It is hot, like really hot around here. Indoor fun requires a mask these days, so outside options are a lot more fun. I rounded up the shadiest spots in the DC, MD and VA areas for your gang to enjoy. Bonus: some of them have great creeks for cooling off your toes.
Catoctin Creek Park & Nature Center – Middletown, MD
You’ll have to take a specific trail to find the shade. Walk between the fenced-in ruins and the picnic pavilion to find the trailhead. The other half of the trail is in full sun, so be sure to head back the way you came. Just down the hill, there are shade covered picnic tables. If you continue around, you’ll find an entrance to Pebble Beach (an excellent splashing spot in the sun) and more shady lunch tables. The playground and musical garden are in sunny areas of the park.
Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – Purcellville, VA
The Farmstead Loop is nothing but shade and singing birds. Stop at the creek for some water fun. We splashed in the water for over an hour and enjoyed our picnic lunch on the sandy bank. Pack extra clothes because your kiddos will get wet and dirty. When you arrive, drive down to the second parking lot, and the trail entrance is across the street. Donations suggested.
Beaverdam Reservoir Trail – Ashburn, VA
The trailhead is around the left side of the baseball field, and the first part of the trail is paved and a little sunny. Turn left onto the path down by the water and it is smooth hiking in the shade. The signs say no swimming, but I did see families dipping their toes in the water. The reservoir is also a great fishing spot. We’re excited to try sunset stand up paddleboarding one Friday night.
Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park – Leesburg, VA
The historic buildings and parking lot are very sunny, but the trail to the overlook and river is shady. Red Rock is an excellent trail for little legs, but it can be slippery after rain. We enjoyed a shade-filled lunch at the lone picnic table. Fun fact: just up the street, there is a roadside stop with “take one” sapling, wisteria and yard stools (donation suggested).
Shenandoah National Park: North Entrance – Front Royal, VA
Dickey’s Ridge Visitors Center and picnic grounds are 5 miles passed the entrance to the park. The picnic area is 1/2 shade and 1/2 full sun, but the Fox Hollow Trail Loop is 1.2 miles of shade (except for the one small section. I suggest going right at the trailhead, so you get the sun over with first.
Theodore Roosevelt Island – Washington, DC
Yes, the memorial and bridge to the island are drenched in the sun, but the trails around the area are all shady. With three little ones in tow, we hiked over two miles without any complaints. That would never happen on a sunny path. Print out the Junior Ranger booklet online, and you can mail in the completed packet for an adorable badge.
Weverton Cliffs – Knoxville, MD
Full disclosure: we didn’t make it to the top, and I imagine the overlook is in the sun, but worth it for (what I hear) is an incredible view. The hike is on the challenging side, but it is nice and cool under tons a beautiful tree cover. Wear proper shoes for this one. There are lots of rocks to climb over. From the parking lot, walk down the street to the right. Cross the road at Weverton Rd and Weverton Cliffs Rd and head straight up the trail.
Sugarloaf Mountain – Dickerson, MD
We’ve been on a few different trails, and each one had tons of tree cover. The $5 donation is worth the view from the East Overlook. We park on the street across from the winery and walk up the road to the White Trail. This may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The East Overlook offers a great picnic spot and plenty of parking. They’ve removed the trash cans, so be sure to pack it in and pack it out.