Short hikes & more hikes: Explore the diversity of the PHT corridor on footHiking opportunities are extensive throughout the PHT network and one of the best ways to experience the beauty, history and culture of the PHT corridor. Just as early Americans saw the corridor as a passage between the Chesapeake Bay and lands beyond the Alleghenies, we use some of the same routes today as pathways to discovery.
The hikes below are ways to explore each region of the PHT network in short periods of time, from a couple hours to a day. Most suggestions are suitable for families. The maps page can help to find a trailhead and the links under "More hikes" below suggest more ambitious options.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (PA):
- Leave from the Ohiopyle State Park or King Road trailheads and climb Laurel Ridge for 2.5 miles to an overlook of the Youghiogheny River valley.
- Hire an outfitter to shuttle from Ohiopyle to the Maple Summit Road intersection with the LHHT and return 11 miles to Ohiopyle—drop from 2400 to 1200 feet in elevation; consider an overnight at about mile 6 (reservation required).
- An easy overnight with children: Park at the trailhead off of Route 653 and hike a half-mile to a shelter area (reservation required).
Ohiopyle State Park:
- From the Visitor Center overlooking the Youghiogheny River, walk upstream and cross the River via the viaduct for the Great Allegheny Passage to a loop trail on Ferncliff Peninsula, a National Natural Landmark, about two miles round trip.
- The C & O Canal could have been converted into a parkway for automobiles, but some thought otherwise: A hike lead by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas helped to convince many that the Canal is best used as an outdoor recreational gateway to nature. Today, you can hike a segment of the level towpath out and back beginning at one of many trailheads, including visitor centers in Cumberland, Hancock, Williamsport, Ferry Hill, Brunswick, Great Falls and Georgetown.
- From the trailhead at Route 51 near Towpath MP 156, walk south and through the 3,118 foot Paw Paw Tunnel.
- Park at the Ferry Hill Visitor Center and hike one-half mile downhill to the Towpath via the Ferry Hill Trail; look for an exceptional display of wildflowers in spring. Continuing three miles upstream you arrive at Killiansburg caves and a hiker-biker campsite.
- For a loop hike with children, hike downstream on the Towpath from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center to the Billy Goat Trail segment B, total mileage approximately 4.5 miles (see map).
- For a connection to history, join the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association for an annual Justice William O. Douglas hike, including a through-hike every three years. Consider camping at a hiker-biker site, located every 5-12 miles; staying in an historic lock house; or a bed and breakfast, inn or hotel in one of the Canal towns.
- Set up a shuttle or hike out and back on an 11-mile (one-way) natural surface and rocky trail between Great Falls Park and Algonkian Regional Park, traversing scenic park lands along the Potomac River, including alternative trailheads of Riverbend Park and Seneca Falls area; for an overnight, reserve a cabin at Algonkian. Snack shops open seasonally at Great Falls, Riverbend and Algonkian!
- Great Falls Park: Hike the one and one-half mile Patowmack Canal Trail – River Trail loop, including a stop at Mather Point; Great Falls is the dramatic transition between the Piedmont and the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and the Canal was George Washington’s first attempt to improve navigation between the Atlantic and the "Ohio country."
- Theodore Roosevelt Island - Scott’s Run Nature Preserve: Another shuttle or out-and-back hike: Locals are familiar with the 10-mile Potomac Heritage Trail within George Washington Memorial Parkway, a natural surface, rocky route close by the Potomac beginning at the Island trailhead, but it’s possible to continue along a road after passing under the American Legion Bridge to a Preserve entrance and end the hike at either of two parking areas where you've left a vehicle or, with some luck, your ride is waiting.
- Walk a 1.5-mile loop within the Woodlawn Historic District, beginning at Woodlawn, George Washington's Distillery and Gristmill (shuttle from Mount Vernon) or one of the hotels along Richmond Highway (Route 1). Adjacent to US Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, the District includes Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House and Woodlawn Quaker Meetinghouse.
- Prince William Forest Park: A wooded oasis with plenty of options for hikes of varying lengths; cabins available by reservation.
- Hike the two-mile loop on Government Island, a Stafford County park where Aquia sandstone was quarried and shipped to Washington, DC, for use in building the White House and U.S. Capitol.