Outdoorsy weekends around DC?
June 25, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

For a weekend, where can we escape DC?

My friend has a milestone birthday coming up, and he'd like to get out of DC for the weekend. I've been tasked to be part of the party planning committee. Travelers would be a group (8-15) of 20somethings.

Our criteria:
-outdoorsy (we won't be doing anything crazy, but might like to hike/canoe/kayak)
-near water (beach or lake)
-can drink beer in relative solitude, preferably outdoors
-within 2-3 hours of DC
-preferably, accessible by some sort of public transportation (I don't think we'll get this)

Suggestions so far:
-Assateague (I think this would be great, except it's the pony weekend, which rules it out)
-Ocean City (which sounds crowded and not so fun)
-Rehobeth (which also sounds crowded and not so fun)
-we all were just in Canaan Valley, but really enjoyed being there - it's just too far for this short of a trip

posted by quadrilaterals to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Since you don't seem to mind the shore, I can very much recommend Henlopen State Park. There's camping right next to the beach. It's really nice and not remotely as packed or crowded as OC or other tourist joints.
posted by General Malaise at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2012

Maybe try out Deep Creek Lake?
posted by matty at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2012

Get a group campsite in Shenadoah National Park.
posted by COD at 9:44 AM on June 25, 2012

Response by poster: Forgot to mention - as much as I love camping, I don't have it in me to plan a large camping trip at this time. Cabins or cottages or motels are preferable!
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:45 AM on June 25, 2012

My go to for this is Berkeley Spring, WV. It's in the time range, it's cooler than DC, there is a park nearby with a great lake for swimming, and plenty of hiking trails, there are a ton of other places around to do things like trail ride, and there's a great country music bar not too far out of town. It's a great weekend trip, but as far as I know there is no public transportation. (It's definitely low key, though. There are a couple of bars, but no bar scene or anything.)
posted by OmieWise at 9:46 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: By pony weekend, do you mean the weekend with the pony swim? If so, fear not. The pony swim is only on the Virginia side, and camping is only on the Maryland side. (There's a fence dividing Assateague into slave state ponies, who can be sold to raise funds for the Chincoteague Fire Department, and free state ponies, who will be living wild & free alongside you & your wild & free beer-drinking buddies -- beware, ponies can open coolers.) We were worried too, especially since we were driving there on the day of the swim itself, but there was zero problem.

If you're not up for planning camping, you might rent an RV. Our ocean-side campsite was mixed (tents & RVs) and the RVs basically function like a mobile cabin.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:49 AM on June 25, 2012

Harper's Ferry, WV doesn't have a lake, but does have 2 rivers, and a few outfitters for tubing, rafting, canoeing, etc, and a lot of hiking trails.
posted by amarynth at 9:55 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

-Assateague (I think this would be great,
You know there's no non-camping place to stay on Assateague, right?

But logistically it's pretty much like planning a cabin trip. Drive or bike off-island to procure farm-stand produce, seafood, etc. Just be sure someone packs a zap racket.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:12 AM on June 25, 2012

Harper's Ferry, WV doesn't have a lake, but does have 2 rivers, and a few outfitters for tubing, rafting, canoeing, etc, and a lot of hiking trails.

Also, Harper's Ferry is accessible via MARC train from Union Station.
posted by candyland at 10:20 AM on June 25, 2012

Shenandoah National Park also has a pretty big range of non-camping options within 100 miles of DC at Skyland Resort, Big Meadows Lodge and Lewis Mountain Cabins. You can still have your own grill/campfire (and adult beverages) from most of the rooms, plus amazing hiking and biking and wildlife-watching, and pretty quick access to canoeing/kayaking/rafting options in the valley below.
posted by argonauta at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Deep Creek is nice, but I think it's a much better winter resort town.

Shenandoah would be a lot of fun but I've only gone there for backpacking trips.

When I had a large group we rented a house right on the lake at Lake Anna and that was really nice. A big yard, huge home (think we had 10 people?) instant lake access. Some hiking trails. No neighbors around. I think it's 1.5 hour drive from DC.

Ocean City is just a cesspool in my opinion and Rehobeth is boring but expensive.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2012

The odds of getting several weekend rooms this summer at any of Shenendoah's Lodges is slim to none. Those things book up way in advance. You might be able to find hotel rooms in Luray or Front Royal though. That will put you right on the edge of the park. You also might look into renting a private cabin, although most of them only do weekly rentals during high tourist season.
posted by COD at 11:09 AM on June 25, 2012

I second the recommendation of Berkeley Springs. There are a lot of rental cabin facilities in the area, but they are fairly spread out so you can find rentals on larger acreages that are not chock-a-block with other cabins like you do in ski resort/lakefront resort areas. We had our wedding at a nice facility that had room for 20 or so, but that was several years ago and when I've tried to locate the listing in recent years I've not been able to find it. But there are others out there that can either accommodate that size of group in a single unit, or else where there are 2-3 smaller units on a single property that will give you the sort of privacy and isolation that it seems like you're looking for.
posted by drlith at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2012

If you don't mind primitive camping, head to http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/greenridgeforest.asp, its about 2-3 hrs from DC, in the middle of no where... you'll be close, if not right on the potomac (the nicer part of it)... and you are normally 1-2 miles from the next camp site... ranger might drive by once a day, and you pay via honor system...
plus there are rafting & canoeing tours or groups, they just provide you the equipment, you paddle at your own pace, and can stop to drink...

if that's not your cup of tea...

South Ocean City is pretty crowded, but North gets pretty quiet, especially during the week. You can get a Bus from DC to Dewey Beach for pretty cheap, or grey hound to ocean city itself... but there are lots of places near by that aren't as crowded, my parents have a house in northern OC, nice and quiet most of the week...
posted by fozzie33 at 12:57 PM on June 25, 2012

You can go tubin' in Harpers Ferry via MARC.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:32 PM on June 25, 2012

I suggest renting one of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's cabins. Myron Glaser cabin is less than 60 miles from DC.

Greenbelt National Park has camping and is Metro-accessible, but I think it's more geared towards RVs. Prince William National Forest near Quantico, VA also offers tent camping for groups.

I third Berkeley Springs, WV and Cacapon State Park.
posted by Allez at 1:54 PM on June 25, 2012

Best answer: There are plenty of hotels and bed and breakfasts in Chincoteague, which shares the beach and pony park with Assateague. It's a very quiet, family-friendly type of town -- not sure if that's what you're looking for.

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's cabins are great. You can definitely drink in solitude there - that's one of the best parts.

Word of warning -- it will be difficult to find cabins in any nice site in the DC area this time of year unless you do so well in advance.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all! We've made reservations in some cabins on Chincoteague, and are looking forward to hanging out on the beach and with some ponies. Henlopan looked amazing but alas, all booked for our weekend (which isn't for some time).
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2012

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