Step Up: The Best Family-Friendly Winter Walks and Hikes

Read next

Chances are, you and your family have spent quality time taking hikes and socially-distancing walks this year. Don’t let falling temps keep you and your family from maintaining your outdoor exercise. Make your new habit a family hobby by bundling up and hitting the trails this winter. From Georgetown Waterfront Park to Turkey Run Park, we rounded up the best places to take a winter walk or hike in the DC metro area (and beyond). Scroll down to see our favorites.

The Best Walk with a Winter-Themed Playground

There are over 32 miles of paths and trails winding through Rock Creek Park, passing sites such as The National Zoo and Mount Zion Cemetery and stretching into Georgetown. If you want to add some playground fun to your hike, start at Meadowbrook Park (a MD park adjacent to Rock Creek) and walk along the trail towards the zoo (it's about 13 miles round-trip if you're looking for a hearty workout). There is plenty of parking at Meadowbrook Park to load & unload your gear. Bonus: this park, affectionately known as "Candy Cane Park" for its red-and-white painted playground, is handicap accessible and includes a small tot lot so kids can 

Meadowbrook Park 
7901 Meadowbrook Ln.
Chevy Chase, MD


The Best Evening Walk with a Stroller

If you're looking for holiday vibes post-Christmas, head to Georgetown Waterfront Park where you can delight in seasonal decorations and watch the lights come on in the city all while navigating wide  well-paved paths with a stroller. If you need to warm up, Farmers Fishers Bakers is welcoming dine-in guests in heated tents. You can also get their amazing mini donuts to go. 

Insider tip: Cuddle up with a good book after your walk. We like this children's book about winter walks in a city. 

Georgetown Waterfront Park
31st St. to Wisconsin Ave. NW

The Best Winter Hike with Rock Scrambling

Winter walks are more fun when littles have things to climb! Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 91-acre wilderness preserve that serves as a memorial to President Roosevelt, honoring his contributions to conservation of nature. The island has over two miles of foot trails, if you want to add a rocky adventure to your hike, take the gravel-covered Woods (2/3 mile) or Upland (¾ mile ) Trail.  There are plenty of small boulders, rocks and logs for little ones to scramble on. 

Theodore Roosevelt Island
George Washington Memorial Pkwy
Northbound lanes between Roosevelt Bridge and Key Bridge
Arlington, VA

The Best Hike for Winter Bird Watching

You don’t have to drive far to be completely immersed in nature. Just 8 miles from the Roosevelt Bridge, Turkey Run Park offers family-friendly hiking on terrains that range from mostly flat to extremely rocky. Be sure to bring the binoculars; bare trees mean it is easier to spot the birds and critters that make this park their winter home. Be sure to bring this book to help i.d. one of the 140 species of birds that spend time in Turkey Run. There are a number of trails, but the short loop off the C-1 parking lot is most favored by families. It’s a steep incline to and from the parking lot but is otherwise smooth and flat near the river (and offers some pretty amazing views!). More wooded paths provide the opportunity to jump across streams and hop on rocks, but these trails are best suited for sure-footed preschoolers. If you wander away from the river’s edge, be sure to track your whereabouts by GPS; trail markers are faded or missing on many of the paths.

Turkey Run Loop Rd.
McLean, VA

The Easiest Winter Walk to Navigate

If you want to get lost in the woods without actually getting, well, lost, head to the Bull Run-Occoquan trail that is often noted as being one of the best marked in the DMV area. Follow the blue posts for an easy to moderate walk that offers views of a lake. If you find yourself climbing onto stepping stones or wading into water, you’ve missed a blue marker! Park at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park for a loop that is easy on short legs.

Bull Run-Occoquan Trail
12619 Old Yates Ford Rd.
Clifton, VA


The Best Place to Walk in Snowshoes

If you're looking to burn off those COVID pounds, up your hiking game with a pair of snoeshoes. When you hike across a snowy terrain in snowshoes you double the amount of calories you'd burn by walking the same distance. Score! Plus, it's a fun activity the entire family can enjoy: if your child can walk, they can be fitted for shoeshoes!  To walk across a  winter wonderland, you'll either need to wait for a DC snowfall or put some miles on your SUV. To hear the subtle crunch of snow underfoot, head to West Virginia's Canaan Valley, a 3 hr. drive from downtown DC.  Canaan Valley boasts 35 kilometers of marked and ungroomed natural snow trails, and if you finish all those trails, you can head to the nearby White Grass Ski Touring Center for another 60 kilometers.

Where: Canaan Valley
230 Main Lodge Rd.
Davis, West Virginia 26260

—Meghan Yudes Meyers


Why Kids (and Adults) Need to Go Outside and Play

Off the Beaten Path: 6 Stroller-Friendly Hikes

12 Easy Hikes for Kids Under 5