And never fear: You don’t need a frequent-buyer card at Hudson Trail Outfitters or REI to take part. We have broken down three of the most common outdoor activities — camping, hiking and water sports — into easy, medium and hard levels, so even the novice adventurer has options.
The Washington area is blessed with many well-maintained hiking trails. In order to call yourself a true local, there are three trails you must hike at least once. So lace up a pair of sturdy shoes, fill up a water bottle (or two) and get out there!
A first hiking trip should be relatively easy — with little risk of blisters and plenty of reward in the way of lovely views.
Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson fits that bill perfectly. Towering red and white oaks, rock outcroppings 14 million years in the making and numerous vantage points of rolling farmland all promise a lovely outdoor experience.
If that isn’t enough to entice you, the mountain is nearly foolproof. It’s less than an hour from downtown Washington, and with parking options high on the mountain, you can hike to the summit without feeling sore the next morning.
Depending on where you park, you can take one of three quarter-mile hikes (green, orange and red blazes) to the summit. If you want to up the mileage, try the purple (1.5 miles), white (2.5 miles), blue (5 miles) or yellow (7 miles) trails that wind around the mountain.
Sugarloaf Mountain, 7901 Comus Rd., Dickerson. 301-869-7846. 301-874-2024. www.sugarloafmd.com. Donations accepted.
The fabled Billy Goat Trail in the Great Falls, Md., area of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park is a hot spot for hikers, and for good reason — it offers remarkable views of the Potomac River at its wildest. As hikers traverse the rocky, blue-blazed path, white water churns ominously below.
The trail is divided into three sections: A, B and C. The best views (and the most people) are along the 1.7-mile A section, which also offers magnificent vistas of Mather Gorge. But be warned: It lives up to its National Park Service label of “strenuous” — parts are very rocky with steep cliffs. Heavy backpacks and small children are strongly discouraged, and pets are prohibited.
Once you’ve reached the end of this section, you can retrace your steps or take the intersecting towpath back toward the parking area. But if you really want to test your legs, try all three sections for an additional four miles (one way).
Also worth checking out is the 3.2-mile Gold Mine Loop, which begins near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and takes hikers by mine ruins.