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Washington Summer Guide 2011: Fun for Adventure-Lovers
Take a trapeze lesson, climb a rock, or go deep underground
Right: Take a trapeze lesson at the Trapeze School of New York.; Left: Carderock is one of the nation's oldest rock-climbing areas. Photographs courtesy Go-Adventures and Matthew Aron Roth
One of the nation’s oldest rock-climbing areas is minutes from the Beltway at Carderock in Montgomery County. Climbing began here in the 1920s and still thrives. On rock faces 30 to 60 feet high, the cliffs at Carderock include numerous climbing routes, from easy ones for beginners to vertical slabs that challenge even the best of climbers. The wide assortment of climbs—faces, cracks, overhangs—make Carderock ideal for progressing from a beginner to an expert climber. Adventure Schools offers a half-day intro course at Carderock for $95.
Slip Down Natural Slides
Hiking in the summer can be a sweatfest. But on the Overall Run Falls hike, the trail leads to a cool delight—natural water slides. The 3.8-mile loop begins near Mathews Arm campground in Shenandoah National Park. The path descends into a canyon with a view of Overall Run Falls, the highest waterfall in the park. At the bottom of the gorge, the trail crosses a creek where rock formations form water slides into swimming holes. Go for a few slides and then bask on the river rocks, soaking up the sun. Take one last dip before departing—it’s a steep climb back up to the campground.
Zipline Through a Five-Acre Park
16701 Norwood Rd., Sandy Spring; 240-389-4386
Ziplines are everywhere—nearly every ski resort has one, and there’s even one at National Harbor. We think the best place to learn the ropes is at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School. The largest Aerial Forest Adventure Park in North America, it mixes ziplines with a ropes-and-obstacle course. Unlike many zipline parks that require guides to assist in clipping and unclipping to the lines, you’re on your own after a safety demonstration. The five-acre wooded park features ten courses designed by Swiss mountaineers.
Go to Trapeze School
Fourth and Tingey sts., SE; 410-459-6839
You can also get your Tarzan on at the Trapeze School New York in DC. Hooked into a safety harness, you’ll be suspended 23 feet above the ground over a net. The first class includes swinging on the bar from both your hands and knees and—if you’re up for it—releasing from a knee hang to be caught by an instructor. Classes for more experienced trapeze-swingers are available, as are classes on aerial silks, the trampoline, and acrobatics.
Underground Caving in the Appalachians
Escape the heat by heading underground. The Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia abound with some of the most scenic caves in the world, and they have a year-round temperature in the 50s. Go-Adventures leads wild caving tours at Whiting’s Neck Cave near Shepherdstown. The half-day trip involves squeezing through tight passages, crawling on the ground, and getting dirty. The rewards, in addition to cooling off, are seeing amazing formations in underground chambers—stalactites and stalagmites, natural stone columns, and stone deposits that resemble wedding cakes.
5305 Marriott La., Hume; 877-324-7344
The Marriott Ranch in Virginia’s Fauquier County is a little of the West here in the East. The 4,200-acre working cattle ranch includes miles of trails through rolling hills, pastures, and the forested Blue Ridge Mountains. The ranch offers 90-minute guided trail rides for novice riders as well as longer rides into the mountains and along a stream. It has cattle drives three times a year for experienced riders. For serious cowboy fun, sign up for the two-day City Slicker Package or the three-day Western Vacation Package. You’ll get lots of time in the saddle and learn herding, horsemanship, and throwing a lasso.
Bike from Maryland to Pennsylvania
Tired of biking the crowded C&O Canal towpath? Try the Northern Central Railroad and York County Heritage Trail, just north of the Baltimore Beltway. This rails-to-trails path extends 41 miles into York, Pennsylvania, and follows a narrow section of the Gunpowder Falls River. The trail is smooth, relatively flat, and uncrowded, and there are ice-cream shops along the way. For an easy 21-mile trip, start at the southern terminus in Ashland, Maryland, and ride to Hanover Junction and back. Or you can drop a car at the southern end and drive to York to ride the entire trail in one shot.
Mountain Bike Along a Bumpy Path
10875 Hampton Rd., Fairfax; 703-352-5900
Fountainhead Regional Park is the place to be if you like your mountain biking on the wild side. The ten miles of single track is for mountain bikes only. Made up of a series of narrow serpentine loops through the forest next to the Occoquan Reservoir, the trail abounds in steep climbs, descents, switchbacks, bumps, roots, rocky chutes, and hairpin turns. Bike rentals are available at nearby Oasis Bike Works (10376 Main St., Fairfax; 703-273-4051; oasisbikeworks.com) for $40 a day and $20 each additional day. Call ahead to reserve a bike—they rent out quickly on weekends.