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The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the best places to go for those who enjoy being active outdoors but doesn’t want to deal with the crowds in Washington DC. The 17 miles trail spans from Rosslyn, VA to President George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon but along the way provides some of the best views of the nation’s capital and then some. The trail itself is protected by the National Park Service and can be accessed year-round from 6 am- 10 pm.

Here’s a great map of the trail.

For a majority of the time, the trail is sandwiched between the Potomac River and the George Washington Parkway.  This makes it really easy to hop on and off the trail at any given point. But it also provides some very beautiful waterfront views.  In other words, you don’t have to walk the entire 17 miles in order to see the best of the best, here are some personal favorite points of interests and places where you can hop on and off the trail:

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The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Arlington Memorial Bridge are seen from the Mount Vernon Trail in the middle of autumn.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

(L) the footbridge leading to Theodore Roosevelt Island (R) Theodore Roosevelt statue

Let’s start with one of my favorite places along the Mount Vernon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt Island. A great place to begin your outdoor adventure. I love it because it’s not like any other place along the trail. Park your car in the parking lot and cross the footbridge. You’ll be greeted by Theodore Roosevelt himself. Walk within the island for a bit more solitude than you would get along the Mount Vernon Trail. No bikes are allowed on the island but there’s a bike rack by the bridge so you can leave your bike and walk 🙂

Once you are back on the Mount Vernon Trail, you will see beautiful willow trees, and about half a mile away from Roosevelt island, you’ll start seeing some of the best views of the Washington DC Memorials. Its one of the only places where you can actually see the top 3 landmarks (Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol) all lined up in a row. There is not one spot, in particular, you should go to see them. The more you walk, the more the perspectives will change and the view from across the Potomac River is like no other. If you walk a little further, you’ll start seeing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well. Enjoy these views or the memorials anywhere from Roosevelt Island to the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial.

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July 4th firework celebration

If you can, my favorite time to go here is on July 4th for the firework show. You basically get front row seats all along this part of the trail so you don’t really have to go early to claim your spot. If you do decide to go, then driving/parking may be a hassle. The best way to do it is to take the metro and get on and off at the Rosslyn stop. It’s a little more than half a mile walk but you’ll be saving so much more time by using the public transportation route. I have been on the George Washington Parkway when there are fireworks and cars will literally stop in the middle of the road to watch it. At that point, traffic gets super backed up!

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First of all, shout out to my friend, Zack for telling me about this spot. I’m so grateful our friendship and that he is such a detailed planner about his photo explorations. He actually left for a 2 week trip to California a week ahead of me which started and ended in San Diego. LOL he would post some amazing images of Southern California and I would immediately message him asking him where that was taken from. Thank you, Zack for telling me about this one!

One of the best things about California in general is all the hills. Obviously northern California is known for all the steep hills and has much more of them but the ones in southern California are just as cool. If I had to guess, we’re looking at the Point Loma Marina with downtown in the background. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I captured this image at sunset which was amazingly beautiful even for a cloudless sky. The warm tones that came in while the sun was dropping was amazing. I especially liked what it did for the buildings in the very back. I remember while I was taking these pictures it was really windy. Maybe because we were on the very top of the hill but in between shots I would run back to the car for shelter. Andrew came with me this time and he just sat in the car the entire time because it was that cold. LOL. I would just wait in the car for 2-3 minutes while the light changed and hopped out when I saw something that interested me. The advantages of being able to park right by your photo location!

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/500th sec at ISO 1250 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm handheld.