hiking

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If you know me, I love a good road trip. Especially the ones that make you feel like you’ve hopped on an airplane and you’re miles away from home but in actuality, you just jumped into your car. So if you’re like me, I created a list of my favorite summer destination that are 3 hours or less from Washington DC with a variety of adventures waiting for you. So if you like being in the outdoors, this list is for you:

Great Falls Park:

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Great Falls Park from the Virginia side

I’ve mentioned this place a hundred times on my blog so it’s definitely a favorite. Less than 20 miles outside of Washington DC, find some peace in Great Falls Park. From the roaring falls, to plenty of space to roam or have a picnic, Great Falls is kind of an unexpected gem outside a major US city. The great part about Great Falls is that there’s a Virginia and Maryland side. You can see actually see the Maryland side while in Virginia and vice versa but they are very different.

Virginia has a better view of the falls and in my personal opinion, the park just feels a little bit more open with wider fields and more viewing spots of the falls. It’s a great place to have a picnic or go on a hike with friends.

Maryland allows you to be closer to the rocks but I personally enjoy the views on the hike on the Maryland side much more.

Don’t be surprised if you see kayakers navigating the rough waters or blue herons fishing for the dinner on either side of the park.

Alexandria, Virginia

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Old Town Alexandria at sunrise

Specifically, Old Town Alexandria. Old Town Alexandria is just 8 miles away from Washington where you can enjoy a day by the Potomac River. Surrounded by cute shops and even better restaurants, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise if you find yourself smiling while walking around the neighborhood. If you of age, The BRÜT Wine Bar is a personal favorite if you like bubbly adult drinks. Waterfront Park is a fantastic place for kids to run around and to experience free outdoor art. I can’t express how much I enjoy this cute little town every time I visit.

But Alexandria is also a great central point for many other excursions. Hop on a scenic water taxi that will take you the National Harbor in Maryland or to DC destinations such as the Wharf, Georgetown, the National Mall, and Nats Stadium. It is also along the Mount Vernon trail that gives you access to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntly Meadows Park, both wetland areas with boardwalks that make it fun for birdwatchers and photographers to enjoy the views.

Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive on a foggy early morning

Shenandoah National Park is beautiful summer, fall, spring, winter, whenever! Just 70 miles outside of the District, it’s the best place to get a great hike in. My personal favorite is Old Rag Mountain Trail and Hawksbill Mountain Trail. Both give you an unbelievable view of the mountains and surrounding areas. Just know that both of these hikes are steep but Hawksbill Mountain Trail is significantly shorter, so plan accordingly with the time you have in the mountains.

If hiking isn’t your thing, I highly suggest finding a rental company where they’ll take you down to the river. You can rent canoes, rafts or tubes to float your way down the river. It’s so relaxing.

But if you just want an easy way to enjoy the views, Skyline Drive has stunning views from multiple overlooks along the way.

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Just a short drive from Boulder Bridge is Rapids Bridge in Rock Creek Park. You could technically walk, but I wore the wrong shoes and decided to drive instead. Next time I go to Rock Creek Park, I gotta wear my hiking shoes instead of rain boots. It had rained the night before I visited so I figured the ground was going to be wet. But I should have known that I would have wanted to climb up rocks and things so that’s when the hiking boots would have been the better idea. Anything for the shot, right?

So I was extra careful when I was making my way to this spot. I had to jump across a few rocks in order to get to a big one in the middle of the river. From the picture, it doesn’t really look like it because you can see land straight ahead but I swear, I was on a rock in the water. LOL.

At this point, I left my tripod in the car. I didn’t want to have anything in my hands that would throw me off balance and I knew that I wanted to get a low angle where the majority of the image would be of the water. So I sat on this rock and used it to help keep the camera steady. At that point, I made the mental note to wear waterproof pants next time I shoot Rock Creek as well. LOL.

My camera settings for this image are F13 at 1/3 sec and ISO 400 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle.

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Along the way, I tried to capture all different kinds of images from the hike. This was my first time in Harper’s Ferry and seeing the viewpoint from Maryland Heights, so I was like a kid in the candy store with all these amazing views. When I saw this house, I couldn’t resist capturing it. It was just so cute sitting on top of a hill like that.

I pulled out my 70-200mm to zoom in on it. I wanted it to feel like it was the only house among the wilderness, even though it’s not really the case. LOL, maybe I still had Falling Waters in my mind. If you look closely enough, you can still see a little house close to the top right-hand corner of the image. Instagram vs. Reality.

My camera settings for this image are F6.3 at 1/1000th sec and ISO 400 with my Sony A7Ii and 70-200mm zoom.

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This hike was pretty intense. A lot steeper than I had anticipated but I’m so glad we did it. Let me rephrase that, I’m so glad we did it as early in the morning as we did.

Living in the Washington DC area, Harper’s Ferry is only an hour’s drive from us. So I thought that would make it an easy drive to go for sunrise. We arrived at about 6:45 am, 30 minutes before the sunrise so when we got out of the car and we had to use our flashlights to find the trailhead. That was the easy part. Almost immediately you’re climbing up the side of the mountain and I was huffin’ and puffin by 7:15 am. LOL.

But the views during that early morning light was so nice. Once we finally arrived to this viewpoint along the Maryland Heights Hike, we were so happy we were the only ones there. We were free to roam and take as many pictures as we wanted and didn’t have to worry about being in other people’s way. I had previously read online that this view can get crowded. So I think we were really lucky we got there so early. But on the way down, I could see there were a lot of people going up.

So if you’re planning on going on the hike, I’d highly recommend going as early as you can. In case you were wondering, we only did the red trail. The blue trail was even higher up and a little more than I wanted to do so early in the morning. So the red trail was good enough to see the amazing views 🙂

My camera settings for this image are F6.3 at 1/400th sec and ISO 400 with my Sony A7Ii and 16-35mm wide-angle lens.

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While planning for our trip to Oregon, Toketee Falls was high on my list of things to do. It looked so beautiful from all the pictures I saw and the best part about it is that the hike wasn’t too far. It was the perfect stop on our way to Bend, Oregon to get out and stretch our legs for a bit.

What you don’t see from all the Instagram and Pinterest posts is that this place is PACKED! Out of all the places we went to, this was by far the hardest place to find parking and the busiest trail. There were several times where we had to wait for people to pass in order to continue on to the trail. Regardless of how many people were there, it was still very cool to see and I’d recommend if you are in the area.

Although this was technically not on the trail, it looked like it could have been a short detour. There were a lot of people who were climbing around these rocks that Andrew and I decided to go down to see what it looked like. As Andrew was exploring, I captured this of him and Frankie. Yep, that’s Frank in the red backpack. He’s just not looking at the camera. LOL.

My camera settings for this image are F9 at 1/20th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 24-70mm.

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While we were photographing the sunrise, Andrew mentioned that he would like to be able to walk on the beach. It was perfect because I had planned a hike for us to do just that. So after I was done capturing the sights from the Ecola State Park viewpoint, we went back to the hotel, packed up all our stuff and picked up Frankie so we could go on our first hike in Oregon.

The Crescent Beach Trail started right back at the Ecola State Park viewpoint. It’s a 2-mile hike that at first didn’t seem too bad but what we quickly learned that a lot of the beach trails that are along the Oregon coast are very steep. What’s beautiful about Oregon is that there are over 300 miles of untouched coastal land meaning you won’t see beach houses or anything like that on the coast. It’s all just natural trees, dunes and gorgeousness. But it also means getting on to the beach is quite strenuous.

This image was taken towards the beginning of the hike before it got to be too bad. We were still getting some of that early morning glow coming through the trees and I asked Andrew to stand in it. It’s funny because at first I didn’t remember which hike this was, but noticed Andrew was wearing jeans so I knew this was the first hike we did. We both made the mistake of wearing jeans. I say it was a mistake because climbing up and down those hills was hot, sweaty and sticky. After this, it was all athletic shorts all the time. Of course, Frankie didn’t notice the hills at all. He had a free ride everywhere he went.

My camera settings for this image are F6.3 at 1/40th sec ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.