Best Nature Spots in DC

Living in a city like Washington, DC as a nature photographer, it might seem challenging to find awesome places for nature photography.  But that’s not true! Northern Virginia is beautiful, and there are a ton of hidden places to get out and explore nature.  Most of which are just a quick drive away! So whether you want to get out and take pictures yourself, or just enjoy the great outdoors, this post is for you! I’ve compiled a countdown of the best nature spots and outdoor parks I visit for photography so you can enjoy them too!

#8 River Bend Park, Virginia

This is great place that not many know about.  It’s often overshadowed by its Great Falls neighbor, but this is a place you definitely don’t want to miss! There are plenty of trails to go on a nice hike right along side the Potomac. You can even get right up to the water’s edge to skip rocks. This park is very peaceful and a great escape from the hustle of the city!

#7: Netherlands Carillon, Virginia

Situated in between the Marine Corp Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, this great open space has some beautiful flowers in the spring time.  There is a large bell tower that was a gift from the Netherlands to the United States and you can often times hear the bells chime.  Keeping with Netherlands theme, there are beautifully planted flower beds displaying many different types and colors of tulips. Plus the park lies on top of a hill offering great views of downtown, including the Washington monument, Lincoln memorial, and the Capitol building.  I can easily spend a warm afternoon just lying in the grass enjoying the flowers and the view!

#6: Great Falls National Park, Virginia

This is definitely a popular spot and during the summer months can draw a crowd.  There is a small entrance fee, but the views are worth it! There are large open areas for having a picnic or a BBQ, but also plenty of trails and paths to explore.  These are some very picturesque rapids on the Potomac, and you can often catch kayakers navigating the waves. If you are willing to get a little dirty and do some bouldering, there are some more secluded and amazing views of the falls.

#5: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Virginia

This is another great place to enjoy the outdoors in the DC area. Plus, it’s only about a half hour outside the city.  It can get a little busy on the weekends, and there is an entrance fee, but there is plenty of room to roam on the inside.  There are great views of the Potomac from the mansion, and even some animals throughout the property like sheep, cows, and horses. Mount Vernon is a great historical stop!

#4: Mount Vernon Trail, Virginia

This biking and running path extends for miles down the Virginia side of the Potomac from Mount Vernon all the way to Roosevelt Island.  There is plenty to explore, but I found it more peaceful as you head south towards Mount Vernon.  The majority of the trail is right alongside the river and surrounded by trees. I found this area amazingly beautiful in the fall, as all the bright colors began to pop.

#3: Fort Washington Park, Maryland

This was a hidden gem for me.  This old military fort and park lies on top of a hill just outside DC on the Maryland side of the Potomac.  There is plenty of open space with awesome views of the Potomac River.  The old architecture was my favorite. Plus you can learn a little history while you are there!

#2: Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

You wouldn’t think of this place right off the bat, but it is truly beautiful inside.  Definitely another peaceful location, offering more than just nature.  It’s always nice to reflect on the historical and personal significance of those buried in the cemetery.  During the fall the cemetery comes alive with vibrant colors of red, orange and yellow.  There are beautiful trees planted throughout.  Plus it’s such a large area, there are plenty of places to explore.  Also, for a great view of the city, climb to the top of the hill where Robert E. Lee’s house sits.

#1: The United States National Arboretum, Washington DC

Simply put, The Tree Park. I hesitate mentioning this one because it’s so awesome I don’t want to ruin it’s seclusion, but this is hands down my favorite nature spot in the area, and it’s actually inside the district! You’d never guess there is a huge nature park inside the city.  Tucked away in Northeast DC, it’s a HUGE park with many different sections representing the various types of trees.  I highly recommend the Magnolia section in early spring, and the Dogwood or Azalea sections around April.  The colors are bright and everything is so fragrant. The park also has many trails, making it great for an afternoon walk with the dog. It’s an amazingly peaceful place right inside the city. Definitely my #1 choice for is serenity and beautiful nature.


Don’t let living in or visiting DC fool you into thinking that there aren’t peaceful parks and nature scenery to enjoy! For more pictures of nature hidden in and around the DC area check out the photography page!


What are your best nature spots to visit?