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I don’t like it when my friends treat hiking as an all day excursion. I don’t want the cartilage in my knees ground down to nothingness due to excessive inclines and uneasy terrain. Maybe once a year I can be convinced to trek ten miles, scramble over rocks, and ascend a good 5,000 feet. But I don’t always want to move my feet that far.

Are you like me? Do you use the outdoors primarily as an excuse to maintain the charade that is your “active” lifestyle and stave off vitamin D deficient depression? Do you still kinda wanna see some cool stuff along the way? Then you’ve come to the right place. Here are five hikes for people that want to be outdoors, but don’t want to move their feet very far.

#UnitedOutside content has been done in collaboration with our friends at REI

Theodore Roosevelt Island

This hike counts double on the low movement front, as it doesn’t take very long to get to the location proper, and won’t take you very long to traverse once you get there. Teddy Island is that small chunk of land on the Potomac in the middle of Virginia and D.C. and it’s got three minuscule baby trails that are so manageable you could probably get one of your friends to push you in a stroller for the duration. It’s a man-made landscape, so all of the natural beauty you’re witnessing is kind of contrived. You want the best? You gotta put in the steps. But this ain’t bad for the slackers.

Rock Creek Park

Was Theodore Roosevelt Island too far for you to journey? How about that National Park that’s basically in everyone’s backyard? I wouldn’t say Rock Creek’s hiking options left me underwhelmed. I was just kind of…whelmed. I mean, it’s a good way to get into nature without really leaving your urban epicenter, and there’s something uniquely charming about the blare of car horns and the scent of exhaust fumes wafting from Military Road while you convince yourself that you’re in the forest or some shit. The sunlight does play so nicely off the trees here that I swear I can feel the physical sensation of my serotonin being boosted. It’s pleasant, albeit a little flat and monotonous. At least two trails of two miles or less, and with the impending closure of Beach Drive, it may get even more scenic. I will miss the exhaust fumes.


Sky Meadows State Park

Just a little over an hour west of D.C., on the east side of the Blue Ridge mountains, gets you to this quaint state park in Delaplane, Va. I’m not really a fan of any location where a “babbling brook” is defined as one of its sightseeing attractions. If you’ve read my writing, you’ll know that it’s almost comically alliterative, but I just can’t get down with that phrase. I just imagine an anthropomorphic gushing geyser with googley eyes going “glug glug glug” and for some reason it really gets me going. In a bad way. And why you gonna wanna stare at water anyway? There are other things to stare at here. There’s so many trails of varying lengths (yes, many are less than a mile), passing through planes, farmhouses, fishing and picnicking spots. Venture further upward and you’ll get some excellent views of the Piedmont. Just make sure you can read a trail map or you’ll end up hiking much further than your weak will wanted.

Blackwater Falls State Park

So…the bad news? You’re trekking about three hours outside of the city to get to this gem in West Virginia. The good news? Your hike is out and back in less than a mile. The amazing news? Your payoff is a five-story waterfall that cascades down onto an eight mile long gorge that you won’t get to see all of because that’s way past our walking limit. The foliage tinges the water to shades of dark amber and black, which gives the park its name and gives solace to the darkness within my soul.

Natural History Museum

Starting this month and on display for an entire year, the Natural History Museum’s new exhibition, 100 Years of America’s National Park Service: Preserve, Enjoy, Inspire, will provide you with all of the allure and intrigue of the outdoors with none of the fresh air, or effort for that matter. Traverse vast mountain ranges and sprawling landscapes in just a short couple steps across a single panoramic photo. Do that thirteen more times if you feel like it. Go see the other 30 plus photos that showcase the great things of our country that you’re too lazy to see. If it makes you feel better, the exhibit is on the second floor, so you’ve likely met your elevation requirement when you get there. If you’re unsatisfied, go walk on the grass along the Mall when you leave the museum.

Panoramic view of stream, mossy rocks

Photo by Stan Jorstad, Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institution


Photo by Stan Jorstad, Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institution