Metro Outdoors


Photo courtesy of Eric Z. Grey

Spring has sprung and summer is a stone’s throw away! With 70s forecasted for the rest of the week, some of us will head to patio bars. Others, like myself, will enjoy the great outdoors for camping, hiking and fishing, among other pursuits.

I know that some of you uber-urban people want nature to just stay where it is—in the nature place. This is METRO blogs, after all, and the underground ferns in the Metro tunnels are enough nature for some of us.

But like it or not, Greater Washington DC is one of the greenest urban areas in the country. And whether you’re a modern-day Grizzly Adams or a view-it-from-the-car type, this area has excellent natural resources to enjoy. Over the summer, I’ll be sharing my tips and talking about some of my favorite outdoor places. And for those nature-phobes, I’ll be sharing my favorite view-from-in-the-car experiences as well.

One can easily be overwhelmed with choice when picking a good place to enjoy the outdoors around Greater Washington. With resources from five states and the federal government all within driving distance of Greater DC, there are a plethora of parks, preserves, mountains, lakes, rivers and beaches to enjoy.

And since Greater DC is pan-jurisdictional, each of these places has their own set of rules about what you can and cannot do. Some allow fishing. Others do not. Some allow camping with fires, while others don’t. Some offer a high-comfort experience complete with electricity, while others give you the liberty to virtually live off the land like you are Locke in “Lost.”

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll let you benefit from my experience and boil down the situation for you.

From DC, there are really two choices for enjoying the REAL outdoors:

1. go west to the mountains

2. go east to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

Since the I-95 Corridor runs North-South, most of the lands immediately North and South of DC don’t offer a lot in the way of outdoors activities.

Heading West from Washington along I-66 or the Dulles Toll Road brings you into the foothills and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Shenandoah and Potomac River basins and the surrounding hills provide public and private land for fishing, hiking, canoeing and camping.

Heading East from DC quickly leads you to the rural-ish Chesapeake Bay and over the Bay Bridge to the pastoral Eastern Shore. There are some excellent beachside parks in the Delmarva peninsula that offer a natural experience within a 2 hour drive of DC.

Here are some links to resource providers in the DC area. Over the next few months, I will be sharing my favorites and giving you tips.

Virginia Department of Natural Resources

Virginia Parks Department

West Virginia Department of Natural Resources

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources

National Park Service

6 Comments so far

  1. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    I highly recommend heading out to Harper’s Ferry! Talk about some sweet outdoors!

  2. Eric (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 4:26 pm

    I usually cruise on by Harper’s Ferry (though it is beautiful) because we like to fish and the Potomac is a bit cleaner above the outflow of the Shenandoah. But wherever you’ve got rivers squeezing between mountains, be it the Delaware Gap or the Potomac Bends, you are bound for some beauty.

  3. tj (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

    heck, right here in fairfax county we have some fantastic parks and lakes! a mere 20 miles or so from the capitol. try burke lake, or lake fairfax, or … so many great outdoorsy places around here.

  4. Eric (unregistered) on May 4th, 2006 @ 8:08 am

    The places in the immediate suburbs are great, although they are personally too crowded for me. One that is just over the border in Faquier county, Lake Brittle, has some pretty great fishing and is really tucked away.

  5. Mik (unregistered) on May 4th, 2006 @ 11:41 am

    Although it’s a tad far, the Outer Banks is a great place for fishing, as are many places in Southwest Virginia.

    I recently discovered some not-so-public hiking spots out in the McLean area, I’ll have to share them once I’ve checked them out myself.

  6. Eric (unregistered) on May 4th, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

    I admit, I have not been to the Outer Banks yet (mainly because I am sick of the OBX stickers).

    Are any of these McLean hiking spots near Great Falls park or along the GW Parkway right of way? There is some nice woods hidden right in the middle of civilization there.

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