In early 2019, I posted 5 places to go hiking in DC by metro, and made it a goal to find 5 more places around DC accessible by public transit over the next year. As more and more outdoor places and activities are starting to reopen, I thought that it would be a good idea to go ahead and share this post, along with the original one. Check to make sure in advance that the specific park is open before venturing out and remember to follow social distancing guidelines.
The National Arboretum
Probably the most underrated or unknown "monument" in DC, the U.S. National Arboretum is a gem and one of my favorite places in the city. This national research facility has historically been used to "test" trees and other plants before they're introduced into the U.S. and also for other research and display purposes. There are many collections from bonsai and ferns to conifers (highly recommend seeing these in winter) and of course the cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring. Plus, it's free to enter!
How to get there: Although the Arboretum is right in the city, there's not a great way to get there via public transit. From Union Station, you can take the D8 bus to Trinidad Ave and then walk about 20 minutes up Bladensburg Rd. to the entrance on R St. NE. You can also take the Streetcar down H St. and do the same. There is also a Capital Bikeshare station right in front of that entrance or bike parking within the Arboretum. Beware of biking on Bladensburg Rd, there's no bike lane and cars go fast, so I suggest riding down the sidewalk.
Suggested hike: You can do a 4-mile loop around the whole park, taking time to check out the plant collections along the way. This took me about 1.5 hours. There are some trails but you will also have to walk down the roads in the park, so beware of cars. Here is the map on the Arboretum website. I also highly recommend signing up for one of the monthly Full Moon Hikes. It is really cool to see the capitol columns at night and you'll get a guided tour of the park.
Wheaton Regional Park
For this project of finding places to hike within the DC area, I often just scroll around google maps and try to find the green spots. This is how I found Wheaton Regional Park and I was pleasantly surprised when I checked it out with the leaves changing last fall.
How to get there: From Union Station, take the red line towards Glenmont and get off at Wheaton Station (about 20 minutes). You can walk or bikeshare from the stop to the entrance of the park on Arcola Ave. There is also the #9 Silver Spring bus that will take to the Arcola Ave & Orebaugh Ave stop in front of the park. If you bike from the city, the Sligo Creek bike path north with take you all the way there, and is a beautiful ride along the rocky creek.
Suggested hike: There's plenty of trails, hiking, paved, and equestrian to choose from on the trail map on the website. My favorite was the Acorn Woods loop trail and also walking by Pine Lake. It took me about an hour to cover most of the park.
This "living monument" is a hidden island on the Potomac River that you've probably passed by many times but never noticed. As a conservationist and champion of national parks and forests, former President Theodore Roosevelt definitely deserves a whole island and it is one of my favorite monuments, given the nature walks and quotes, e.g., "Conservation means development as much is it does protection."
How to get there: Take the blue/orange/silver line to the Rosslyn metro stop in downtown Arlington. From here, it is about a 10-minute walk down to the river, where you will spot the pedestrian bridge to get onto the island.
Suggested hike: I suggest making a zig-zag loop of all the trails on the island that will be about 3.5 miles with interesting views of the swamp and sights of DC from the river. You'll see Georgetown, the Key Bridge, and the Kennedy Center from a different perspective.
Lake Needwood is another place I found scrolling the map as it is in the northern extension of Rock Creek Park in Maryland. I admit, it is not that easy to get to from the metro and you will spend some time walking through suburbia before you get to the lake. There is a Capital Bikeshare station at Shady Grove metro but not one in the park, so you may decide to take your own bike on the metro and ride it to the park. The views of the lake and picturesque strolls along the creek are worth it!
How to get there: From Union Station, take the red line towards Shady Grove, and get off at the last station, Shady Grove (40-50 minutes). Out of the metro parking, take a left on Redland Rd. and then a right on Needwood Rd., about 2 miles of walking until you get to the Lake Needwood overpass, here you will see the trail entrance on the right, before you cross over the lake.
Suggested hike: From Needwood Rd., walk along Westside Trail along the lake to the Needwood Lake trailhead and dam. After this, you can stay along the path that leads all the way to Rock Creek Park in DC. I took a small trail off to the side along the creek and then walked back to the Rockville metro station. This was about 9 miles in total. There are many options on how to get to the lake and walk or bike it, I suggest checking out the Montgomery Parks website.
I didn't actually hike in Greenbelt Park but it deserves special mention because I did bike all the way there (and back) from DC last fall and tried to explore the park, but it was closed in 2019 for construction and should reopen sometime in 2020, pending the current situation. Check the Greenbelt Park website for more updated information.
How to get there: If you have a bike, I highly suggest taking the Anacostia River Trail and then NE Branch Trail, this is about 15 miles from NE DC. Otherwise, you can take the Green Line metro towards Greenbelt, and get off at the second to last stop, College Park. From there, it is a 1.5-mile walk to the south entrance of the park along Good Luck Rd.
Suggested hike: Check out the walking tracks on the Greenbelt Park website.
Don't forget to check out the original post on 5 places to go hiking in DC by metro and comment below on more ideas.