Top US 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 taking ranger-led interpretive tours to hiking mountain ranges and scenic trails.

Visitors can experience the Capital Region's story, marvel at verdant landscapes and more. Dive into American Civil War history, tackle the famous Appalachian trail or explore the monuments studding the nation's capital city. 

US 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 tranquil gem amid the urban bustle of Washington, DC, 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.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

This treasure in Washington, DC, is perfect for nature lovers, especially those who love birds and blooms. Hike past peaceful ponds filled with croaking frogs and sunning turtles and go birding on a boardwalk that leads to a lush marsh, where you can watch flocks of migratory birds — like great egrets and herons — wade along as they hunt for food. Visit Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens early in the morning from late June through to July to see the park’s gorgeous water lilies and lotus flowers open up for a few hours before the midday heat forces them to close once again.

US National Parks in Maryland

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

Antietam National Battlefield

At Antietam National Battlefield, visit the site of the pivotal US Civil War event that spurred President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Though it only lasted about 12 hours, the battle of Antietam is known as the single bloodiest day in American history. Stop by the visitor centre for background information before exploring the park, which features the Pry House Field Museum’s exhibits on Civil War medicine, hiking trails, a historical church and more. Discover more as you the path of the Antietam Campaign.

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 a dream for a quaint beach getaway on the Atlantic Ocean in both Maryland and Virginia, USA. 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 horses 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.

US National Parks in Virginia

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

Shenandoah National Park 

This beautiful, historical 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, USA. 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. 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.

Manassas National Battlefield

Learn about American Civil War history at Manassas National Battlefield Park — the site of two major battles. Watch a film, shop in the book store and see uniforms, weapons and an electronic battle map in the visitors’ centre. Check the calendar for infantry and artillery demonstrations at Chinn Ridge, during which you can hear history come alive. Take a ranger-led tour, an auto tour or hike the loop trails traversing the sites of each of the two battles of Manassas. 

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