Explore the most popular birding trails near Washington with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

has some nice swamp areas and birding but the traffic noise is a bit of a distraction

This is my favorite place in the world! Of course lotus season is stunning, but the vast differences in the park each season are truly spectacular. The fall leaves across the boardwalk, the spring greenery, the late summer blossoms and the snowy paths are all worth a visit. This is definitely more of a walk than a hike, so don’t be fooled by that. Bring the whole family, take a stroll and bring a picnic! If you’re quiet, you can spot deer, frogs, fish, turtles, and heron!

This trail was....interesting with two dogs haha. It’s listed as dog-friendly and for most of the hike it totally is! But once you get to the Potomac Heritage Trail portion it gets a little (and by a little I mean a lot lol) confusing. The blue markers totally disappear for the most confusing part (right when it splits off into this incredibly rocky area). I was very doubtful because I thought it was supposed to be a more standard trail, so I was walking in circles retracing my steps trying to find more of those blue markers! But alas, I just trusted my instincts which told me to stay parallel to the river and I eventually saw some more of those beautiful markers. The “rock climbing” aspect of the hike was very unexpected but soooo fun. And luckily my dogs freaking loved it! I thought I’d have to turn around at first because those boulders were tough to manage with the two of them, but we all did it and I’m so glad we did :) by far one of the most interesting and fun hikes I’ve been on. Just be prepared for the rocky section and the occasional lack of trail markers. Trust yourself that you’re going the right way (as long as you’re following the river) and have fun!!

Edit: oh also! There’s a part where you’re walking directly parallel to this major highway directly in the hot sun. Just be prepared for this if you have dogs!! We had to take a ton of water breaks on this stretch and I had to make sure I was holding their leashes extra tight and watching them like hawks.

Nice oasis in the city with actual trails to run. Wasn’t too busy for a weekday evening.

Really great and less frequently traveled trail. Going over the bridge gives you a great view of the Potomac and there is a statute of Teddy Roosevelt on the island. Very easy hike, gets muddy after rain however. You can go swimming at certain points but take caution; it's swim at your own risk.

1 month ago

Don’t take your pup.

The first part of the trail (clockwise) runs along Rock Creek Parkway. If you’re out for a long run, it’s worth it. If you’re out for a hike you should drop this section. This section is also a dangerous place to have a dog on a leash. The width of the path gets down to two people wide with the busy parkway right next to the trail at points - no one walks here, it’s 100% runners and bicyclists...add a dog on a leash and we’re asking for an accident that could end up with a someone in the road. For the last 5 years I’ve lived near, run down and commuted on this section...I’ve rarely seen people walking and I’ve never seen a dog on this section.

Good urban escape

great place..

I thought this place was cool! Some people were playing in the fountains that weren’t running... so that was freaking weird- but overall a really good place to take my dog on a walk and let her swim a bit. Super easy place to walk around. Probably one of the lesser known places to go in the area, there’s a huge statue of Teddy Roosevelt people liked to take pictures with. I’ll definitely head back soon.

Nice hike. Great for a nice morning hike.

Airplanes frequent overhead creating a lot of noise. It’s very slippery and muddy after big rains.
Great for bird watching. Lots of Redwings and mallards.

Teddy Roosevelt Island houses one of the lesser-known monuments and is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life without ever leaving the city. This is an extremely easy, flat, paved path with a few through-trails in-between the major loop. Experienced hikers who are looking for a challenge would find this trail boring, whereas tourists looking for some relief or those looking for a leisurely stroll would love this area. It is fairly deserted during regular business hours, but can get busy on the weekend.

Walked about the Theodore Roosevelt Island bridge entrance, my first time really exploring this area. The bridge over to the Island was closed today as a public safety precaution due to recent flooding in this area. My plan was to run around the island before running Martha Custis, but since I couldn't I just walked about taking pictures.

This is a pretty cool spot, and is also the location where you park for the Martha Custis Trail. The place was already swarming with people on a Sunday at about 10:30, so I advise doing things early, like 5-6 am on weekend visits. I will be returning.

I love going here when the lotus are blooming or even after with the seed pods. I cool!

Great way to respect a president who loved the outdoors! nice and quiet island, hike it to escape the craziness of DC, plus lots of wildlife

So first off, I would recommend doing this hike in reverse. With an easy, scenic start for the first 2 miles on the Virginia side, the next two miles have some intermittent sections of difficulty with some narrow, rugged terrain and rock scrambling/climbing and stream crossings (and waterfall sightings) if the water level is high enough. (FYI - Along this part of the trail the blazes switch between blue and turquoise). At about mile 3.5, you’ll cross the Gulf Branch waterfall, where you’ll start the uphill climb immediately up the right side (markings were a tad difficult to find). There is a steep, rocky incline with some metal handrails put in (for well-needed and greatly appreciated assistance) along the 30-40 foot climb. Then little switchbacks get you the rest of the way up (~150 ft) to GW parkway. You’ll descend under the parkway overpass towards Glebe road and then under the Chain Bridge. Allow ~3 hours for the Virginia side of the hike. Cross the bridge on left side into D.C. and then down the ramp to the tow path on the C&O canal. This section is wide and flat, and full of joggers and people on bikes, and I wouldn’t really consider it a hike, but an easy stroll/cooldown. In about a mile you’ll happen across restrooms, water and a snackbar at Fletcher’s Cove. Which can provide a well needed leg rest before pushing on to finish the loop or ending there (parking lot is large). Should allow at least 2 hours for the DC side of the walk.

hiking
4 months ago

This is a great hike right in the downtown DC area. You can combine it with the eastern side to make it a nice loop vice an out and back. Interesting bits of history at signs and markers along the way.

Not well marked at all, with lots of smaller branching trails. Overall, a good trail but poorly marked.

Fairly busy on the tow path. At times shoulder to shoulder with someone. On the trails off of the tow path there is not a soul in sight. I would recommend the mining trail.

Great! Even in the snow!

hiking
6 months ago

Had a good hike, but was frustrated by the poorly marked trail system. Hiked north from the nature center on the western ridge trail, then returned on the valley trail. Many forks in trail with no indication ofwhich trail is which. Blazes and trail markers seemed sparse.

road biking
7 months ago

Biking this trail is great. Very diverse scenery throughout the duration of the ride. A nice mix of elevation changes and flat stretches.

Amazing, peaceful, diverse

walking
9 months ago

I’ve lived in DC for ten years and never knew about quite a bit of this loop. What a wonderful little adventure I had! I walked out my front door and up to the Calvert bridge to start the loop. There are a couple very urban spots where you transition from trail to trail but otherwise it’s naturesque and just lovely. If you know Rock Creek Parkway, a good portion is beside it so you will see and hear some cars, but the more idyllic portions outweigh this. Recommend if you don’t feel like driving out of town to get to a trailhead.

Beautiful day, and the trail is in great shape, though sometimes hard to follow. TRUST YOUR AllTrails app! I didn't the first time and it cost me. Took about 3 hours of walk time, most of that on the Virginia side. Be aware that parking at Roosevelt Island is limited to 2 hours, so you might want to pick a more time-appropriate spot to start. (I wasn't ticketed , however) Coming back I took the Key Bridge instead of the Roosevelt Bridge, which shaved a few miles off. The VA side is moderately challenging, the DC side is quite easy, and even has a new-looking and very clean restroom. :)

trail running
10 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

nice trail

trail running
11 months ago

well marked, paved trail with some nice views of D.C. Plenty of options along the trail for detours (e.g. Four Mile Run). Good for running/biking/walkers. Minor elevation changes make this a good trail for beginners. Use regular trainers/sneakers on this route.

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