Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Hop on the 184-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath anywhere between Washington, DC, and Cumberland, Maryland, for gentle hiking along one of the most beautiful rivers in the East. During the day, pause at lockhouses, aqueducts, and other historical features. At night, return to the quiet of the forest to share the evening with white-tailed deer, black bears, and the Potomac quietly lapping at the shore.
Contact: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, (301) 739-4200; www.nps.gov/choh.
More than just a pretty hike, Maryland’s 40 miles of AT are a primer in Civil War history. The trail wanders over South Mountain, letting you contemplate the conflict between North and South at Chimney Rock and the battle of South Mountain, a precursor to the bloody battle of Antietam.
Contact: Appalachian Trail Conference, (304) 535-6331; www.atconf.org.
Catoctin Mountain Park
Escape to Catoctin Mountain for fine summer hiking, or enjoy its supreme cross-country skiing come winter. Some 25 miles of marked trail, snow-covered roads, and Adirondack shelters give you plenty of options and ready-made camps. Just keep an eye out for men in black; this park borders the presidential retreat, Camp David.
Contact: Catoctin Mountain Park, (301) 663-9330; www.nps.gov/cato.