7 Unique National Parks to Visit Near Washington, DC

Ready to visit a National Park in the Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia area? There are many sites to choose from on the National Mall. You may have already visited the Washington Monument and Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, but the new-ish Dwight D. Eisenhower and World War I Memorials deserve a visit. The National Parks in the National Capital Area also offer escapes into nature, with rocky hikes and scenic overlooks across the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.
While at a National Park, pick up a Junior Ranger book for your child — or your whole family! Complete the challenges and take the oath to explore, learn, and protect the National Parks. Collect a badge and stamp it with the date you visited to create a keepsake you earned because of your curiosity! Or stamp a National Park passport book to commemorate your visits to multiple sites on the National Mall or in the Washington, DC area.

Check out these unique National Parks in the Washington, DC area:

1. Catoctin Mountain

14707 Park Central Road
Thurmont, MD 21788
Entrance fee: Free
Park by the visitor’s center and get a hike recommendation from a ranger. The visitor’s center offers exhibits about the history of the Catoctin Mountain community and how it became a National Park.

2. Fort Washington Park

13551 Fort Washington Road
Fort Washington, MD 20744
Entrance fee: Free
This park is a great place to picnic with the family, go for a bike ride, or walk through the old fort overlooking the Potomac River. Stop by the small yellow visitor’s center to learn more about the fort’s history, and then walk across the drawbridge to get inside. Climb along the walls to look across the Potomac River and check out what it was like to live there by peering into small brick dwellings.

3. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

1411 W Street SE
Washington, DC 20020
Entrance fee: Free
Get started at the visitors center with a film about Frederick Douglass’s life and then join a tour of his home on Cedar Hill. (Be sure to make a reservation in advance.) This historic home has been a museum for over a century and includes many collections owned by the Douglass family. Don’t miss Frederick Douglass’s library where he wrote letters and read many, many books.

4. Glen Echo Park

7300 MacArthur Boulevard
Glen Echo, MD 20812
Entrance fee: Free
This old amusement park was turned into an art haven in the 1970’s and has been a place to explore art and culture ever since. An old carousel is one of the most well-preserved carousels in the country. (Check the website to make sure it’s operating during your visit). The Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture offers classes, shows, concerts, and even admission to the onsite aquarium. Find our guide to visiting HERE!

5. Greenbelt Park

6565 Greenbelt Road
Greenbelt, MD 20770
Entrance fee: Free; Camping is $20 per night
If you’re interested in camping with the family but don’t want to go far, this is the park for you. This family-friendly park is complete with a campground, easy hiking trails, and a few playgrounds. Catch a ranger talk around the campfire or spend the day picnicking in a field.

6. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

1550 Anacostia Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20019
Entrance Fee: Free
The parking lot may be just a few blocks from 295, but you won’t feel like you’re near a highway once you’ve ventured down the entry path. Listen for birds and look out for lilies and lotuses. The visitors center may be small, but it has an area where kids can sit on tree stumps and play checkers or read books. The park offers a few different paths for walking along the marsh and display pools.

7. Manassas National Battlefield Park

6511 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20109
Entrance Fee: Free
Stop by the visitor’s center to learn about this park’s connection to the Civil War and pick out a hike or embark on a driving tour to get started. There are many sites to see and a lot of history to discover.
Did you know that the National Park Service celebrates its birthday on August 25. Join in the celebration by visiting a nearby National Park in Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia. It’s one of the few days when entrance fees are waived — though many National Parks in the DC area are free year-round!