View Full Version : When to hike near Washington, DC

03-03-2011, 14:37
We're trying to take at least one vacation this year where we hike on the AT.

The opportunity that presents the most fun is to fly to DC - we have friends there that we haven't seen in over a year. They are avid hikers and love the idea of doing a long weekend with us on the trail. We also like the idea of being able to squeeze in some DC siteseeing before/after.

My specific question is when is the best time of year to take this trip, but any suggestions on planning/direction/trip length is welcome.

03-03-2011, 14:44
late april, May, June

03-03-2011, 14:57
I lived in the DC area for 35 years.

First and foremost: do not go in the summer - the heat & humidity are unbearable in the city and barely tolerable hiking.

So Spring & Fall are the best seasons. Spring is generally more crowded with tourists - lots of school trips. But it's still nice. Cherry blossoms bloom around April 1 and from that point until the end of May, the weather is usually good with something blooming.

Fall starting in late September is a lovely time to visit DC. Colors in the mountains peak around October 20 but it varies every year.

Hiking: Shenandoah National Park is about 90 miles west of DC. If your hiking is limited to weekends, be prepared for more people to share the trails, VCs, and roads with you in the Fall. In Spring, I've found the Park surprisingly less crowded even on weekends before Memorial Day (except for Old Rag - that's always popular). The first 2 weekends in May are a great time to hike with a profusion of wildflowers especially trillium and fringed phacelia.

Other than Shenandoah, the AT north of Front Royal through Harpers Ferry and beyond into MD is also close but not as easy to fashion loop hikes. Shenandoah features higher elevations and scenic waterfalls.

Should be a good trip - have fun!

03-03-2011, 15:38
I went 2 weeks ago, it was awesome!


Lemni Skate
03-03-2011, 15:52
May is really beautiful around the area and weather is generally pretty nice. If I were going I'd shoot for middle of May.

03-03-2011, 16:50
I've lived in DC since 1981 and I second everything Cookerhiker said. Solid advice.

03-03-2011, 17:27
Ditto what cookerhiker said.

Front Royal Mike
03-03-2011, 20:12
Yup, ,do May ! Check with your friends about DC museums and the national zoo,you may want to hike during the week (avoid the weekend tourists) and do the DC museums etc on weekends.Local schools do "fieldtrips" big time in the spring ,expect thousands of busses and kids on weekdays

03-04-2011, 10:07
We're trying to take at least one vacation this year where we hike on the AT.
My specific question is when is the best time of year to take this trip, but any suggestions on planning/direction/trip length is welcome.

For SNP Last week of April through second week of May gets you some great spring flower and buds viewing opportunities.

Combining the AT with the other many great trails in SNP will give you some great hiking opportunities.

Here is a counterpoint to Cooker Hikers good advice about the DC - Northern Va summers: I thru hiked SNP this past summer (30 July - 7 August) and absolutely loved it. Fewer crowds. Bugs and heat were not an issue to me (acclimatized somewhat to both after living here on and off since 1992), and by hiking during that time frame I seemingly single handedly broke the drought/dry spell we were having at the time, so water was not an issue.

03-04-2011, 15:43
I hike the HF to Pen Mar 4 to 5 times a year April to November always a great supply of water and hikers doing it both ways NB & SB

04-10-2011, 14:31
This is from forever ago, but I still wanted to thank everyone for the advice. We're booked for DC May 7th - 14. We'll be in SNP with our friends Sunday-Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. This is out first time hiking as a group, so we're trying to stay flexible.

(We're friends because the wife and I worked a very labor-intensive job together so we're fairly comfortable with each other's physical abilities and suck-it-up-itude. But we still want to err on the side of staying friends past this hike.)

We haven't chosen a specific trail yet. We'll be starting by Front Royal. I am trying to let the friends plan the hike because it's their territory and seem really psyched about picking the trail. Also, since my husband and I plan to thru-hike next year, it matters little to us where we hike as long as we get some real terrain under our belt.

But, if you had to choose a loop or out-n-back from the north side, est 10 miles/day, do you have a favorite?

Thanks again.

04-10-2011, 14:34
Try for some of the many waterfall trails in SNP. You won't be in the mood when on your thru hike to go out of your way.