An outdoor lover’s guide to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is close to plenty of both flatwater and whitewater paddling, including Great Falls. Photo by SteveHDC/Flickr
Washington, D.C., is close to plenty of both flatwater and whitewater paddling, including Great Falls. Photo by SteveHDC/Flickr

Washington, D.C., with its plethora of public land, access to both water and mountains, and temperate winter climate, is an ideal place for year-round activity—as long as you can handle the humidity. Your lawmakers are surprisingly active, and you can do a lot really close to the city’s center. This is why stop five of GrindTV’s urban road trip series, which tells you how to get outside when you’re in an urban area, is our nation’s capital.

Paddle: D.C. is close to plenty of both flatwater and whitewater paddling. You can rent a kayak or a SUP board right in Georgetown, and paddle along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal toward Cumberland, Maryland. For whitewater enthusiasts, there’s playboating and class V+ paddling at Great Falls on the Potomac, and slightly more mellow rapids down river at Mather Gorge.

Road bike: The D.C. climate is prime for bike commuting all year round, and there are a bunch of good long road rides in the area, too. You can ride the 40ish miles out and back to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, take your cross bike along the C+O Towpath, or venture a little bit farther out into the country to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is incredibly beautiful.

Countryside for road biking near Washington, D.C., includes Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by David Joyce/Flickr
Countryside for road biking near Washington, D.C., includes Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by David Joyce/Flickr

Climb: Great Falls, 20 minutes outside of the city, has mid-grade sport and trad climbing. Carder Rock, just northwest of town, provides easy-access sport routes. If you want to venture farther out, Harpers Ferry has good, diverse climbing, including some solid bouldering, and Shenandoah National Park holds some classic trad routes and bouldering problems.

Great Falls is only 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. Photo by Dawn Endico/Flickr
Great Falls is only 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. Photo by Dawn Endico/Flickr

Trail run: There’s a big running community in D.C. (even Bill Clinton got into it when he was there), and trail runners have a lot of good options both in and close to the city. Within the city limits, hit Rock Creek Park, which you can link up with Dumbarton Oaks Park and Glover-Archibald Park, among others. Just across the river, in Arlington, Virginia, get on the Potomac Heritage trail, which runs along the river and links up with a bunch of other major trails in the area.

Mountain bike: The state and national parks in the area, especially in Maryland, have plenty of good singletrack. St. Mary’s Lake State Park is a good option, as is Cedarville State Forest. In Virginia, George Washington State Forest, a little farther out, gives you access to over 300 miles of trails.

More city guides on GrindTV

An outdoor lover’s guide to New York

An outdoor lover’s guide to Boston

An outdoor lover’s guide to Denver

An outdoor lover’s guide to Seattle

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