By Kate Siber
Great Falls Park
Within 15 miles of the nation’s capital, the Potomac River tumbles down a series of rugged boulders and ledges, creating Great Falls and all but erasing the din of city life with its roar. The eponymous 800-acre park half an hour from the capital attracts all manner of urbanites needing a nature fix, from whitewater kayakers and canoeists to climbers and hikers.
Get Hiking: Check out the kayakers from a lookout over the falls, then keep ambling south to shake off the majority of the visitors. A three-mile loop on the River, Ridge, and Matildaville trails leads along the craggy Mather Gorge, up steep climbs, and through serene forests of oak and ash.
Après Hike: In the nearby village of Great Falls, The Old Brogue, a classic Irish pub, serves drafts of Guinness and Smithwick’s to accompany Irish specialties like beef stew and shepherd’s pie.
Photograph by Skip Brown, National Geographic