IT’S TIME TO LACE up those walking shoes. Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, and the area offers hundreds of options for taking it all in on foot.
Whether you’re in the mood for smooth strolling, serious trekking or just a sweet little picnic spot, My Little Bird went on the hunt for the best walking spots. We found some hidden gems that will invite you to wander off the beaten path a bit. We think you’ll be glad you did.
Block House Point
14750 River Road, Darnestown, Md.
There’s a little bit of everything at this conservation park just outside of Potomac. Walk, hike or just wander and you’ll come across archeological sites, Civil War encampments and Native American dwellings. Walk for half a mile – or eight. Two main trails – Pennyfield Lock and Violet’s Lock – will lead you to breathtaking views from bluffs over the Potomac River.
“Those bluffs can give you a rush,” says Larry Broadwell, guidebook editor for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. “You’re wandering through the forest, then all of a sudden you’re at the edge of a bluff dropping 75 feet.”
Getting there: Head northwest from Potomac. There are three parking areas off River Road. The first is at Pennyfield Trail, the second is a gas line clearing (you can’t miss it) and the third is at the upstream edge of the park at Califia Farms Stable.
Nearby eats: Travilah Oak Market, 12944 Travilah Road, Potomac, Md.
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
2845 N. Marcey Road, Arlington, Va.
Just outside of Arlington, Potomac Overlook offers a picnic area, a nature center, peaceful woodland trails and excellent bird watching. It’s convenient to get to and ideal for short circuit walks.
Getting there: From Chain Bridge on the D.C. side, cross into Virginia and follow Military Road.
Nearby eats: Jetties Inc., 1609 Foxhall Rd NW
Turkey Run Park
George Washington Memorial Parkway Headquarters, McLean, Va.
Time is of the essence! Virginia Bluebells and Trout Lilies line the floodplain of the Potomac in the early weeks of spring, attracting numerous butterflies, but they disappear soon after. It’s also home to more than 100 species of birds. Craving more? From there you can hop down to the 10-mile Potomac Heritage Trail.
Getting there: From Potomac Overlook Regional Park, return on Marcey Road to Military Road and turn right. Travel 1.4 miles and turn right at the Chain Bridge sign, just before the T-intersection on Military Road. Continue 0.4 miles and turn left onto SR 123. Proceed 1.0 miles to the George Washington Memorial Parkway/I-495 entrance. Continue 1.9 miles north on the parkway and turn right at the Turkey Run Park sign. Proceed 0.1 miles and follow the signs to the park.
Little Bennett Regional Park
23701 Frederick Road, Clarksburg, Md.
The largest of Montgomery County’s hidden natural gems, more than 20 miles of trails will lead you through forests, meadows and streams – into the solitude of the forest and back out again. For a brief visit, check out the old Froggy Hollow Schoolhouse. In the summer docents tell of 1930s rural life. From there, take the short and easy Froggy Hollow Trail, which meanders along the creek beyond the schoolhouse.
Getting there: Take I-270 N to Clarksburg. Froggy Hollow Trailhead Parking is a gravel lot on Clarksburg Road, just south of Kingsley Road.
Nearby eats: Clarksburg Grocery, 23329 Frederick Road, Clarksburg, Md.
It’s a little further out, but there are a number of very easy trail systems in, around and on either side of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The town itself offers hiking trails, mini museums and eateries.
Getting there: Start at the visitors center, in West Virginia above the town. There’s a $5 entrance fee to the national park site. A shuttle bus will take you down near the confluence between the Potomac and the Shenandoah. Take a rest on one of the many sandy beaches. Feeling adventurous? Enjoy the rapids in a tube or canoe.
Nearby eats: Cannonball Deli, 148 High Street, Harpers Ferry, West Va.
On this trail, at the intersection of NW Branch and Colesville Road, there’s a downstream trail. It’s a little rocky but worth it. Almost immediately it drops into a gorge that Teddy Roosevelt described as second only to Great Falls for its scenic view. The natural surface trail extends north to Wheaton Regional Park.
Getting there: Parking is allowed on both sides of the street where Colesville Road and NW Branch Trail meet.
Nearby Eats: Trader Joe’s, 10741 Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Md.
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club guidebooks can be found at REI and Hudson Trail Outfitters. The club also teaches hiking classes of all levels and interests. Learn more at www.patc.net.
— Mia Cortez