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Ultimate Summer Escapes: The Best Dayhikes and Backpacking Trips Near You

Coming soon to your city: far-out adventures that are shockingly close to home.

Washington, DC

In the city

Key Chain Loop Hike the wildest trail in a not-so-wild town.

While DC is–let’s face it–about as edgy as a costume-heavy period film, one only needs to cross the Potomac River to find some verve. The first part of this 9.5-mile circuit, heading north along the Virginia side of the Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT), is surprisingly wild. Narrow and twisting, well-blazed but overgrown, the PHT runs between the river and a cliff wall lined with cascading streams. In a few spots, you have to scramble over rockfall. At the Chain Bridge (one of two spans that inspired the route’s clever name), you cross the Potomac River, descend to the manicured Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath in northwest DC-and step back into Merchant-Ivory territory. Built in the 19th century so that mules could pull boats down the canal, the towpath is DC’s Central Park both in the recreational and historical sense. The old Alexandria Aqueduct’s stone remnants still lurk in the river near the Key Bridge.

Get There The PHT trailhead can be accessed from the Roosevelt Island parking lot in Virginia, right across the Potomac off the George Washington Memorial Highway.

Get Info Potomac Heritage Trail, (301) 739-4200; www.nps.gov/pohe, www.nps.gov/choh

Daytrip

Seneca Creek State Park Call Homeland Security: Fat-tire fiends have infiltrated the capital.

Invite mountain bikers to design trails for a 2,000-acre parcel and what do you get? The well-blazed, tight, twisting maze of fast-riding singletrack found in the Schaeffer Farms section of Maryland’s Seneca Creek State Park. Twelve-plus miles of trails circle out in three main loops, each with a web of side trails. Average width: 1.5 feet. Riders flock to the Yellow Trail for its length (6 miles). But this summer, the White Trail will likely earn its share of props: It boasts a new quarter-mile detour that is, essentially, a half-pipe for mountain bikers.

Get There Schaeffer Farms is 25 miles northwest of DC near Germantown, MD.

Get Info Trail hotline, (301) 924-1998; Seneca Creek State Park, (301) 924-2127; www.dnr.state.com. md.us/publiclands/central/seneca.html

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