Top National Parks In & Near Washington, DC

The many US National Parks in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland offer a wealth of activities and adventure — from exploring historical sites and interpretive tours to hiking mountain ranges and scenic trails.

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Visitors can experience America’s story, marvel at verdant landscapes and more.

National Parks in Washington, DC

National parks in Washington, DC are some of the most recognisable in the country: the solitary obelisk of the Washington Monument and the neoclassical structure of the Lincoln Memorial might come to mind. But nature lovers can also explore shaded paths in a tranquil oasis of the nation’s bustling capital. 

National Mall & Memorial Parks

Stunning, and often sombre, architectural works honour famous figures from America’s past, presidential legacies and the troops that have defended the US. The National Mall and Memorial Parks include the following icons: Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is a gem in the nation’s capital, offering visitors an opportunity to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature in the Capital Region. Fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals and the ebb and flow of Rock Creek emanate the delicate aura of the forest. Rock Creek Park rangers lead a variety of interpretative programs touching on natural history, recreation and astronomy.

National Parks in Maryland

Maryland's national parks run the spectrum from Civil War battlefields to island seashores and historical sites offering old-school amusements. Whether you’re looking to learn about American history or unwind in scenic natural spaces, there’s a park for you to enjoy. 

Fort McHenry National Monument 

The star-shaped Fort McHenry was successfully defended by 1,000 Americans during the Battle of Baltimore, 13–14 September 1814, inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen the poem that became the national anthem of the United States — "The Star-Spangled Banner." While visiting, be sure to watch the orientation film — the famous song plays at the conclusion and massive curtains open to reveal the American flag in an exhilarating moment. 

Catoctin Mountain Park

Take a hike or make camp amid the rolling landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Catoctin Mountain Park is home to more than 25 miles (40 km) of hiking trails, with options for everyone in the family. Spend a weekend in one of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ wood cabins for a uniquely American experience.

Glen Echo Park

A favourite destination for families is Glen Echo Park, located near the border of Maryland and Washington, DC and one of many sites along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. At Glen Echo, puppet shows, theatrical performances and an old-world carousel cater to young children, while dance events in the historical Spanish Ballroom are ideal for adults.

Assateague Island National Seashore

This barrier island is ideal for a quaint beach getaway on the Atlantic Ocean in both Maryland and Virginia. Here the landscapes vary widely, from sandy dunes to dense pine forests. Visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore enjoy camping near the waves, exploring trails through the marshland, cycling and — perhaps best of all — watching the wild ponies playing in the sea spray. 

C&O Canal National Historical Park 

Stretching 185 miles (298 km) alongside the Potomac River between Washington, DC and Cumberland, Maryland, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves remnants of America's transportation history. Hundreds of original structures, including locks, aqueducts and lock houses, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a primary transportation system during the 1800s. The canal's towpath provides a continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley.

National Parks in Virginia

Virginia is home to thousands of miles of trails, from one of the US’s most famous — the Appalachian — to off-the-beaten-path adventures. But that’s not all: History abounds with each twist and turn around the state. 

Shenandoah National Park 

This beautiful, historic national treasure includes the scenic 105-mile (169-km) long Skyline Drive. Shenandoah National Park covers the crest of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains for 75-plus miles (121-plus km), with more than 500 miles (805 km) of hiking trails. Numerous ranger-led programs are offered throughout the park, touching on topics like history, wildlife, ecosystems and astronomy; restaurants, camping and modern lodge facilities are also available. At Skyland, the park’s on-site lodging set just off Skyline Drive, you can experience the fresh mountain air and breathtaking views right from your room or cabin. Resort amenities range from dining to horseback riding on gentle wooded trails.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Affectionately known as the AT, the Appalachian Trail boasts 2,180 total miles (3,508 km), about 590 miles (950 km) of which run through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and Maryland. People of all ages and abilities enjoy short walks, day hikes and long-distance backpacking journeys along the trail. It offers a variety of opportunities for viewing spectacular scenery and wildlife, exploring, adventure, nature study and renewal. 

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is an evolving network of 830 miles (1,336 km) of locally managed trails and routes between the mouth of the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands. The trails and associated sites reveal the diverse history, culture and landscape in one of the most significant corridors in the United States. Note: The path runs through Maryland and Washington, DC as well. 

Great Falls Park 

Great Falls Park, a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, spans 800 acres just 15 miles (24 km) from the nation’s capital. Here, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. The Maryland side of the falls is part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

Want more? 

Check out these top beaches and parks in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia or make your next holiday a camping adventure in the Capital Region's scenic and peaceful outdoors.