Before the coronavirus crisis made social distancing a priority, local hiking trails were already go-to spots for respite from city crowds. Conveniently, Washingtonian has previously explored the area’s peaks and panoramas. We can’t guarantee these spots will be empty, so be prepared to adapt if trails begin to fill. Here are some hiking options in Maryland.
The Annapolis Rock overlook in Maryland is reached by trekking a shady, shallow incline for 2.7 miles. It’s a literal walk in the woods on the Appalachian Trail—and it breaks out of the tree cover to the top of jagged cliffs and a view of Greenbrier State Park and Greenbrier Lake. You’re facing west, and the autumn colors as the sun begins to set can be mesmerizing. The site is popular with rock climbers, so don’t be surprised if a head pops up over the rocks while you’re enjoying the view. You return via the same path.
Located in 5,810-acre Catoctin Mountain Park, this strenuous, sometimes steep, 3.5-mile loop features two of the most unusual outcrops in the region. At Wolf Rock, boulders are jumbled together in a big heap that’s fun to climb. Chimney Rock gleams against the green forest and offers a spectacular late-day view of the mountains.
The Billy Goat is divided into three trails: A, B, and C. The sections don’t connect but are all off the C&O Canal towpath. The B section offers spectacular views of rock formations along the riverbanks. Start at the Carderock parking lot and head north on the C&O Canal towpath. Look for the trailhead sign and divert down toward the Potomac River. There are a few small beaches and several fun rock scrambles along the shaded terrain.
This park in Gaithersburg is 6,300 acres along 14 miles of Seneca Creek. Lake Shore Trail, along Clopper Lake, offers views that stretch for miles. Stay alert for some steep slopes and rocky sections.
Trails start at the nature center and the playground in Cabin John Regional Park. Take Lower Meadow Trail out, veer right on Cabin John Stream Valley Natural Surface Trail, and then pick up Tulip Tree Trail. This relaxing loop wends its way through a meadow, around a wetland, and along a stream.