Places to get out with your dog to recharge your mind

It is crazy to think that just last week, I was excited for Spring, and planning out road trips with my dog. Now, the only reason I leave home is to walk my dog or get groceries.


You can consider me on the higher end of the anxiety train. Whether you're on that train with me or still at the station, it doesn't matter. The instructions are clear. Stay away from large crowds and practice good hygiene.


If you live in a crowded city, sometimes just walking out your front door feels like walking into a sea of germs. If that's the case, buckle up your dog, and go take a hike. Being out in nature will do you both good. I find that hiking gets you off that anxiety train and drops you off at the next station for a break. Of course, there is no place that is guaranteed to be safe from the Coronavirus, but a hiking trail with just you and your dog, during off hours (not evenings and weekends) is hopefully one of the safer places to go.


Here's 5 nearby places to check out:


1) Seneca Creek State Park (Montgomery County, MD)


Of course Seneca Creek made the list! It was the site of the 3rd Annual Piper's Walk before it got postponed. There are so many options here. The walk around entire lake is about an hour and a half. So if you want to get lost in thought, enjoy some good scenery and have time to enjoy 2 hours of serenity, go for it.

At Nuthatch and Bluejay pavilions, you will find the Mink Hollow Trail. When you come to the fork and have to choose between Mink Hollow or Long Drought, Mink Hollow will take you on about a 45 minute to hour walk, and Long Drought is 10 minutes to the street. If you want to go back to the pavilion, you'll have to walk back on that trail, or walk down the street (it's pretty empty).


There's so many other little picnic areas and trails to explore too. You can pick and choose depending on how crowded it is.


https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/seneca.aspx


2) Lake Needwood (Montgomery County, MD)

My personal favorite. Just because Piper and I used to go there a LOT. The Hiker-Biker trail can get really busy, but in the middle of the day on a weekday, it can be empty. It stretches all the way to DC. I've never made it that far, but pretty much it can be as long or short of a walk as you'd like.


There are several trails and wooded areas to explore, and a good short path from the boathouse to a pavilion area that may be good if you just want a short walk.


I'm sure there is a way to walk around the whole lake, but Piper and I were not successful at finding it! We tried and ended up along a busy Needwood Road one day. However, that was many years ago, and things are probably different now. Give it a go!


https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/rock-creek-regional-park/rock-creek-trails/lake-needwood-trails/



3) Sugarloaf Mountain (Frederick County, MD)


For a great workout and the best view, you've got to go to Sugarloaf Mountain. The walk to the top is awesome.

Allow your dog to pull...it'll help leverage your way to the top (just kidding, be careful on the hills)! Be mindful coming down the mountain if your dog is a puller. It can get pretty steep in some areas.


Sugarloaf Mountain is a breath of fresh air. Absolutely beautiful. If you haven't been there, you'll have to add it to the bucket list.


http://www.sugarloafmd.com/sl_directions.html


4) Catoctin Mountain Park (Frederick County, MD)


This is a fun one. So many trails to explore. There's a path that leads from the visitor center to Cunningham Falls if you want to take your dog to see a waterfall. The park rangers at the the visitor center are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. Tell the ranger what you are looking for - how long of a trail you want to go on, the difficulty of the hike and you'll get a map of directions.

If you're going into the visitor center, bring hand sanitizer and be aware of what you're touching. If you'd rather not risk going inside, research the trail maps online first so you know where you're going. Charge your phone, so you can refer back to it along your hike.


https://www.nps.gov/cato/planyourvisit/hiking.htm


5) Local Trails


Find a local trail around your neighborhood. Chances are, there are some good walking paths at the parks and playgrounds. Get lost in the woods and explore the land. Here are some good ones, just to name a few.


A word of caution - don't go in the water at Seneca Creek State Park or Lake Needwood. There have been signs posted regarding parasites and blue algae which can be toxic to your dog. Do not take the chance.


This list gives just a few places in the nearby area, but there are many more. Wherever you go, be safe, and use good judgement. If you go to a spot and it's crowded, find a different location.


Do what works for you. In the midst of this crazy world, you're going to need to find a way to relieve stress. You have to take your dog out for a walk, so you might as well do it in nature...which I believe to be the beauty in the world.


Sending my thoughts with you in hopes you stay healthy, both mentally and physically. And if you do travel with your pup to go on a good hike, be sure that you both buckle up, and travel safe.

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