Best Family-Friendly Hikes & Trails in Columbia

September 25, 2022

In Columbia, there’s SO much nature to explore in our own backyards. 

Below, you’ll find six beautiful spots that are ideal for families — meaning they’re relatively short, easy to navigate and include kid-friendly features. Getting more in touch with nature provides physical, mental and emotional benefits for kids and adults alike. 

Happy trails, everyone! 


Lake Elkhorn 

Round up the kiddos to explore Columbia’s largest lake! Lake Elkhorn features a 1.9 mile main lake loop (just follow the blue) with a playground and plenty of shady resting spots. Great for fishing, bird-watching, biking, or just taking a good old-fashioned stroll. If your kids are older and have a bit more stamina, there’s a popular 3.4 mile trail they’ll love (details and directions here).


CA Insider Tip

“Feeling adventurous? Pick up the Patuxent Branch Trail from the Broken Land Parkway side of Elkhorn, and enjoy a nice trail that goes all the way to Savage. It’s paved in some parts with views of Patuxent Branch wetlands, winds through some neighborhoods, and even includes an ant’s eye view of an elevated section of 95. There are plenty of sites to see along the way and places to explore off trail.” -Cindy Brown, Graphic Designer, CA Marketing & Communications 

Lake Elkhorn trail


Lake Kittamaqundi Trail 

The Lake Kitt loop might be located in the heart of downtown Columbia, but it still feels like an escape into nature surrounded by wildflowers, ducks, turtles and trees. At 1.4 miles long, it’s the perfect distance for little ones to burn off energy, with the reward of splashing in the big fountain afterwards. It’s paved and mostly flat, so it’s stroller-friendly too.

You can’t beat the convenience: the Lake Kitt loop is within walking distance of Whole Foods, the Central Library branch, Columbia Mall and plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating.

Lake Kitt loop


Wilde Lake Loop

This 1.3 mile loop features a beautiful view of Wilde Lake with birdwatching galore. Kids will love the view of the waterfall at the dam, plus the playground area. One of the best parts of doing a loop trail? It’s really, really hard to get lost! You can find directions here

Wilde Lake loop


Jackson Pond

Jackson Pond, located in Phelps Luck, is something of a hidden gem in Columbia. Quiet and serene, families can enjoy 3.5 miles of pathways that wind around the pond. There’s also a playground and picnic tables.


CA Insider Tip

“Jackson Pond is a little tucked away, so to find it, take the path adjacent to 5418 High Torr Hill and walk south to enjoy a beautiful wooded area that opens up into the lovely pond, complete with a tot lot and a fishing pier.” -Danielle Tyerar, Environmental Program Manager, CA Open Space & Facility Services


Robinson Nature Center Nature Trail

The Robinson Nature Center has a 1 mile wooded trail (some parts paved, some not) that’s perfect for families. There’s even a creek to splash around in. Make a day of it by checking out the indoor exhibits, children’s discovery room, natural play area and planetarium. You can learn more on their website


Centennial Park Lake Trail 

Centennial Park has it all: lakes, wooded areas, open fields, sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, tennis courts, and, most importantly, a playground. The paved loop around the lake is 2.6 miles, but can be modified as an out-and-back hike for younger kids. Or, motivate them with a trip to Clark’s Elioak Farm, a petting farm with lots of kid-friendly attractions just five minutes away. 


So many trails, so little time

Did you know that CA cares for more than 114 miles of pathways and sidewalks for walking, biking and jogging? Click here for a pathways map.

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