12 Fall Hikes near Washington, DC to See Fall Foliage

Enjoy the protected wetland habitat at Huntley Meadows Park. Photo by Monica M.
Enjoy the protected wetland habitat at Huntley Meadows Park. Photo by Monica M.

With the leaves bursting into beautiful reds, oranges, yellows, and golds, fall is one of the most beautiful times to live in and visit the DC area. And one great way to view fall foliage is to pull on your hiking shoes and hit the trails. To help you do just that, we've created a list of fall hikes near Washington, DC that offer some of the best views of fall foliage in the DC area.

All of these fall hikes near Washington, DC are free unless otherwise noted, and many of them are paved and stroller friendly so  you can bring your little ones along. And if you just can't get enough of the colorful foliage, you can also take a leaf-peeping train ride or day trip to get your fill.

Here are 12 gorgeous fall hikes near Washington, DC to view fall foliage. Happy trails!

Fall Hikes in Washington, DC

1. Rock Creek Park

With over 32 miles of trails and paths, the nearly 1,800-acre Rock Creek Park is a true oasis in northwest DC. Its trails and paths are shaded by hardwood trees, meaning you'll be treated to vibrant fall foliage wherever you look. There are plenty of asphalt trails that are perfect for strollers. On weekends, parts of the park are closed to automobiles, allowing for hikers to safely enjoy the park. 

2. Kingman and Heritage Islands

These natural parklands on the Anacostia River in northeast DC are home to more than 100 species of birds, mammals, and other wildlife. Park at RFK Stadium and cross the wooden pedestrian bridge to access the park, where you'll find heavily wooded trails, bridges spanning the river, and wildlife-rich wetlands. Colorful trees abound in the fall.

3. Theodore Roosevelt Island

This 90-acre park, which pays homage to the 26th president and conservationist, is one of the best places to view fall foliage. The easy two-mile loop trail offers views of the Potomac River, the Georgetown Waterfront, and the DC skyline. It’s accessible to jogging strollers with a combination of boardwalks, paved paths, and packed-dirt trails. The hike culminates in a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt that includes a statue and quotations.

The U.S. National Arboreturm is home to a youth garden. Photo courtesy of the United States National Arboretum.

4. U.S. National Arboretum

The 446-acre U.S. National Arboretum, just two miles from the U.S. Capitol in northeast DC, is a beautiful place to walk and picnic in the fall. There are trails with paved, stroller-friendly sections winding through many of the gardens, which dazzle with color as the leaves change. Perhaps most breathtaking is the contrast of the colorful leaves against the sandstone Corinthian Columns, which once supported the U.S. Capitol portico.

Fall Hikes in Northern Virginia

5. Burke Lake Park — Fairfax Station

A 4.7-mile wooded trail loops around Burke Lake, which spans 218 acres within Burke Lake Park. It's a beautiful hike any time of year, with boats, ducks, turtles, and plenty of other wildlife to see. But it's especially gorgeous in the fall, when you can see the reflection of the colorful leaves in the water. Parts of the trail are paved and great for strollers, but other parts are more woodsy. There are lots of benches and picnic tables along the trails, where you can take a break and enjoy the view. There are also playgrounds, a miniature train, and a carousel for your kids to enjoy after your hike. The train and carousel are open only on weekends in September and October. There is no entrance fee to the park for Fairfax County residents, but non-county residents must pay $10 per car on weekends from April through October.

6. Huntley Meadows Park — Alexandria

With its protected wetland habitat, Huntley Meadows Park is one of the best places for wildlife viewing in the DC region. You can see geese, herons, frogs, turtles, snakes, beavers, deer, and more. The flat two-mile nature trail—a combination of packed-earth paths through the woods and a raised boardwalk over the wetland—is stroller accessible, but it can be muddy if you come right after a rainstorm. The trees surrounding the wetland burst into color in the fall, making the views even more beautiful. 

7. Potomac Overlook Regional Park — Arlington

The 70 acres of wooded trails at Potomac Overlook Regional Park will take you across streams, past an old Indian village site, and face to face with brilliantly colored trees in the fall. There is also lots of wildlife to see and a nature center for little ones to explore. 

You'll find plenty of hiking trails at Mason Neck State Park. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

8. Mason Neck State Park — Lorton

Mason Neck State Park offers more than six miles of unpaved hiking trails and three miles of paved, stroller-accessible multi-use trails that provide a glimpse of nature by the bay. Colors abound in the fall, and you may even spot a bald eagle or a heron. There’s also a playground, picnic areas, and canoe, kayak, and bike rentals, so you can make a day of it! The park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle from April through October.

Fall Hikes in Maryland

9. Sugarloaf Mountain — Dickerson

Sugarloaf Mountain, a Registered Natural Landmark, reaches an elevation of 1,282 feet and a vertical height of 800 feet. There are four circuit hikes ranging in distance from 1.5 to seven miles, each of which offers amazing views of the fall foliage. After your hike, you can drive up to the Sugarloaf Mountain lookout point for more breathtaking views.

10. Black Hill Regional Park — Boyds

This 2,000-acre park includes over 20 miles of natural-surface and hard-surface trails that are surrounded by plenty of color in the fall. You can also enjoy gorgeous views over Little Seneca Lake. The park has playgrounds and a half-acre dog park, so it's a great place for the entire family to spend the day.

The Maryland woods are full of colorful foliage in the fall. Photo courtesy of visitmaryland.org

11. Cunningham Falls State Park — Thurmont

This state park, located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains, features hiking trails ranging from half a mile to 7.5 miles long, and from easy, flat hikes to steep and rocky climbs. Several of the trails lead to a 78-foot waterfall. All of them offer plenty of colorful leaf-peeping opportunities. From the day after Labor Day through the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, there is an entrance fee of $3 per vehicle for Maryland residents and $5 per vehicle for out-of-state residents.

Fall Hike in Both Virginia and Maryland

 Great Falls Park is stunning in any season. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

12. Great Falls Park — McLean, VA and Potomac, MD

This 800-acre national park, stretching from McLean, Virginia to Potomac, Maryland, offers some of the most incredible views in the DC area. There is nothing quite like seeing Great Falls, a series of rapids and waterfalls for which the park is named, surrounding by trees bursting with vibrant fall colors. You can take in these views from various overlooks along the park's hiking trails. There is an entrance fee of $20 per car valid for the day, or $10 per person entering by foot or bike. Kids ages 15 and under can enter free of charge.

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