Have you noticed someone lounging between tree trunks lately and thought, That looks comfy? Welcome to the impromptu hammocking trend. We’ve hiked during the pandemic—oh, did we hike and hike and hike—but a hammock gives a hike purpose, a goal, a destination, even if you don’t know where you are going to mount the thing when you set out. But you know what is going to happen. You are going to hike for a bit, find a place to hang the hammock, crack open a book, and then fall fast asleep listening to the songs of birds above you and the chatter of dying cicadas around you. Knowing that, be careful where you string your bed. We have a few ideas.
Yes, we went right to the big kahuna, the mother of all National Park Service properties in our region, the world-renowned home of Mather Gorge. If you can sleep through the constant roar of the mighty Potomac River squeezing through the rocks (it’s actually peaceful, like natural white noise) and the occasional squeal of a child enthralled by nature, you’re in the right place. Insider tip: Officially, hammocks or anything that threatens to damage trees are prohibited in the park. But we have it on good authority—unofficially—that hammocking in the picnic area is OK. 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean
Hammocks need trees. This Fairfax County Park Authority park has trees—888 acres of them, minus the size of the lake. If you can’t find two trees in a quiet copse to fit your hammock, you may be doing it wrong. Start off on the 5-mile, around-the-lake trail until you see a tasty spot. Or head for the campsites. Insider tip: Rent a canoe or play some mini-golf before your hang. 7315 Ox Rd., Fairfax Station
The largest protected natural area in the region—clocking in at 16,000 acres—has 37 miles of hiking trails, 21 miles of biking trails, and countless trees for stringing up hammocks. Look for a quiet place in the camping area, maybe near a picnic table. Insider tip: To add a little history to your hammocking, head to Cabin Camp 3, where five vintage cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Office of Strategic Services still stand. 18170 Park Entrance Rd., Triangle
- Pick up wide, tree-friendly straps available where most hammocks are sold—regular ropes can damage bark.
- Your ideal trunks are about 46 to 68 inches in diameter (bring a tape measure).
- Don’t hitch your hammock to a tree someone else is already hanging from. Miss Manners would never.
- You’ll want to stretch out in a straight line, like you’re in bed, but the netting will pinch inward and squeeze you. Instead, lie on the diagonal—much more comfortable.