From tired little legs to treacherous terrain, making your hiking hobby a family affair isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve rounded up our top picks for gorgeous hikes that are perfect for the five and under set. Get out your gear and get ready to share the great outdoors with your little city slicker on these jaunts that feature water, wildlife, and even a waterfall or two.
Photo: Paul via Flickr
Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park Trail
This Montgomery County park features both hard and natural surface trails, which makes it perfect for the stroller set. Located just south of the Beltway, your kiddos can stomp by streams and explore the same flora and fauna that were favorites of Theodore Roosevelt and Rachel Carson. In fact, the trail is part of Rachel Carson Greenway Trail Corridor, a 25-mile trail which will one day connect Prince George’s County to Patuxent River State Park. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the many beavers that call this trail home.
Sandy Spring, Md.
Huntley Meadows Park
Little beach bums and nature lovers alike will enjoy a trek at Alexandria’s Huntley Meadows Park. With paved, dirt, and boardwalk trails, there’s lots of ways for tiny legs to explore this woods and wetlands. The one-mile trail includes several benches and overlooks where your crew can stop to rest or spot turtles, frogs, cardinals, and even a heron or two. Bring along some sunscreen, hats, and water, as there’s no shade in the park’s wetlands section.
3701 Lockheed Blvd. (Alexandria, Va.)
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
Little eyes (and hands) will love the lilies and lotuses that abound at this D.C. landmark. The park’s two and a half-mile trail takes walkers and strollers through 75 acres of marshes and 45 ponds filled with plants and wildlife. This urban oasis is also known for its free kids programs, including scavenger hunts and bi-monthly story and craft time that are perfect for preschoolers. Got an early riser? You’re in luck. The park recommends early morning visits for the great views and low humidity.
1550 Anacostia Ave., NE (Kenilworth)
Affectionately known as Great Falls’ “tamer neighbor,” Riverbend Park offers wee hikers the chance to explore the famous landscape on their own terms. Older kiddos may be up for a jaunt on the park’s two and half-mile portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail, while tiny adventure seekers and their parents should check out the paved (a.k.a. stroller-friendly) Duff ‘n’ Stuff trail. Does hiking make your crew hungry? Pack lunch and enjoy a riverside picnic right next to the park’s free nature center.
8700 Potomac Hills St. (Great Falls, Va.)
Louise F. Cosca Regional Park
Sometimes, the journey is really about the destination. That’s the case at Louise F. Cosca Regional Park. Just steps off their kid-friendly, 1.4-mile hiking trail is the Clearwater Nature Center, which is known for its hands-on exhibits, including live animal displays and a butterfly garden. Tack on a paddleboat rental onto your itinerary to make a day out of your outdoor adventure.
11000 Thrift Rd. (Clinton, Md.)
What’s your family’s favorite local hiking destination? Let us know in the comments below.