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Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia have many stunning fall hikes between the Maryland Heights hike and all the hikes in Shenandoah such as the Old Rag Hike, the choices are endless for fall foliage viewing. But my favorite autumn hike for fall foliage near DC has to be Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff. It is definitely one of the best hikes to do to see fall leaves in DC.
Hiking to Annapolis Rock and back only is about 5 miles and will take you 3 to 4 hours. It is part of the Appalachian Trail. The signs are easy to follow and it’s pretty hard to get lost. Parking at the trailhead was plentiful when we arrived but by the time we left at 11am there was no parking!
When Should You Hike Annapolis Rock Trail?
This is a popular hike throughout the year. I’ve seen people hike it even in winter! It is extremely popular in summer and spring as well for the views. But in my opinion the best season to hike Annapolis Rock is in the fall. The fall leaves as seen from this viewpoint is simply gorgeous and unmatched! The heat of summer is gone and the best part there’s no more mosquitos in the fall!
What to Wear for Hiking Annapolis Rock in the Fall
When we did this hike, it had rained for two weeks straight. It was an unusually wet fall for us in the Washington DC area. Normally a pair of sneakers and a light jacket would do for hiking, which is what I wore. BUT because of all the rain the trail was super muddy, I wish I had worn some rain boots. If you are hiking Annapolis Rock after significant rainfall, then I’d wear waterproof hiking boots or rain boots, otherwise sneakers should suffice.
It was quite cold when we hiked Annapolis Rock so I opted to dress in layers. I layered a long sleeve HEATTECH top – CHECK PRICES, a sweater, and my favorite Ultra Light Down jacket from Uniqlo – CHECK PRICES. On the bottom I had on HEATTECH leggings – CHECK PRICES, and some furry sweatpants!
Best Time to Hike Annapolis Rock Trail
Both Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff face west, so the sunset is stunning here! But this hike is super popular and extremely busy, so I would go early in the morning. We hiked Annapolis Rock for sunrise and it was quite empty. The weather had been bad and the entire trail was muddy. But by the time we headed back the trail was super busy.
How to Hike Annapolis Rock for Sunrise
I knew I wanted to see the sunrise at Annapolis Rock in the fall to avoid the crowds so we set out in the DARK! Yup, we started at the trail head in complete darkness. So how did we see, with these handy headlamps – Check Prices. I had gotten these headlamps for the trip to Bagan we never took, but they were perfect for this hike!
Hiking the Appalachian Trail from the trail head you should arrive at the junction for Annapolis Rock about 2.2 miles in. You will see a sign for Annapolis Rock pointing to the left. Taking this left for about ¼ of a mile you should be at the viewpoint.
It was completely dark when we started the hike, but it grew light pretty quickly as we walked up. We didn’t quite make it for sunrise, but it was pretty close. The view was just as amazing as I had imagined! This is definitely the best hike for fall in the Washington DC area.
Hiking Black Rock Cliff
After enjoying the beautiful views at Annapolis Rock, go back out and continue down the Appalachian Trail for another mile and you will see the sign for Black Rock Cliff. This viewpoint is just as lovely! I would recommend seeing both Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff if you have the time since they are so close together.
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