How Washington, D.C., Celebrated National Trails Day
From all accounts, National Trails Day was a sweeping success! Trails were hiked, friends were made, adventures were had.
One particularly unique National Trails Day celebration occurred in Washington, D.C. Barbara Saffir, author of Walking Washington, D.C., hosted an urban hike that traversed bustling sidewalks, skirted a mirrored cube, ran along a riverfront, and ended in a different country (well, sort of.)
Here’s Barbara’s National Trails Day recap.
What better way to celebrate the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day in the United States than to take a hike to Sweden. Sweden? Yep. As the author of Walking Washington, D.C. and a Sierra Club hike leader, I led a group from the capital’s oldest neighborhood across the pulchritudinous Potomac River into Virginia and then back into D.C. for our finale at the Swedish Embassy.
As we stood literally gasping at the views atop the riverside embassy’s rooftop, our enthusiastic hostess Myriam Puryicky introduced us to Sweden’s famous hiking trails and the concept of Allemansrätten. Their constitutionally protected “Right of Public Access” encourages hikers to saunter unfettered anywhere in the countryside if they leave it undisturbed.
Perched on the rooftop, we relished the bird’s-eye view of our entire 8-mile loop hike. We began at Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, a gem of a pint-size urban park commemorating the famous writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s at the edge of Georgetown, the District’s oldest, toniest, and most walkable neighborhood, with brick rowhouses adorning European-skinny streets. Then we crossed over the artistically arched Francis Scott Key Bridge. That deposited us in Virginia, where we hung a left onto the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River.
First, we popped off the paved trail to explore lush, green Theodore Roosevelt Island. Afterward, we couldn’t help but stop a few times for selfies along the river for its Instagram-perfect views of the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. Then we crossed back into D.C. over the classically designed Memorial Bridge.
Along the way on the riverside trail, we passed the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Watergate, and other waterfront jewels. At our second-to-last stop, we nibbled plump purple mulberries next to the seldom-seen Mile Marker Zero of the 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal. Then we wound up back at Georgetown’s bustling waterfront, with its restaurants, bars, parks, boats—and Sweden’s stylish and welcoming embassy.
If you also want to enjoy the hike without leaving your couch, just read Walking Washington, D.C., my unique new guidebook for natives, newbies, and tourists. This hike was adapted from “Walk #13, Potomac River Panorama and Watergates.”
But you’ll have to actually travel to Washington, D.C., if you want to visit Sweden.