Memorial Day daytrips: DC-area hikes, outdoor activities worth your time

Wondering what to do with that extra day off this Memorial Day weekend? Well, the D.C. region is home to many outdoor attractions perfect for celebrating the holiday weekend.

Erin Gifford, a freelance travel writer who has written three guidebooks for hiking in Virginia and the surrounding D.C. area, recommended a few favorite hiking spots that vary in difficulty and driving times.

“I always look for hikes that are just interesting,” Gifford said. “They need to be a good distance, not too long, maybe 2 or 3 miles, and that always have kind of engaging features.”

With all those factors in mind, Gifford outlined four different daytrips for this Memorial Day weekend.

For an intense, early morning hike

Shenandoah National Park is worth the nearly two-hour drive, Gifford said.

“There’s really something for everyone,” she said. She recommends Old Rag, the Nicholson Hollow Trail to Corbin Cabin or White Oak Canyon.

Man sits on cliff, overlooking Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park is one of the many historic areas of Virginia that need more maintenance money. (Courtesy National Park Service)

“I think so few people realize there’s actually 500 miles of hiking trails that crisscross Shenandoah National Park, including over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which is pretty cool. Just that in and of itself, to be able to step foot on the Appalachian Trail, is pretty fun,” Gifford said.

“There’s just more than 30 hikes along Skyline Drive alone that will meet everyone’s fitness level, [and] interest level.”

If you want to check out the beautiful views at Shenandoah, Gifford recommends getting up early and arriving at the park before 9 a.m. to make sure you can secure a parking spot in one of the small lots on Skyline Drive.

When you finish one of those early hikes, you can swing by Etlan, a small nearby community, to grab barbecue or ice cream at The Little Country Story, and even sip some wine at DuCard Vineyards, she said. Gifford also recommends checking out the breweries and cafes in Sperryville on the way to your hike or while heading home.

Family-friendly nature trails and museums

If you’re looking for some easier trails with attractions that’ll be fun for everyone in your family, Gifford recommends Colonial Beach, Virginia, about an hour and 40 minutes away from D.C.

“I think a lot of people don’t really realize [Colonial Beach] is there,” Gifford said.

Most people come to Colonial Beach for the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, that includes a museum, gardens, a Junior Ranger program and, of course, some easy nature trails on the Potomac River.

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument, birthplace of U.S. President George Washington at Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, USA, circa 1960. (Courtesy Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Gifford also visited a colorful local spot called Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar last year and highly recommends the riverside spot.

“You can order fun drinks, all the picnic tables are really colorful and it’s just a cool place to go,” she said. “Whether you’re just with a couple of friends or with your kids, it’s a really fun place to be.”

And if you have even more time, drive 15 minutes out of the way to check out Montross, a town full of murals that has some worthwhile stops such as The Art of Coffee, a coffeehouse and art gallery, and Montross Brewery & Beer Garden.

The second day trip Gifford recommended in Virginia is in Winchester, which is 90 minutes out from the city. The trip is specifically centered around visiting the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The museum includes a great art park with various art installations, including sculptures and landscape formations, along 3 miles of hiking trails.

The Glen Burnie gardens at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (Courtesy Museum of Shenandoah Valley)

The museum is already a great destination for kids and it is also opening a new outdoor Nature Connects exhibit on May 27 that features LEGOS.

“Everybody loves LEGO. So that’s kind of cool to see butterflies and gardens all made out of LEGO bricks,” Gifford said.

Winchester offers lots of other attractions, including the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum for small children, the pedestrian mall in Old Town Winchester and the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum.

Beach walks and fossil digging

The final hiking trails Gifford recommends are out in Lusby, Maryland, where the Calvert Cliff State Park features some trails and a fossil beach. When you’re done digging for fossils, there are several other beaches on the Chesapeake Bay to check out, as well as the Cove Point Lighthouse and the Calvert Marine Museum.

View of Cove Point Lighthouse from Calvert Cliffs State Park (Courtesy Getty Images)

If you’re looking for more art at this Maryland stop, the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is in nearby Solomons. The arts center features a sculpture walk and indoor art exhibits.

Then, you can round out the day at the Cove Point Winery nearby.

Gifford said her biggest drive for crafting an interesting hike is keeping the people she’s hiking with entertained.

“At the end of the hike, I always want people who are with me to want to go for another hike,” Gifford said.

So get outside with some of your friends and family to enjoy the last days of spring this Memorial Day. Also, don’t forget to listen to WTOP for traffic updates to avoid any delays.

Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up