Kickstart the Summer With Some of These Local Hikes

View from the North Ridge Trail at Sky Meadows State Park
View from the North Ridge Trail at Sky Meadows State Park

As the bell rings on the last day of school, you walk out of the building, following the stream of students excitedly looking toward the summer ahead. Hoping to get away from the hustle and bustle of Arlington, you retreat to the forests and streams of Northern Virginia. There is no better way to start the summer than relishing in the many hikes our area provides.

A classic hike just within an hour is the North Ridge Trail at Sky Meadows State Park. This difficult forested trail involves trekking deep into the woods with the opportunity to see black bears and an option to extend the trail into a loop. The loop includes walking several miles of the Appalachian trail and two scenic overlooks. The extended trek is 7.5 miles but features some of northern Virginia’s best scenery.

The only drawback to hiking at Sky Meadows is the hour-long drive without traffic or occasional trains blocking the road. The hike is a full afternoon activity, and the outing requires a fair bit of planning.

Another great hike is Difficult Run. Found in Great Falls Park, this strenuous journey begins in a small parking lot just outside the park’s main entrance. The actual Difficult Run Trail is somewhat short but provides the option to hike along the Potomac on the aptly-named River Trail which extends all the way to the falls. The total trek is about five miles but will take you along the cliffs of the Potomac with spectacular views of the river, falls and neighboring Billy Goat Trail. If you are looking for a difficult hike within 20 minutes of our school, this one is for you.

A lesser known local hike is Turkey Run. Found off of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Turkey Run is a much shorter hike, with the loop being around a mile. Do not overlook this hike. It features a steep cliffside staircase down to a path along the Potomac river. Along this path, there are several places to stop and have a picnic. Rocky beaches line the trail, encouraging you to wade into the river. Exercise caution: water flows quickly over submerged, slippery rocks and can pull you in. Also, swimming there is illegal.

The Swamp Trail on Teddy Roosevelt Island is a classic hike within 15 minutes of our school. The trail is on the back of the island, facing Washington D.C., and includes a long boardwalk-style path over marshy lowlands. At the end of the boardwalk on the north side of the island, rocks appear at low tide, offering great views of D.C. and a fun way to invigorate an otherwise relaxing stroll. In the middle of the island, there is a large statue of Teddy Roosevelt as part of a larger plaza meant to honor his legacy. Despite being next to a busy highway and bustling Georgetown, the island still provides a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
The main drawback of Teddy Roosevelt Island is parking. The large lot occasionally overflows onto the grass shoulders of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, especially on busy holidays and weekends throughout the summer. Even then, you can still park in Rosslyn and cross a pedestrian bridge over the parkway to access the island.

Even though the stress in Arlington is often overbearing, and it seems like everyone always has somewhere to be, there are plenty of engaging hikes nearby to counteract this fast paced reality. Each of these expeditions provide something different from the last but never fail to disappoint. Enjoying the lovely scenery and connecting with nature is always a good way to truly relish in relaxation.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Wagner
Matthew Wagner, Sports Editor
Matthew Wagner is a senior and Sports Editor for The Yorktown Sentry. This is Wagner's third year on staff and first year as an editor. Outside the classroom, Wagner can typically be found lifting, golfing or doing homework. He is an avid sports fan and is looking forward to a fantastic final year on staff.

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