Hiking the Appalachian Trail from Washington, DC – Landmarks and Trails in Virginia and Maryland

More than a quarter of the famous Applachian Trail's 2,200 miles (3,500) are found in Maryland and Virginia. Conquer as few or as many as you please on these hiking trails near Washington, DC. 

Appalachian Trail, Timber Hollow, Virginia, Blue Ridge
The Appalachian Trail through Virginia
Annapolis Rock, mountains, view, hiker, Maryland
Annapolis Rock in Maryland
McAfee Knob, Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking, sunset, Virginia, Roanoke, USA
Don’t forget your camera — the overlook at McAfee Knob provides postcard-pretty photo opportunities.
Backpackers hiking Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia
Rock climbers hiking the Appalachian Trail through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia.
Ponies in Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
The wild ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia often graze right along the park trails.
Humpback Rock, Blue Ridge Mountains, hiker, view
The hike to Humpback Rocks in Virginia is challenging but rewarding, with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and forest.
Appalachian Trail, Timber Hollow, Virginia, Blue Ridge
Annapolis Rock, mountains, view, hiker, Maryland
McAfee Knob, Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking, sunset, Virginia, Roanoke, USA
Backpackers hiking Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia
Ponies in Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
Humpback Rock, Blue Ridge Mountains, hiker, view

By Idoia Gkikas

If you’re looking to have an only-in-America outdoors experience while visiting the USA’s Capital Region, this is it. The Appalachian Trail (commonly called the AT) runs approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from Georgia to Maine. Whether you’re interested in a multi-day trek or simply want to enjoy a day hike, don’t miss a chance to explore this storied trail.

Here is a list of easy trail access points, organized north to south. 

Washington Monument State Park, Maryland

Located atop South Mountain in western Maryland, Washington Monument State Park is the site of the first monument dedicated to the nation’s first president, George Washington. After checking out the monument, stop in the nearby museum to see historical artefacts related to George Washington and the Civil War Battle of South Mountain. Most of the hiking trails within the park are part of the Appalachian Trail. 

Gathland State Park, Maryland

Originally the mountain home of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend, Gathland State Park now features restored buildings and a museum with artefacts from Townsend’s life and the Battle of South Mountain. Follow the trail through the park to pass the War Correspondent’s Arch, a national historic monument dedicated to the memory of Civil War journalists.

Annapolis Rock, Maryland

This popular trail is a moderate hike appropriate for most age ranges. The lookout at Annapolis Rock displays stunning views of the Cumberland Valley and Greenbrier Lake. Annapolis Rock Trail is ideal for trail running or day hikes, and the area offers campsites for overnight stays as well.

Humpback Rocks, Virginia

With easy access from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the hike to Humpback Rocks in Virginia is well-travelled. The trail to the top is just under a mile (1.6 km). While the ascent is challenging, there are benches for resting along the way. Don't miss the farm museum at the visitors' centre located at milepost 5.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Cole/Cold Mountain, Virginia

Just a few hours south of Washington, DC, Cole Mountain Trail (sometimes referred to as Cold Mountain) in central Virginia is a moderate hike of about 6.2 miles (10 km) that offers panoramic valley views at its summit. Be sure to stop at the Cow Camp Gap shelter, where you can find a hikers’ log where Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and backpackers leave notes about their journeys.

McAfee Knob, Virginia

One of the most-photographed sections of the AT, the McAfee Knob trail outside Roanoke, Virginia, is as popular as it is rewarding. Plan an overnight stay to see the cultural attractions in town.

Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia

A 2.8-mile (4.5-km) section of the Appalachian Trail runs through Grayson Highlands State Park in south-west Virginia. The park is known for its population of wild ponies, which you are likely to see during your hike. For unforgettable 360-degree views, take the Rhododendron Trail to the AT, then hike along Wilburn Ridge. 

In search of more outdoor adventure and natural respite? Savour natural escapes in the Capital Region and discover the top camping sites near Washington, DC.

 

Related: 
Outdoors & Nature
Tours & Trails

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