12 DC Suburbs for Outdoor Enthusiasts

May 25, 2021

In these suburbs, you’re close to the city — and the great outdoors!

Given the proximity of amazing spots like the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, C&O Canal National Historical Park, and miles of trails, the DC suburbs are ideal for nature lovers and active families. And if you need to commute — or just want to maintain urban access — these towns strike the perfect balance ensuring you’re close to everything.

#1. Potomac, MD

Considered the “Beverly Hills of Montgomery County,” this leafy town offers lots of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. With sprawling yards, many residents don’t even have to leave home for a springtime picnic or neighborhood soccer game. But when they want to get out, many head to the popular Billy Goat Trail.

This five-mile trail is split into three paths (side note: dogs can join on two of the trails), each with beautiful river views. Rather spend the day on the water? Head to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center to take a boat ride around the area. Also popular: the Glenstone Museum, set on 300-acres of woodlands with beautiful wildflowers meadows.

#2. McLean, VA

Just 10 miles outside of DC, McLean offers unparalleled city access and lots to do outdoors. One of the go-to parks, Turkey Run Park, sits on the banks of the Potomac River, with sweeping views year-round. In the spring, this is a great place to look for wildflowers — and in the fall locals come here to admire colorful leaves.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is also a popular spot in town, and one of the only nature preserves in Fairfax County. Wander along the scenic trails or participate in one of the park’s programs, like spring wildflower walks and birdwatching events.

#3. Great Falls, VA

This family-friendly ‘burb is known for Great Falls Park, an 800 acre protected space along the Potomac River. There’s something for every type of adventurer here, from hiking trails to rock climbing to biking, sports, and more. Tackle the River Trail with the whole family, or hop in a kayak in the Mather Gorge below.

Great Falls Park isn’t the only option for outdoor fun in town. River Bend County Park includes 10 miles of trails with routes for horses and mountain bikes, plus fishing and canoeing. For horseback riders, check out Seneca Regional Park Fun fact: George Washington crossed many of these same paths.

#4. Reston, VA
Reston is home to 1,350 acres of open space including four lakes designed for boating and fishing. A portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail stretches through the town as well, and many residents weave through these paths to walk, run, or bike.

In Reston, you’ll also find 55 miles of paved trails that stretch through different residential and commercial parts of town.

#5. Bethesda, MD

Don’t fight the crowds at DC’s Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. Instead, head to Bethesda’s Kenwood neighborhood which is home to more than 1,200 cherry blossoms and ample space to stroll and explore, tourist-free.

#6. Rockville, MD

As you’re exploring Rockville, be sure to check out the 10.7-mile Millennium Trail — it’s a perfect trail for a family bike ride (even with newer riders!). Another must-see? The 120-acre Croydon Creek Nature Center. Not only is it a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon, but their Monarch Butterfly Garden is a must.

Local families also love Wootton Mills Garden Plot, a community garden where locals can grow produce and plants.

#7. Columbia, MD

Columbia offers 3,600 acres of open space and more than 114 miles of sidewalks. Locals take advantage of these outdoor amenities and spend plenty of time jogging, bird watching, hiking and picnicking. The town also offers multiple golf courses and outdoor pools for summer fun.

If your family loves to take bike rides, you’ll quickly get familiar with the scenic Lake Elkhorn and Patuxent Branch Trails.

#8. Vienna, VA

With 12 public parks, a lush community garden and miles of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Trail running through town, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities for Vienna residents.

This town’s event calendar is packed and many of the annual festivals take place outdoors. One of the most popular events is the Walk on the Hill, a spring celebration where neighbors can tour colorful gardens in the historic Windover Heights neighborhood.

#9. Woodbridge, VA
Woodbridge residents have a fun added perk: they’ve got a wildlife refuge right in their backyard! The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a go-to for local residents and nature lovers from around the greater DC area. Keep an eye out for bald eagles or ospreys while you picnic or stroll along the tidal shoreline.

Leesylvania State Park on the Potomac River is a great spot for water fun. Families can easily make a day out of kayaking, boating, or fishing here. Or, book a campsite for a memorable “staycation.”

#10. Annapolis, MD
Outdoor activities in Maryland’s capital are all about the water. Annapolis sits on the Chesapeake Bay and offers 553 miles of shoreline. You’ll often find locals boating, kayaking, or paddleboarding.

Even when it’s not cherry blossom season, Bethesda offers lots for active families. Bikers can ride all the way from town to DC along the Capital Crescent Trail. The Locust Grove Nature Center is another favorite, especially for hikers — be sure to check out the Montgomery Explorers.

Quiet Waters Park is a serene riverfront spot complete with a dog park, six miles of paved trails, picnic spots and a multi-level playground. Want to take your kids fishing? Head to the pier at Jonas and Anne Catharine Green Park.

#11. Chevy Chase, MD

Meadowbrook Stables is a popular spot for horseback riding lessons. This stable opened in 1934 and is one of the oldest equestrian facilities in the country. Rather take a scenic stroll? Visit Woodend Sanctuary. This lush 40-acre preserve — and HQ of The Audubon Naturalist Society — features woodland trails, wildflower meadows, and a native plant garden.

#12. Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring is less than 10-miles from DC, but with its ample outdoor spaces, it feels like a world away.

There are four major creeks in town, miles of hiking and biking trails plus three public golf courses. Locals use the renovated Jessup Blair Park for rec sports and family picnics.

If your kids are interested in horseback riding there’s the Wheaton Park Stables for lessons. The Rachel Carson Greenway runs through town and is a great nature trail for the entire family- including your four-legged family members.

Ready to find the perfect outdoorsy suburb for your family? Let’s connect! Schedule your Suburbs Strategy session now.

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