You may not have a forest posted up in your backyard, but a quick drive to one of these super-close trails and you’ll be surrounded by fresh air fun that’ll keep cabin fever at bay. Other than a snack for mid-trail noshing, there’s little preparation that’s needed for these treks–just a willingness to stroll at a kid’s pace and an eagerness to explore.
Burke Lake Park
Burke Lake is a 218 acre lake that will have you feeling like you’re on a getaway! You can rent rowboats and go fishing, or walk the 4.7 mile trail looping the lake. A little farther from the shore the kids can play on one of three playgrounds, putt around at mini golf, have a scoop (or two) at the ice cream parlor, take a ride on the train, or giddy-up on the carousel. Despite the laundry list of activities and its proximity to D.C., Burke Lake Park manages to maintain quiet and tranquility.
7315 Ox Rd. (Fairfax Station, Va)
Rock Creek Regional Park
Rock Creek Regional Park is an expansive 1,800 acres with several entrances. It includes two lakes (Lake Needwood and Lake Frank), a nature center, playgrounds, and 13 miles of trails. At Lake Needwood you can rent rowboats, fish, practice your archery, or let your little monkeys swing and zipline on the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course. And if you prefer to bike, then take a scenic route on the 18 mile, asphalted Rock Creek Hiker Biker Trail leading to D.C.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Once you walk the bridge from the GW Parkway over the Potomac River, you enter this GORGE man-made island. You can walk the 1½ mile Swamp Trail, 2/3 mile Woods Trail, or the ¾ mile Upland Trail, which are perfect distances for little legs! Plus, you don’t have to worry about bikers running over your kid because they aren’t allowed on the island. Once you finish walking, take a rest at the beautiful memorial plaza with water fountains, bridges, and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt.
Cunningham Falls State Park
Not many parks in the DMV allow swimming. But at Cunningham Falls, located in the Catoctin Mountains, you can hike one of nine trails (varying in difficulty and length), play on the playgrounds, kayak, or–drumroll, please–take a dip at Hunter Creek Lake! A portion of this lake includes a sandy beach with lifeguards, picnic tables, and grills. If you find that you can’t peel yourself away, then pitch your tent and go camping! Thurmont, MD
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens comes with more than just flowers. The kids can start by smelling the fruit-scented plants at the Touch & Smell Garden. From there they can run over to the gazebo overlooking the Koi and turtle-filled pond. Continue the paved, stroller-friendly trail to the Korean Bell Garden and Historic Log Cabin. As you wind up and down the hills, you’ll find butterflies, gazebos, and of course, tons of flowers. Vienna, VA
9750 Meadowlark Garden (Vienna, Va)
Huntley Meadows Park
With flat, well-cleared trails and boardwalks over the wetlands, this trail is perfect for all ages. Little ones who can play the quiet game will be rewarded with wildlife sightings from frogs, turtles, birds, and lizards. There are a few miles of trail here, but you don’t have to worry about getting lost since the path is circular and you’ll eventually wind up where you started.
Photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr
Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park offers you a special view of the Potomac River with its cascading waterfalls nestled in the forest. This 800 acre park provides multiple overlooks, gorgeous backdrops (perfect for your next holiday card), and oodles of hiking. There are 15 miles of trails along the Potomac, Difficult Run, and the ridge overlooking the river. Along with the history of the Patowmack Canal, Great Falls Park provides acres of land for families to picnic and play.
9200 Old Dominion Dr. (McLean, Va)
Did we forget a nature walk that you know kids will go ga-ga over? Tell us in the comments section below.
–Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Danielle Larkins