minutes per mile blog

my favorite DC running trails, part 1

First – thanks for all the kind comments and farewells on yesterday’s post! Your words of encouragement and good luck are making Anthony and me really excited about this new adventure, and I hope you’ll keep reading as we explore a new(ish) city!

Second, in honor of my DC departure and my two-year blogiversary (!!), I’m giving you guys Part I of my list of favorite DC running trails (last year, I gave you a photo dump of street furniture, so I think this is a step up?). IMG_2297I get asked a lot about where to run in DC and how to get to all these trails — so here are the first five (well actually, like eight) of my top ten favorite DC running trails. Before we get started, here are some notes:

  • My trail-running experience covers Arlington, central DC, and Northwest DC (which is where all the good trails are!) BUT you should know that Anacostia and other Southeast parts of the city have some hidden gems for running, too. I also hear you can head out farther west in VA for some awesome trails (check out this route — looks cool!)
  • If you really want to get to know all the entrances, features, and quirks of the local trails, I’d join a running club or group — DC Road Runners and Roam Fitness happen to be my favorites, but there are tons in the area!
  • MapMyRun and USATF both have incredible user-uploaded databases of trail routes around town.
  • The Rock Creek Runner also offers e-books and guides to local trails (especially RCP, obviously!)

Alright! Let’s get this party started. I’m going to list my favorite trails in order of MOST favorite to LEAST favorite, because opinionated information is always the best kind of information.

1. Teddy Roosevelt Island03-photo_3I’ve always loved TR Island (since I was a DC summer intern in 2007!)… and it is extra special because Anthony and I went there on one of our first runs together! :) The island’s located across the river (on the VA side, near Rosslyn) and is connected to the Mt. Vernon trail. If you do a loop around the perimeter, it’s about a mile long.

  •  Trail/route recommendation here
  • Extra tip: Beware in the dark — trail is not lit and gates to the Island are typically closed. Also beware in the rain — non-paved parts of trail gets very muddy

2. Rock Creek ParkIMG_0871Rock Creek Park is so incredibly vast and complex that it’s way too much to cover in a single post (or series of posts), which is why I broke it up into sub-categories below. In my opinion (which to remind you again, this entire list is based upon haha), it’s one of the best and biggest trails around town. There are a number of entrances to it all through NW DC — my favorites are through the National Zoo and down by the Calvert/Connecticut bridges.

  • Trail/route recommendation here
  • Tip: Also not lit at night — so stay safe! Also, go to town on the fitness stations by Calvert St. Beware of bikers – the trail is pretty narrow in some spots.

2a. Beach Drive (attached to Rock Creek Park)IMG_0875As Rock Creek Park runs north (about 3-4 miles from the Calvert Hill), it hits Beach Drive — which is closed to traffic and full of bikers, runners, and walkers on the weekend.

2b. Georgetown Waterfront (attached to Rock Creek Park)3-DSC03531If you take RCP south, you’ll hit a beautiful waterfront near Georgetown, just before you hit the monuments. You can also get there by running from the C&O canal route bordering M St., or taking Wisconsin Ave downhill. Check it out!

2c. Lover’s Lane (attached to Rock Creek Park)1-IMG_0900This little gem of a road is like a secret getaway. Fitting name, because there are always engaged couples doing photo shoots there; totally unfitting name because it is a cruel and steep hill. You can *only* get to Lovers’ Lane from Rock Creek by taking the north side (less popular side) of RCP trail when it splits just past the Calvert St. hill. Enjoy! :)

  • Trail/route recommendation (couldn’t find an existing one, so I crafted one for you!)
  • Tip: Go play in the adjoining park at the top of the hill! :)

2d. Rose Park (attached to Rock Creek Park)img_0617
Another lesser-known and lovely extension of Rock Creek Park, Rose Park rises above the traffic of Rock Creek Parkway just north of M St. You have to run up a little hill/street ramp to get there, but I think it’s worth it to avoid the street noise!

3. Mt. Vernon TrailMt.vernon_trail_arlington_dc_2 Venturing over to the Virginia side (gasp!), we’ve got the massive Mt.Vernon trail. This baby runs reaaaallly far — about 18 miles in total. You can catch it off of Key Bridge, and run all the way to Old Town! Phew. At least it’s mostly flat!

4. Capital Crescent TrailIMG_0966Cap Crescent is another masssssssssiiiive trail in the area, running from Georgetown all the way to Bethesda (and maybe even farther? I’ve never ventured past that point). Along the Potomac more or less. Because the Gtown-Bethesda stretch is about 10-11 flat(ish) miles, this trail is perfect for those 20-22 milers that come during peak marathon training.

  • Trail/route recommendation (very cool – I’ve never connected it to RCP)
  • Tip: Definitely stop at the water fountain around mile marker 6.5 (mile markers go backwards (mile 11 to mile 0) if you’re running from DC to Bethesda) and drink out of the big faucet. It will soak your entire face and feels awesome in the summer.

5. Glover Park505279625_51aea2ef3d_b(Image via Fickr user Happy Monkey)

I’m not as familiar with Glover Park, but the few times I’ve run/hiked there have been awesome. You don’t feel like you’re in the city at all. Lots of winding trails, rocky patches, and running creeks. Plus it’s super shady — perfect for hot summer runs!

  • Trail/route recommendations here
  • Tip: Get a grand tour by running Glover Park with Roam Fitness (here’s a recap of when I did!)

And that’s that! Happy running and see you from NashVegas!

  • Locals: What’s your favorite trail in the area?
  • Do you mostly run on trails or on sidewalks/pavement?
  • Tips for surviving an 11-hour roadtrip?

12 thoughts on “my favorite DC running trails, part 1

  1. Of course I find/start reading your blog as soon and you’re leaving DC! Bummer!

    I love the W&OD trail in Virginia for running and biking. It goes all the way out to Purcellville!

  2. This is such a great list! Come back to Baltimore please and write a thorough list of places for me to run around here because the hilly-traffic-light filled run from my apartment to the harbor is not so fun anymore.

  3. I live in Philly and I have road tripped to Missouri and Wisconsin in separate occasions. Play car bingo, spot VW bettles, talk about scenery and all the random hinges that come to mind. Congrats to Anthony and you with the new jobs. Safe travels and I look forward to seeing your new adventures :)

  4. Great piece! And I’d have to agree with the majority of the list =). For the life of me I have no idea where “Lovers Lane” (attached to Rock Creek Park) is?

    • it’s on the north side of RCP — you have to take the trail, not the bridge, after you come down the calvert hill (going south) on your right after you pass the workout equipment etc. it’s a big hill that connects RCP to R st (or Q maybe?) in Dumbarton Oaks