The DMV area has an abundance of nature parks nearby. You can see a waterfall, various wildlife, and serene rivers, depending on which park you choose to walk or hike in. Walks or hikes in nature can be great self-care, but they can also be fun to do as a family. But if you have a toddler, hikes can be difficult. Not only can it be difficult to keep their attention, but toddlers are also prone to hangriness and tiredness – two big culprits that can ruin planned activities. For this reason, if you want to take a family hike with a toddler, make it a short one. We’ve compiled a list of 10 short hikes for toddlers in the DMV.
This is a great place to hike with a toddler. There are three picturesque waterfall overlooks, and to get to each one, you walk directly from the parking lot to each overlook. There are super short walks, and it barely involves hiking. If you’d like to try an actual hike, try Swamp Trail. This 1.8-mile trail goes through lowland forest, so you could try heading down it with your toddler and see how far they can go.
If Great Falls Park is too crowded, just down the street is Riverbend Regional Park. (The two parks are actually connected if you keep following the trail along the Potomac River, but you might want to save that for when your toddler isn’t with you. It’s a long walk.) Here are the two best trails for toddlers:
- Madison’s Escape Trail- A one-mile trail where, in 1814, President Madison took Conn’s Ferry from what is now Riverbend Park to Maryland after British soldiers invaded Washington D.C. during the War of 1812
- Hollows Trail-A two-mile round-trip hike from the visitor’s center through scenic forest and river views.
Scott’s Run has a small parking area and two overflow parking areas that are always packed in the spring and summer. This park is not stroller-friendly, but the things that hinder strollers will occupy your toddler: rocky paths and crossing shallow water on your way to a waterfall. The waterfall is 1.4 miles in, so it’s not too far.
This park has a 4.7-mile loop called the Burke Lake Loop Trail with water views, but your kids might get distracted by the carousel, mini golf course, and miniature train. If you want to see how far your toddler can walk on the trail before they get tired, offer a carousel or train ride as a reward. The trails at Burke Lake Park are mainly gravel, so no one should get too muddy after it rains, but make sure you wear waterproof boots just in case.
Stroller-friendly and short, this trail heads to Lee District Park. If it’s too far, the trail passes a seating area in case your toddler needs a break. The park also has a carousel and treehouse for play after your hike if they still have the energy to burn.
Kane’s Creek Trail within this park is a .87-mile trail that takes hikers through the forest for a great view of all local wildlife and birds that live throughout the park. That hike has an easy rating, but the park also has over three miles of other paved trails that take hikers past the bay, creek, and other paths through the woods.
This stroller-friendly boardwalk stretches three-quarters of a mile over wetlands in Prince William County. There’s also a playground near the parking lot.
These two-mile nature trails include overlooks, hills, and Native American ruins to explore. There is also a nature center that has reptiles and raptors to check out in case your toddler isn’t in the mood to walk too far.
This isn’t a hiking trail per se, but it’s a nice place for a leisurely garden walk. The paths are paved and perfect for strollers or little walkers to take in the 95 acres of flowers and scenery. There is even a picnic area so that you can stay for lunch.
Toddlers might be interested in the battlefield structures and cannons within the 5.4 miles of trails. Even better, there are several very short hikes for toddlers to try.
- Henry Hill Loop is a 1.1-mile hike past Rickett’s Battery
- Jackson’s Line
- Robinson Farm
- the Sudley Road Loop-a .6 mile trail that visits pre-war structures in the park, and the spot where 13,000 US troops crossed Bull Run on their way to the First Battle of Manassas
- Matthews Hill Loop-a .9 mile trail that explores the ground over which the opening shots of the Battle of First Manassas occurred. Even just walking through the massive field among the cannons (see photo) would probably count as a hike for toddlers.
Make sure to pack plenty of snacks and water, and hopefully, your child will enjoy the view (or at least enjoy finding sticks to dig in dirt and rocks along various trails. That’s what my son does, at least). Happy hiking!