The next time you want to tell your kids to take a hike, remember that they can! The D.C. area has plenty of places to get your nature – and relaxation – on, whether you want to clamber over rocks or push a stroller while gazing at history, waterfalls or the simple beauty of botanicals. The following places offer stroller-friendly ways for you to log some steps on the ol’ Fitbit, plus most have energy-burning extras like playgrounds and nature centers.
Photo: catdonmit via flickr
Mount Vernon Trail
This 18 mile trail stretches from George Washington’s home to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Skip the trail nearest to the island; it’s paved in dirt, mud and rocks and isn’t suitable for strollers. Instead, opt for he section of the trail that winds through Old Town Alexandria by way of the waterfront; it’s a low-impact walk that has an active scene for little ones (think: people watching, passing boats and outdoor performers). You’ll find a more rigorous walk as you near Mount Vernon, where you will encounter some hills.
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
Thispath runs along both sides of the river with over 15 miles of trails to explore (most running along the water). There are plenty of places to explore along this route, but the newest section of the path — which traverses Kenilworth Gardens – might be one of the prettiest sections. Not far from the gardens, you’ll find the three miles running through Anacostia Park, This area is well paved, easy to explore and has convenient parking. Kids will love the pirate-themed playground on Nicholson Street SE. If you choose to explore on the other side of the river, near the National Arboretum, check out this kid-friendly restaurant post-stroll.
This D.C. landmark boasts over 2 and a half miles of paved pathways. Your baby buggy-bound little will love all the sights and sound of this location. You can power walk through this park (which has a slight incline for a more strenuous hike), or you can stop to take in some of the kid-friendly acitivies, like the carousel and the petting zoo. Most of all, we think hikers will appreciate the easy bathroom breaks, the convenience of water fountains and the availability of snacks if hunger should strike. The National Zoo is open 364 days of the year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On the southern tip of East Potomac Park, a man-made island in the Potomac, you will find a 4 mile trek along the waterfront. This is a flat, easy paved trail with a playground and picnic area near the parking lot for little legs to stretch their legs. There is no better way to great spring in DC than with cherry blossoms, and this area is a best kept secret for viewing flowers without the crowds. You can find a trail map here for points of interest.
Photo: criminal intent via flickr
Bethesda Trolley Trail
This paved pathway was originally used by the Rockville Railway streetcar line. It’s a 4 mile quite, wooded path that has some inclines and elevation; perfect for those looking to challenge themselves on a strenuous walk or jog. The trail starts between Woodglen Drive and Edson Lane in North Bethesda and ends on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda.
Baltimore Inner Harbor
With shops, restaurants and museums to explore, serious hikers may find this trail to be the equivalent of mall walking outdoors. But pram pushers will appreciate the smooth, flat paved walkways, the convenience of restrooms, and the lively atmosphere for small ones to enjoy (think a mix of jugglers, balloon artists and eccentric boats like a fleet of dragon vessels). The walking path here runs 1.5 miles.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Escape the traffic and noise of the city while still in the city. This 88.5-acre island dedicated to the 26th U.S. president has easy trails you can follow to the paved Memorial Plaza, where an enormous statue of the president greets visitors. There’s a small beach along the Potomac River overlooking Georgetown where you can picnic. For a more ambitious undertaking, hop onto the 18-mile, paved Mount Vernon Trail, which stretches from the island to Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s home.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
This National Historical Park covers 184.5 miles, some of which passes through some pretty picturesque parts of D.C., such as Georgetown, where large sections are currently undergoing reconstruction. The towpath is flat and great for an easy walk or jog with a stroller. As a bonus, the bustling shops and restaurants of Georgetown are only a few steps away in case you – er, the baby – gets cranky.
OK, so this is still the C&O Canal, but the views are drastically different, so we are counting it twice. For strollers, stick to the wide gravel paths, but for anyone with a hankering for something more adventurous, the Billy Goat Trail has challenging rock climbs and breathtaking waterfall views. Stop at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center to get your questions answered. In 2019, mule-drawn canal boat rides will resume, giving you a change to travel back to the 1870s and ride the canal’s famous locks.
Potomac Heritage Trail
If Great Falls feels like too much, head a few miles away to this 2.5-mile stroller-friendly trail at Riverbend Park. It’s a nationally recognized scenic trail that follows the Potomac, so keep those cameras ready. Got a budding nature lover? The park offers children’s birthday parties with themes such as Fishing Fun, Dinosaur Days and Wildlife Adventure, or come for the hike and stay for a class such as Furry Friends (ages 2-5) or Salamanders Undercover (7-12).
Photo: corsinet via flickr
Burke Lake Park
This park in Fairfax County was almost an airport, but neighbors fought that plan. Today, the park is home to a 4.7-mile flat trail that can be bumpy at times but easily accommodates a stroller. Beyond the trail, visitors can rent boats, play mini golf, ride a carousel or mini trail, or frolic on a playground.
Locust Grove Nature Center
The 1.4-mile trail is jogging stroller-friendly and passes the Cabin John Creek, a meadow and an 80-year-old sycamore tree. Watch for butterflies in the summer, box turtles in the early morning and bats in the late afternoon. The trail begins and ends at the nature center, which offers Nature Immersion school programs plus events tailored to tots and pre-schoolers. Plus, it has indoor exhibits including live animals. Did we mention there’s also a playground?
Woodend Nature Sanctuary
This 40-acre outdoor wonderland is the Audubon Naturalist Society’s headquarters, so in addition to a 1.1-mile trail loop, you and the kiddos can visit Woodend Mansion, designed by the same architect who did the Jefferson Memorial and National Gallery of Art.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Stroll the paved trails that wind through this park’s 95 acres. Stop to check out the koi pond and the Korean Bell Garden, a handmade structure that houses a bell made in South Korea. The path is hilly, which will keep it interesting for the little ones and a workout for the grown-ups.
—Meghan Meyers and Stephanie Kanowitz