Things to Do

Social Distancing: 7 Spots Around DC Where You Can Go to Be Alone

If you have to be out, you may at least be somewhere beautiful

Hiking trail at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Photograph via Nova Parks Flickr.
Coronavirus 2020

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In the days since coronavirus crisis took over Washington’s consciousness, we’ve been advised to try to keep away from crowds. Some people, though, can’t—or won’t—stay home. Luckily, the question of how to find a bit of solitude in our six-million-person metro area is one Washingtonian has pondered before. Some top choices from prior guides:

 

Constitution Gardens

For a park so close to downtown DC, this 50-acre expanse roughly between the Lincoln and World War II memorials is surprisingly little-visited. Sit and read, people-watch, daydream, or simply gaze at the ducks and geese gliding in the pond in the shadow of the Washington Monument. (If you’re lucky, you might spot a great blue heron on the bank.) Don’t miss the memorial to the Declaration of Independence’s 56 signers.

Potomac Overlook Regional Park

Events at this park’s nature center can fill up the parking lot and draw visitors on nice weekend days. But head into the woods to connect to other trails that flow under the George Washington Parkway, in the direction of the Potomac, and you can walk for miles—toward either the banks of the river itself, Roosevelt Island, or the less-traveled (and warning: wilder) path heading north toward Chain Bridge. Don’t miss the park’s small exhibit with live rescued owls.

Crispus Attucks Park

This single-acre alleyway secret, a gently manicured strip off U and V streets, Northwest, isn’t visible from the street, so you’re likely to cross paths only with the locals who have fought to preserve it.

Rachel Carson Conservation Park

It seems only right that a park dedicated to Rachel Car­son—the environmentalist, marine biologist, and author who campaigned against the use of DDT and other synthetic pesticides—is a nice spot to contemplate the beauty and importance of our natural world. The oft-overlooked Montgomery County park has six miles of trails that meander through a grassy meadow, a forested creek lined with ferns, and a hidden pond where the only sound may be the soft croaks of frogs.

Lincoln Memorial at Sunset

Stroll around to the sparsely visited back side of the monument, facing the Potomac River, for an escape from the crowds and stunning views of day’s end across Memorial Bridge.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

This wilderness park just off the Beltway boasts rocky outcroppings, narrow gorges, and a waterfall where Scott’s Run makes a dramatic exit into the Potomac. A grove of rare eastern hemlocks, plus oak, beech, and wild cherry, creates a peaceful forest canopy, while spring brings a profusion of wildflowers. It can get busy on pleasant weekends, but with 336 acres, there’s always a path less traveled.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

With his 17-foot likeness rising from an interior plaza, Teddy Roosevelt commands center stage. But as a fitting tribute to the first conservationist in chief, nature reigns on this 88-acre island in the Potomac. Getting a piece to yourself is as simple as taking the 1.5-mile perimeter trail. A boardwalk cuts through marsh and swamp forest, with views of Georgetown. A boardwalk cuts through marsh and swamp forest, with views of Georgetown. Parking lot accessible from northbound lanes of George Washington Memorial Pkwy., or arrive via footbridge from Arlington.

 

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