As gyms across the region have closed and we’ve gotten stir-crazy, we’ve headed outside to walk in the fresh air. For those tired of doing the same walks around their house, here are a handful of new places to try. Some have tended to be relatively uncrowded—though there’s no guarantee these days. While they were all open as of press time, you may want to check their status before venturing out. Keep in mind that even in parks that are open, facilities such as restrooms and playgrounds may be closed. And you’ll still want to keep six feet between you and other visitors.
This 40-acre nature haven, headquarters of the Audubon Naturalist Society, offers a wide wildflower meadow that’s just beginning to bloom, as well as walking trails, a native-plant garden, and a pond where right now you can spot frog and salamander tadpoles. Keep an eye out for pileated woodpeckers and Eastern bluebirds. Pets are not allowed. 8940 Jones Mill Rd., Chevy Chase; 301-652-9188.
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, daydream, or simply gaze at the ducks and geese gliding over the pond in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Don’t miss the memorial to the Declaration of Independence’s 56 signers. 1850 Constitution Ave., NW.
This relatively unknown, small park (630 acres) in Montgomery County features seven miles of hiking trails on paths once used to ferry supplies to Civil War soldiers stationed at the fort for which the park is named. Now visitors are treated to views of the Potomac at the Blockhouse Point and Paw-Paw overlooks. 14750 River Rd., Darnestown; 301-495-2595.
Next to a federal sanctuary for bald eagles, this park features forest, ponds, wetlands, and fields great for walking and viewing wildlife. A one-mile trail runs along Belmont Bay. Overlooks offer panoramas of gorgeous scenery, along with chances to spot bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and turtles. Restrooms and other facilities are currently closed. 7301 High Point Rd., Lorton; 703-339-2385.
There are 22 miles of hiking trails in this nearly 2,000-acre park, some named for former owners of the land. (As is often the case in Virginia, it’s best not to look them up.) You can hear woodpeckers, see cardinals, and stumble upon delights such as a picnic table donated by Delaplane resident Willard Scott. Go on a weekday or go early on weekends: Although the park is big, parking is somewhat limited, and there can be temporary closures of certain parking lots if capacity is reached—which used to happen even before Covid-19. 11012 Edmonds Ln., Delaplane; 540-592-3556.
Created in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a place for the study of wildlife, Patuxent is laced with 25 miles of bike roads and trails, including paths that wind around a lake. Its many birds include scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, and bald eagles. 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel; 301-497-5772.