A few years ago the outdoor retail company REI started a social trend called #optoutside. It’s a call to forego Black Friday shopping and enjoy the outdoors. Mike Litterst, Chief of Communications, of National Mall and Memorial Parks at the National Park Service shared five local National Parks where you can choose to #optoutside.
The northwest corner of the National Mall could be considered the “War and Peace Corner” of our nation’s capital. It is home to this country’s most famous veterans memorials, which draw tens of millions of visitors each year. It is also home to the headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and to other symbols and sites with peace themes, which, while generally less prominent, offer an important and complementary narrative, according to Litterst.
The Peace Trail on the National Mall is a 4.5 mile round trip walk that examines a dozen key sites around the National Mall through a "peace lens". A self-guided walking tour is available online at usip.org for information along the route about key figures, institutions, and moments in history that demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to peace.
Explore 3.5 miles of paved trail in Anacostia Park! The Anacostia River Trail is great for a casual stroll, a jog, a bike ride, or a dog walk, says Litterst. Along the way, you'll experience views of the Anacostia River and its wildlife, or maybe join a pick-up game on one of the playing fields or courts. The paved walkway continues across the bridges into downtown D.C. with access to the Navy Yard and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
Manassas National Battlefield Park encompasses nearly 5,100 acres of land and includes more than 40 miles of hiking trails. The park has developed a series of loop trails that traverse key areas of the First (5.4 miles) and Second (6.2 miles) Manassas Battlefields. These routes include trailside interpretive markers describing the battle action that occurred and highlighting the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike, according to Litterst.
The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most well-known hikes in the Washington metropolitan area, says Litterst, and for good reason. With nearly a mile of fun rock-hopping, and spectacular views of the Potomac River along the way, this circuit is loads of fun with plenty to see. There are three sections that make up the Billy Goat Trail, each with varying degrees of difficulty, so there’s something for all levels. You can access all three off the towpath between Great Falls Tavern and Carderock.
Nestled in the eastern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains and less than an hour from downtown D.C. in Thurmont, Maryland, Catoctin Mountain Park offers around 18 miles of trails, says Litterst. It also includes an 8.5-mile loop with several scenic overlooks and other trails that traverse different parts of the mountain. Trails on the eastern side of the mountain are more challenging but have rest stops that overlook the valley below; the west side trails are a bit easier and they're home to lots of wildlife.