WINTER WEATHER makes it easy to stay inside, sipping warm drinks by the fireplace. But then
you’d miss the wonders of winter hiking, when rare birds flutter above the river, icefalls form above
the trails, and silence descends over the woods. Here are our picks for the best winter hikes.
FITNESS & THE OUTDOORS
EXPLORE HIDDEN ICEFALLS
The Northwest Branch Trail parallels the
northwest branch of the Anacostia River,
making it a lovely hike any time of year.
In the winter, the series of waterfalls and
potholes—circular holes formed in the
riverbed by the force of the waterfalls
above—freezes. The resulting winter
wonderland is more beautiful than any
man-made ice sculpture. The packed-dirt trail stretches more than 10 miles
north of downtown Silver Spring, a good
length for a long winter hike. For more
information, visit www.montgomery
GET OUT YOUR BINOCULARS
Bird-watchers flock to the C&O Canal
Towpath to spy the bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, ruby- and golden-crowned kinglets and white-throated
sparrows that take up residence there
in the winter months. They also know
that the Carolina wrens and cardinals
that inhabit the area year-round are easier to see with the denuded tree canopy.
Walk along the C&O Canal Towpath for
an easy bird-watching stroll, or try Section A of the Billy Goat Trail for a challenge. For more information, visit www.
FIND RARE PEACE
When the weather is warm and the
days are long, the Seneca Ridge Trail in
Gaithersburg teems with mountain bikers. The hilly, curvy, single-track trail
connects Schaeffer Farms, a popular
mountain-biking trail network, to Seneca Creek State Park. In the winter, however, you may not see another soul on
this relatively new trail, which opened
in 2011. Enjoy the solitude as you hike
up the 5.8-mile trail’s steep inclines, taking in views of the Seneca Creek stream
valley. For more information, visit www.
Seneca Ridge Trail