One of my favorite things about living in the Washington, DC-area is the access to beautiful nature and easy hikes near DC with my family.
Hikes near Washington DC take the guess work out of where to go on a beautiful day, especially when the kids whine “we’re bored!” We’ve lived here for over 10 years and are still discovering new and unique spots to explore with our kids, from rock scrambles to more challenging hikes and everything in between.
Whether you are looking for hikes in DC, Virginia hikes or hikes in Maryland, I’m diving into why these green spaces and hiking trails are kid-friendly, which are stroller friendly or better for older kiddos and a baby carrier, plus where to park close to the trailhead.
Table of Contents
- 1 Easy Hikes in DC
- 2 Easy Hikes in Virginia for Families
- 3 Easy Hikes in Maryland for Families
- 3.1 Audubon Naturalist Society
- 3.2 National Colonial Farm
- 3.3 Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
- 3.4 Rockville Civic Center Park
- 4 Pin it and Start Planning!
Easy Hikes in DC
Kingman and Heritage Islands
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: Park in the large parking lots at 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE DC and enter the gates to Kingman and Heritage Islands.
- Trail Length: 1 mile or more
My family’s new favorite go-to easy hike in DC is the Kingman and Heritage Islands along the Anacostia River. Kingman and Heritage Islands are human-made islands in NE DC accessed at The Fields, a very cool sports development next to RFK Stadium.
First, cross the first footbridge to Heritage Island, the smaller of the two. You can take a footpath around this island and explore the shore with lots of wildlife in just six acres!
Next, take the footbridge to Kingman Island, the larger of the two islands. This island is 40 acres with lots of trails to explore, nature classrooms and art installations. There is a Kingman Bluegrass Festival on this island most years too!
The trails are hard dirt paths and unpaved. It is not stroller friendly past the two footbridges. I would suggest bringing a baby carrier if you have a little one.
There are no restrooms on the islands but there are very clean ones near the playground at RFK stadium.
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 927 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024
- There is parking all along the island so you can park in one spot and return to it easily or just put in Hains Point into your maps app.
- Trail Length: 4.1-mile loop
The Hains Point Loop trail is the epitome of easy hikes in DC for families! It is a paved, 4.1-mile loop with beautiful views of the city, trees, two playgrounds and restrooms. We love all of the open space for kids to roam in the grassy areas in the middle.
The hike itself is around the island of East Potomac Park. The full loop is 4.1 miles and is popular for cyclists and roller skaters.
The Hains Point loop trail is stroller friendly and paved. You also don’t have to do the full loop. If your kids get tired, you can cut across the narrow island back to your car or to the playground at Hains Point.
There are restrooms open near the playground.
Soapstone Valley Trail – 2.4-mile round trip
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: We park on 29th street and take the trail from the end of Audubon Terrace NW. You can also access it through the other end of Albemarle St.
- Trail Length: 2.4-miles round trip
A lesser-known trail, but great for families, is the Soapstone Valley Trail which connects to Rock Creek Park.
We love this trail for kids ages 4 and up because you get to cross the creek a couple times. What kid doesn’t love water?
It is close to Hillwood Estates which would make a great addition to a visit to their lovely gardens. The Rock Creek Conservancy website says that it is 1.2 miles in length and crosses the creek 7 times, so you get a nice 2.4 mile roundtrip hike.
There are steep steps at one point so definitely not stroller friendly
Rock Creek Park Boulder Bridge Loop
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: Rock Creek Nature Center at 5200 Glover Road, NW
- Trail Length: 3.1 mile loop
There are almost an endless supply of trails in Rock Creek Park. I would recommend for families to start from the Nature Center and Planetarium for the Boulder Bridge Loop trail, one of the easiest hikes in Northwest DC. There are other great trails along the parkway, but I prefer the ones in the hills and away from the busy roads.
Park at the Nature Center and walk to the Horse Center. To the left of the horse center is a trail called the Boulder Bridge Loop, which is a 3-mile loop through lovely forests, hills and to one of the oldest bridges in the park.
This DC hiking trail is not paved or stroller friendly. At the beginning there is a bit of a steep hill. We did not make it to the bridge on our first time, but will be back soon for the full 3-miles trek.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: Theodore Roosevelt Island Park, Washington, DC 20001
- Trail Length: 0.3-to-1.5-mile options
There are three main trails on Theodore Roosevelt Island. All are wonderful and make for easy kid hiking in DC, but they are unpaved.
The Swamp Trail, which is mostly boardwalk, is the longest at 1.5 miles. The Upland Trail is under 1 mile and the Woods Trail is the shortest at 0.3 miles to the Theodore Roosevelt memorial plaza area.
These hikes are great in any season but bring bug spray and watch out for ticks in the warmer weather.
The only way to access the island is by footbridge at the parking lot. There are beautiful views of Georgetown from the bridge. There are no restrooms on the island so be prepared.
I highly recommend that you take a picture of the map as you first enter the island to have during your trip.
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
- Trail Length: 1 mile to 3-mile options
The National Arboretum is a national treasure and we are so lucky to live close to this free park. It covers 446 acres in the Northeast of DC and is an incredible place to explore with kids.
For families with little kids, I would recommend starting at the Admin Building to see the huge Koi fish, walking to the Capitol Columns and then down the hill to Fern Valley. It’s a lovely short trail with bridges, benches and lots of interesting plants to explore.
The Washington Youth Garden is close to Fern Valley and is open to the public even though fenced. They have a great mission to connect kids with gardening and all its benefits.
For older kids or strollers, check out the West Side loop of 2.6 miles which goes around the West side of the park. It is paved and stroller friendly!
Easy Hikes in Virginia for Families
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: Enter ‘Belle Haven Marina’ into your map app. (If you put in the name of the park, google takes you to a random spot on the bike trail that does not have a lot!) You can park just before the marina at the Mt Vernon Trail Parking. Google maps link here.
- Trail Length: 1-2 miles
The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve feels worlds away from DC, but is only 6 miles south of Old Town Alexandria.
It is a great easy hike for families with kids because there is a little beach with views of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and sailboats. After you walk to the beach you can continue on to the narrow peninsula to get a gorgeous view of the Potomac River.
There are two permanent restrooms at the Belle Haven Marina. The hike is not stroller friendly, as it is a dirt path with some rocks and roots.
Pohick Bay Regional Park
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 6501 Pohick Bay Dr, Lorton, VA 22079
- Trail Length: 3.7 – 4.4 mile loops
Further south in Lorton, Virginia is a wonderful hidden gem of Pohick Bay Regional Park. We love this park because it isn’t crowded and has stunning views of the river! There is also a playground with views of the water to enjoy.
Pohick Bay has over 1,000 bayside acres of trails and even a waterpark.
There are two main trails at the park- the Red Trail (4.4 mile loop) and the Blue Trail (3.7 mile loop). Both are easy but not stroller friendly. You can also walk along the water for a bit from the parking lot.
Note: The park is run by Nova Parks. It is $8 a day per vehicle if you are from outside northern Virginia. (Free for Arlington, Fairfax & Loudoun Counties; Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax & Falls Church)
Chessie’s Trail at Lee District Park in Alexandria, VA
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 6601 Telegraph Rd, Alexandria, VA 22310
- Trail Length: about 1 mile
For a fully stroller and kid friendly trail, check out Chessie’s Trail behind Chessie’s Big Backyard playground at Lee District Park in Alexandria. This is one of my kids’ favorite playgrounds in northern Virginia (Want more playgrounds? Read 22 Best northern Virginia playgrounds.)
Chessie’s Trail includes a scavenger hunt for animal sculptures as well as musical instruments throughout the trail to try. On top of this is a fully accessible/stroller friendly treehouse to explore after you’re done with your nature hike.
Hike Details: The parking lot is right next to the playground. The restrooms are open.
Huntley Meadows Park
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 3701 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria, VA 22306
- Trail Length: Lots of options from 2 – 3.1 miles
Huntley Meadows Park is just across Kings Highway from Chessie’s Trail in Alexandria, VA and would make a great pairing!
The park includes wetlands, boardwalks, forests and a historic house. It has some of the best birdwatching in all of the DMV too.
There are many trails, but the best one for kids is the Heron Trail (boardwalk).
Start at the Visitors Center and walk about a half mile through the forest. Then walk on the beautiful boardwalk of the Heron Trail for 0.6 miles. There is a very cool Observation Deck at the end of the trail your kids will love.
You can then take the longer Deer Trail and Cedar Trail back to the Visitors Center (additional 1.1 miles) or just return the 1 mile back thru the boardwalk to the parking lot.
Hike Details: There is a wide boardwalk and hard dirt path, so this Virginia hike is not stroller friendly if it has recently rained. You can bring the stroller when it. hasbeen dry though.
Also note, the boardwalk doesn’t have fencing so be careful of toddlers. There is a portable restroom in the parking lot if the Nature Center is closed.
Occoquan Wildlife Nature Refuge
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 14050 Dawson Beach Rd, Woodbridge, VA 22191
- Make sure to enter 14050 Dawson Beach Rd, Woodbridge, VA 22191 into your maps app and to go all the way to the main parking lot. (There is a small parking spot outside the gate, but you will have to walk over a mile to get to the main trail heads.)
- Trail Length: 0.8 miles to 5 miles
The Occoquan Wildlife Nature Refuge includes 640 acres of protected lands and waters in Woodbridge, Virginia. It is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the only refuge we’ve visited managed by them.
TIP: Check out the free interactive kids’ game/tour app Agents of Discovery from the Wildlife Refuge for an added layer of fun.
We parked in the main lot and took the 0.4-mile Fox Trail to the water’s edge. There are tons of other paths you can take and there are lots of maps at the start of the trail to take with you or take a picture for reference.
There are two park restrooms in the main parking lot.
More Great Hikes in Virginia to check out!
- Mount Vernon
- Great Falls
- Walker Nature Center (Reston VA)
- C&O Canal
- Potomac Heritage Trail
- Shenandoah National Park (and Appalachian Trail)
- Harpers Ferry
Easy Hikes in Maryland for Families
Audubon Naturalist Society
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 8940 Jones Mill Rd, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
- Trail Length: Short easy hikes near DC
The Audubon Naturalist Society is a lovely oasis in Chevy Chase, Maryland and great for easy hikes with kids. They have 40 acres of nature trails right across from Rock Creek Park where you can hike even more!
The society was formed in 1897 and there are lots of trails, nature play area, a boardwalk being built, a learning garden, historic mansion and a gift shop.
The Audubon Naturalist Society is not stroller-friendly, but great for short hikes in a baby carrier. They are undergoing a stream and trail restoration, so check out their website for the alternative nature walk marked on the map.
Portable restroom are available in the parking lot and there are restrooms in the Gift Shop when open.
National Colonial Farm
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 3400 Bryan Point Rd, Accokeek, MD 20607
- Trail Length: Lots of under 1 mile hikes 25 miles from DC
The National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park in Accokeek Maryland is 25 miles from downtown DC and offers so much for families. There is a working farm with lots of animals, historical buildings and information on the Piscataway people and farm life in the colonial period.
The farm is over 200 acres and has 7 trails plus a Fairy Trail. These range from the Pumpkin Ash Trail along the Potomac River to the Blackberry Trail and the Pawpaw Trail.
All information is on their website along with distance and markers for each hiking trail.
The paths are not stroller friendly. Bring boots if there’s been any rain because the paths can get muddy.
Read 25 Practical Tips to Exploring Around The National Colonial Farm for tons more info.
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 1361 Wrighton Rd, Lothian, MD 20711
- Trail Length: lots of hikes 21 miles from DC
We loved our hike at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary near Upper Marlboro, MD. It is such a unique place to visit just 21 miles east of DC. There are lots of trails here, including the Green Loop (1.2 miles), Yellow Loop (2.2 miles) and White Loop (3.8 miles).
We explored the easiest of the trails, the Marsh Boardwalk trail (one-way trail that begins right before the Visitor’s center). It was so cool to be almost on the water while walking along the trail. My daughter even got to log her wildlife sightings in the Visitor’s Center logbook nailed to the door!
One note from a non-bug lover: there are definitely more bugs and critters here than other hikes…its a sanctuary after all. I would recommend bug spray and do a good tick check when you get home.
The Sanctuary is only open on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9 AM to 5 PM. The sign says to pay $6 at Visitor Center when open but wasn’t open when we were there. It is always free for military and veterans with ID.
Portable restroom are available in the parking lot.
The trails are not stroller friendly because of narrow boardwalk and stairs.
Rockville Civic Center Park
- Trailhead/Parking Lot Address: 603 Edmonston Dr, Rockville, MD 20851
- Trail Length: 1 mile loop
This is more of a stroll rather than a hike, but is stroller friendly and still checks all the boxes for kid friendly and easy hiking near DC.
The Rockville Civic Center Park is over 150 acres and has lots of attractions from the Glenview mansion, F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater and Croydon Creek Nature Center. It also has a large 1-mile loop on Avery Road that many people use as a stroller-friendly walking trail.
If you want true nature trails, check out the Croyden Creek Trail Loop at the Nature Center including Monkey’s Cliff and a beautiful creek.