Frequently Asked Questions
What are the hikes like?
The Club offers a variety of hikes in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and D.C. Most hikes have both a moderate option (typically 5-9 miles) and a long option (typically 9-13 miles), usually on wooded trails with substantial ups and downs and scenic views. Our hike listings give not only the hike distances but also the cumulative elevation ascent and descent, so that hikers can gauge whether the hike sounds suited to their ability and enjoyment.
Hike headers provide maps and instructions during the bus ride. During the hike, a leader goes ahead of everyone else to show the way and leave markers at trail junctions to make sure the route is clear. Because hikers often walk at different paces, the group typically spreads out into smaller clusters or individuals if they choose. At the rear of the hiking group is an experienced hiker who volunteers as the "sweep" to help make sure no one gets lost or left behind.
Some of our trips include special activities or locations, such as swimming holes, wineries, battlefields, farmers' markets, river tubing, and Atlantic beaches.
How many different hikes does the Club offer?
The Club knows of over 200 different hikes within a 2-hour drive of D.C., and some of the hike leaders enjoy finding new hikes to lead, so the chances of discovering a new hike on the Club's schedule are very good. There are also some favorite Club hikes that are done on an annual basis.
Who leads the hikes?
Hikes are led by volunteers. Hikes have a hike leader and a hike sweep. The leader's job is to show the way, mark trail intersections with directional arrows, and find a suitable stopping place for lunch, and other duties. The sweep's job is to hike at the rear to ensure that no hiker is left behind. The leaders ask for experienced hikers from that day's group to volunteer for sweeping. The leaders will usually have scouted the hike ahead of time and can generally answer questions regarding the particular hike.
Why isn't there a rating as to the difficulty of the hike?
Rating systems that other clubs use are usually based on two factors: distance and cumulative elevation ascents and descents. CHC believes that providing this specific information is more helpful to hikers, as some hikers find certain types of hikes more or less difficult than other types of hikes.
What should I bring on a hike?
Hikers are encouraged to bring sufficient water and food for a day's outing in a daypack or fanny pack with individual first aid articles, a whistle, and extra clothing according to the season. Sturdy boots or shoes are a necessity. For the winter months, hat, gloves and an extra pair of socks are recommended. For the summer months, hikers are encouraged to bring plenty of water - more than you think you will need.
When will the bus return to the metro Washington DC area?
We will make every effort possible to return to DC no later than 6:30 p.m., with corresponding earlier stops at the other bus departure points. However, there is no way to guarantee that a problem might not cause the return to DC to be later than planned. Therefore, if you have important plans for a Saturday evening (e.g., tickets to the Kennedy Center), we do not suggest that you come on that day's hike.
Will I receive more information about the hike in addition to what's in the hike listing?
During the drive to the trailhead, the hike leader will explain the role of the hike leaders, the use of directional arrows at trail junctions, and the responsibility of hikers when they leave the trail for any reason. The hike leaders will also provide each hiker with a trail map, review it and alert the hikers to any obstacles, such as a stream crossing or a change in trail blaze colors. In addition, the hike leaders will circulate throughout the bus to answer any questions.
What are the benefits of using a bus?
By using a bus for transportation, CHC can offer a much greater variety of hikes. For instance, hikes with different starting and ending points can be done more easily with a bus. One of the key benefits of using a bus is that it has a professional driver, which can make the ride after the hike more relaxing and potentially safer than private vehicles driven by hikers who may be sleepy following the physical exertion of the hike. The bus also allows hikers the option of reading, sleeping, or socializing during the ride to and from the hike location.
Can things be left on the bus during the hike?
Yes, hikers can leave non-valuable items, such as reading material, extra food or a change of clothes, on the bus during the hike. Valuables should never be left on the bus and neither CHC nor the bus company is responsible for any lost or stolen items.
Are there post hike refreshments and, if so, are they included in the price of the hike?
At the end of most hikes, beer, soft drinks, and snacks are available. The cost of the beer and soft drinks is $2.50 and $1.00, respectively, and the snacks are complimentary. Payment is on the honor system -- please be aware the volunteer hike leaders provide these refreshments from their own pocket and are reimbursed by the money hikers pay for what they consume.
How much water should I bring?
Although the amount varies depending on each hiker's physical condition, the trail and weather conditions, and the hiker's pre-hike level of hydration, a general rule of thumb is to bring 8 ounces of water per mile to be hiked. Thus, for a 10 mile hike, you should consider bringing 80 ounces of water, which is a bit more than a 2 liter bottle. Please plan to bring with you enough water for the entire hike.
Where do I meet the bus?
Each hike description states whether the bus will follow
either the Maryland or Virginia bus route, not both. For details on the pick up locations, please see our departure schedule. In some cases the bus may follow another route and therefore have only a single bus pickup, which will be clearly indicted at the beginning of the hike description.
Are dogs allowed on hikes?
Dogs are never allowed on the bus. Check with the hike leader for non-bus hikes as to the possibility of bringing a dog, as circumstances vary for each hike. If allowed by the leader, a dog must always be kept on a leash during the hike.
Can I drive my car and meet the bus at the hike destination?
No -- As a general rule, club policy is not to coordinate with folks to meet the bus at the trailhead, as it would put added responsibility and stress on the leaders and also cut into the value we provide the people who pay full price to participate and ride the bus. It could become quite burdensome if external people are calling or texting the leaders to coordinate at the same time the leaders have their hands full managing the group and the bus ride.
Also, it’s often the case that leaders have to substantially change the bus destination at the last minute, which could create chaos with efforts to coordinate meeting people at the trailhead. There’s also the fact that the leaders will have a quantity of printed maps and directions based on how many people signed up for the hike, and the same is true of the amount of the refreshments purchased.
Additionally, most of our hikes are point-to-point hikes, meaning that the hike ends at a different place than where it began, so anyone who parked their car at the initial trailhead might have a big problem getting back to their car, and we would definitely not want to give them a lift back with the bus.
That said, however, we can’t ban you from the trails and have no desire to do that! So folks can certainly hike on their own at the same time and place as the CHC group, and we’ll gladly say howdy to them, but we can’t coordinate to meet at the trailhead.
It’s conceivable that there could be special circumstances to justify bending this rule on rare occasion, but at this time we’re especially focused on keeping things simple and streamlined to make sure the relaunch of our bus trips goes smoothly.
We hope everyone who wants to join us on hikes gets a chance soon.
What is the age range, male to female ratio, and average number of hikers on a hike?
Our hikers typically range from college age to retirees. All are welcome, so long as they can keep pace. There is generally a higher participation of women than men on most hikes. In the most popular times of the year (spring and fall), the bus is often full or nearly full (up to 54 hikers, including leaders), but our trips have historically averaged about 40 people.
What physical abilities should I have to enjoy CHC hikes?
Hikers should be able to keep an average pace of at least than 2 mph to ensure that the hike is completed on time. Hiking up and down mountains is much more strenuous than hiking the same distance on level ground, so if unsure of your abilty, please try some smaller hikes with elevation gain first before signing up for a CHC hike.
When do I have to decide if I am doing the moderate or long hike?
This varies by hike. Many of the CHC's hikes are structured so that the long hike "add-on" portion comes at the end of the moderate hike, which allows for all hikers to start together and hikers to choose between the moderate or long hike upon reaching the end of the moderate hike. However, in some cases, the moderate and long hikes start at different locations, which mean that hikers must make their choice before leaving the bus. The hike leaders will provide the relevant information concerning choosing between the moderate and long hike either on the bus or during the hike.
Who runs the Club?
CHC is a non-profit recreational group managed by annually elected officers. Officers receive no benefits other than the satisfaction of being involved in the Club's mission to provide safe, quality hiking and outdoor activities, to promote fellowship, and to foster love and respect for natural environments.
Are donations to the Club tax-deductible?
The Capital Hiking Club is not a charitable organization. Voluntary donations and hiking fees are not tax-deductible.
Does CHC assume liability for injuries?
Hikers are responsible for their own safety and must assume risks and liability for all outings. CHC leaders, officers and representatives shall not be liable for any injuries, loss or damage to persons or property, direct or consequential, arising out of any trips or Club activities.
How can I become a hike leader?
We're always seeking experienced hikers to volunteer as leaders. Leading is very fun and rewards you with a sense of giving back to all those who've come before us and kept Capital Hiking Club going since 1937. A new leader is paired with an experienced leader to learn the ropes. If interested, please contact the Hike Leader Coordinator or any other officer or hike leader.
How do I reserve or cancel a hike reservation?
Please reserve or cancel by using the meetup.com/capital-hiking-club web site. Hikers without reservations are welcome to "walk on" the bus subject to seat availability. Hikers who must cancel their reservations are urged to cancel on meetup.com/capital-hiking-club so that those on the waiting list may signup and the bus is not delayed.
Why reserve or cancel before Friday?
The hike leaders must confirm or cancel the bus on Friday. If there are not a sufficient number of hikers (generally a minimum of 20 hikers) with reservations for the hike, the bus will be cancelled. Reservations and/or cancellations can still be made on Friday, but knowing this information ahead of time helps the hike leader determine whether or not to confirm or cancel the bus.
What information do I need to give when making a reservation?
The hike leader will need your name, your choice of bus pickup spot, and a phone number.
Why do you ask for a phone number?
It's important to provide a number in case we need to contact you to make sure we know which bus pickup to expect you at in the morning or notify you of unforeseen developments. Also, if you get separated or lost during a hike, having your phone number can make it easier for us to find you.
Will I be notified in the case of a hike's cancellation?
In the case of a cancellation, the hike leaders will email or call hikers with reservations to inform them of the cancellation of the hike.
Are reservations required for non-bus (e.g., moonlight, trailhead, carpool and/or Urban Trailers) hikes?
Because non-bus hikes do not have a seating capacity restraint, there is generally no requirement to make a reservation. However, it is a good idea to let the hike leader know that you plan to attend for trailhead and/or carpool hikes, so that they can plan accordingly.
If I make a reservation and fail to show up, will I be charged?
The club charters the bus each week, and every seat is paid for…whether it is filled or not. No-shows or cancellations after the stated cancellation cutoff day/time will not be offered refunds. See hike listing for more information.
What costs are associated with each hike?
The cost for the hike and, if applicable, park fees are listed in the description for each hike. Hikers with the appropriate annual park permits do not have to pay the park fees. If the hike will be at a National Park and you have a park pass, please bring it, because each pass covers 4 people, and if we have enough passes, no one has to pay a fee and everybody gets to the trailhead faster.
How do I pay for the bus/hike fee?
The easiest and prefered way to pay for our bus hikes is using CHC’s Meetup site and PayPal. Otherwise, the hike leaders will collect the hike/bus fee en route to the trailhead and, if applicable, the park entrance fee if a hiker does not have a park pass.