island Lighthouse in Fire Island National Seashore

Fire Island National Seashore

  • Location: Long Island, NY
  • How to get there: Take the Montauk Branch of the LIRR from Penn Station to Bay Shore, Sayville, or Patchogue to access ferry terminals. From there, you can find a list of ferry options to various parts of the seashore here.
  • Distance: Varies
  • Difficulty: Varies, mostly easy

Located on Long Island’s coast, Fire Island National Seashore is a different kind of hiking experience than the one on our list. For starters, much of the park area is only accessible by ferry, meaning you’ll need to set aside a full day for Fire Island. Second, since it’s so remote, you’ll be able to find fairly private seaside trails year-round, unlike some of the more popular spots on our list. The park boasts a beautiful historic lighthouse as well as sandy shorelines where you can explore. Just make sure to stay off the dunes – they’re protected areas on the island for many reasons.

Anthony’s Nose Trail (Appalachian Trail)

  • Location: Hudson Highlands, NY
  • How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson line and get off at the Manitou stop, then walk 1.5 miles to the trail head
  • Distance: 2.6 miles (5.6 including walk from the train)
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re wanting to explore even more sections of the Appalachian Trail, Anthony’s Nose is a great place for hiking near New York City. Connected to the nearby Camp Smith Trail, this hike can lengthened depending on how far you’d like to go.

Accessible by Metro-North, the short stretch of the Appalachian Trail at Anthony’s Nose features a 500-foot rock staircase – a real workout – following by stunning views along the mountain ridge. From the top, you can see the Hudson River, the Bear Mountain Bridge, and the surrounding mountains.

Bellvale Mountain (Appalachian Trail)

  • Location: Warwick, NY
  • How to get there: Catch the NJ Transit bus #197 to Route 17A and Kain Road, then walk to Continental Road to begin the hike
  • Distance: 8 miles (one way)
  • Difficulty: Difficult/Expert

For hikers wanting a bit more challenge than the other trails on this list, the Bellvale Mountain trail on the Appalachian Trail is a challenging ridge hike that requires some experience under your belt. Not for the faint of heart, those who do tackle the Bellvale Mountain trail will be rewarded with incredible views from the Prospect Rock viewpoint, which is the highest post of the Appalachian Trail in the state of New York. From the top, you’ll see breathtaking vistas of nearby Greenwood Lake, Sterling Forest, and the surrounding areas.

Additional Resources on Hiking Near NYC


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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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Hikers are a funny breed: they’re always outdoors, they love weird obstacles like chains and scrambles, and they are usually OBSESSED with gear. Ask any hiker what their favorite pair of boots are and they’ll probably spit out a recommendation that has at least 4 words in it. Needless to say, choosing 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

Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots

Truly the only item that a hiker really needs to get out on the trails is a good set of shoes, and a waterproof set of hiking boots is the perfect companion for an intrepid hiker that loves to be outdoors, rain or shine. Keen waterproof hiking boots are durable and waterproof, with thick treads and fabrics that will keep your feet safe and dry, no matter the conditions. They also come in styles for both men and women.

Leki Foldable Trekking Poles

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. Leki Foldable Trekking Poles are perfect for traveling hikers, as they’ll fit into a standard suitcase and are extremely light weight.

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, 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 for a cold morning or a full day out on the trails.

Osprey Day Pack

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 more durable option for day packs – we recommend a size between 18 and 30 liters for day hikes.

The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Every hiker knows that conditions in the mountains can change in an instant. That’s why a rain jacket is one of the smartest and most practical gifts for hikers. The North Face Venture Jacket (for women and men) is a versatile, waterproof jacket for rainy and wet hiking conditions.

PrAna Hiking Pants

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 pants for men and 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

Many hikers, especially those who hike at higher altitudes, need warm baselayers, 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

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

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 for an extra special hiking gift!

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 Useful 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 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, and 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

While we mentioned some disposable hand warmers earlier in this guide, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer a zero-waste solution as well. Like we said earlier, keeping extremities warm while out on the slopes is a real challenges for skiers and snowboarders, and a rechargeable hand warmer can be the perfect solution for long days out in the snow.

GoPro Hero Black & Head Mount

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

Places to Go Hiking


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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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Many people might think of Houston as a huge, industrial sprawl in a flat, swampy area of Texas. While that stereotype is somewhat true, there are tons of lesser-known and hidden spots to find nature in and around the city. For locals and visitors alike, there are several places to go hiking in Houston and the surrounding areas if you look hard enough.

To help you start your search, we compiled a list of the best Houston hiking trails that will speak to your soul if you love hiking as much as we do!

Places to Go Hiking in Houston

Photo Credit: itsdorian (Flickr CC)

1. Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park is one of Houston’s most iconic parks, and is located just outside of downtown. The park boasts fabulous skyline views of the city, a unique underground cistern you can visit, and several trails that wind around the park. Filled with industrial bridges, tons of trees and plants, and the flowing Buffalo Bayou, it’s a perfect spot for urban hiking in Houston.

There’s a 4.8-mile loop in the park that’s popular with runners, bikers, and hikers, that offers up beautiful skyline views and lots of greenery. Additionally, the Buffalo Bayou Trail extends through the park for 15 miles, and is a popular spot for hikers, bikers, and runners. From end to end, this paved trail also passes through a handful of other parks, forested areas, and waterways, so if you’re up for a longer hike, you won’t be bored.

2. Memorial Park

To the west of downtown Houston lies the quiet, family-friendly neighborhood of Memorial. Filled with giant, grandiose homes and large corporate complexes, Memorial is a popular place to live and work. Its namesake park, Memorial Park, is filled with gravel pathways that’s a popular hiking trail with Houston inhabitants.

Gravel paths and wooded areas characterize the park’s 2.88 mile loop trail. In the evenings and weekends, you’ll find that there are several other friendly neighbors out in the park hiking, biking, or playing games in the nearby fields.

3. Houston Arboretum

Located in the Memorial Park area as well, the Houston Arboretum is one of the most underrated and beautiful spots for hiking in Houston. There’s a 5-mile network of trails that connect the park, with the longest being a 1.76-mile loop around the entire park. Here, you can find several local plant species and birds in a very serene conservation area.

Head to the Houston Arboretum for the day and while away the hours hiking through the many different trails in the area, including a birding trail, a wildflower trail, and many more forested, shady paths.

Photo Credit: Mike Lapidakis (Flickr CC)

4. White Oak Bayou Trail

As one of the longest continuous trails in Houston, the White Oak Bayou Trail extends nearly 17 miles through some of the most beautiful areas of Houston. Situated between Rice Military and The Heights, it’s perfectly located in a stretch of greenery alongside the quiet White Oak Bayou. Of course, there are also several overpasses to remind you you’re still in the fourth largest city in the United States, but otherwise, it’s a quiet and peaceful spot to go long-distance running in Houston.

The trails on White Oak Bayou are paved, and you’ll often see walkers and bikers on the trails alongside you. Bring lots of water if you’re heading out for a longer run, as there aren’t many water fountains along the way.

Photo Credit: JR_Paris (Flickr CC)

5. Terry Hershey Hiking Trail

Situated in the green, wooded neighborhood of Memorial, the Terry Hershey Hike and Bike Trail is a local favorite. With over 10 miles of trails, this hiking and running path is perfect for those wanting to get out of the downtown areas without going too far outside of the city.

At Terry Hershey Park, a mixture of gravel and paved paths will greet you, and the tree cover provides shade from the hot Houston sun.

6. Lake Houston Wilderness Park

For a simple and picturesque getaway from Houston, head north about 30 minutes to Lake Houston Wilderness Park, a 4,000+ acre wilderness area with lots of trails and activities to try. There’s wildlife, kayaking, and camping available here, as well as several miles of gravel trails to explore, perfect for a weekend of hiking in Houston.

The most popular and scenic trail in Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the Ameri-Trail Forest Loop, a 9.6-mile loop that passes by a lake and some quiet forest areas. It’s dog-friendly and close to campsites in the area in case you’d like to extend your stay.

Photo Credit: Adam Baker (Flickr CC)

7. Armand Bayou Nature Center

For a fun, immersive experience in nature, Houston’s Armand Bayou Nature Center is a wonderful spot for hiking, wildlife watching, and more. The center is home to over 370 species of local wildlife, which you can see from one of its 5 miles of trails and hiking areas. While it’s meant to be a family-friendly learning center and urban wilderness conserve, it’s great for avid hikers who enjoy wildlife and bird spotting.

The center offers guided hikes and tours of its grounds, including a bat hike to see local bat species flying through the sky. Note that admission is $6 per adult, with discounts for kids and seniors.

8. Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend is one of the coolest and most beautiful state parks in the Houston area, located just 45 minutes from downtown. With its wide variety of wildlife, including various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles, you can find some of the best hikes in Houston here.

There are 37 miles of trails in Brazos Bend State Park, with several designated hikes around the premises, including Elm Lake Loop Trail, and the 40 Acre Lake Trail.

Places to Go Hiking Near Houston

Photo Credit: Shiva Shenoy (Flickr CC)

9. Galveston Island State Park

While most people don’t think of hiking and state parks during a trip to Galveston, it’s actually a fantastic place for coastal hikes in Houston. With 15 miles of trails, it’s great for viewing wildlife, especially coastal birds like herons and pelicans. Because it’s only 10 miles away from the city of Galveston, it’s fairly easy to access by car.

Hike one of the many trails, that take you to wetlands and other coastal ecosystems. Alternatively, you can hike some of the trails that lead up to paddling sites where you can take off on a canoe, kayak, or paddle board.

10. Martin Dies Jr. State Park

Located near the border of Louisiana, Martin Dies Jr. State Park consists primarily of piney woods. It’s 60 miles north of the city of Beaumont, and is a lovely place for a hiking getaway near Houston. With its prime location at the convergence of the Neches and Angelina Rivers, there are 6 hiking trails in the park ranging from 0.29 to 2.24 miles in length.

Martin Dies Jr. State Park is great for learning about the different trees native to this region of Texas, including beech, pine, cypress trees and magnolias. Take a hike to see several areas of the rivers and forests, or extend your weekend into a full camping and hiking expedition.

Photo Credit: Bobby Ketchum (Flickr CC)

11. Sam Houston National Forest

As one of the four national forests in the state, Sam Houston National Forest lies 50 miles north of Houston. The forest connects the towns of Huntsvile, Cleveland, and Richards, and is full of wooded hiking trails you can explore. Because it’s so close to the city, Sam Houston National Forest is a perfect spot to go hiking near Houston if you’re looking for shady, mossy forests and quiet tranquility.

One long hiking trail, the Lone Star Hiking Trail, passes through the entire forest for a whopping 128 miles. On a trip to the forest, you can enjoy piney woods, or pair your trip with a jaunt to Lake Conroe for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, or other water sports.

12. Lake Livingston State Park

Lake Livingston State Park is a large park surrounding a peaceful, forested lake. Just one hour north of Houston, it’s a great way to escape the city for a day trip or a weekend hiking getaway. Each of the hiking trails range from 0.3 to 2 miles, with nearly 6 miles of total trails.

Here, you’ll find quiet forest paths, and if you look or listen closely, you can pinpoint plenty of woodpeckers who call the area home. Enjoy the beautiful Lake Livingston shoreline on your hikes while enjoying the beautiful nature of the park.

Photo Credit: faungg’s photos (Flickr CC)

13. Big Thicket

Not far from Martin Dies Jr. State Park lies Big Thicket Park, a large, forested sanctuary that is home to lots of local wildlife and unique plant life. In the park, you can see carnivorous marsh plants, turtles, and alligators, as much of the park is comprised of a marshy, tropical terrain. There are over 84,000 acres in the park, making it one of the most massive expanses on our list.

Within the 40 miles of trails ranging from 0.3 to 18 miles, you can come hiking here whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker. As one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics, you won’t have a shortage of things to see and do in Big Thicket!

14. Stephen F. Austin Park

Located on the banks of the Brazos River, Stephen F. Austin Park is a beloved recreation area located just 50 miles west of Houston. For history buffs, Stephen F. Austin Park is also the site of the original Anglo-American colony in Texas. Because the park has 5 miles of short and easy trails, it’s great for families with kids or those who want a short, leisurely hike through the forest and riverside.

Photo Credit: Trek Texas (Flickr CC)

15. Bastrop State Park

Located in the Lost Pines area, Bastrop State Park is an area that has frequently been ravaged by forest fires and floods. As a result, the terrain and scenery here consists of tree stalks dotted with tropical ferns and other unique plant species.

Within the park, you’ll find short trails, with two longer, historic cart paths that span 5 miles. For more experienced hikers, we’d recommend the more challenging Lost Pines loop trail, a 5 mile trail that winds through the hilly and rocky surroundings. Additionally, there are several historic old cabins on site, where you can stay overnight to extend your trip.

Additional Resources


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