15 Best Running Trails In DC You Can Visit Today

15 Best Running Trails In DC You Can Visit Today

Running in Washington, DC, offers a perfect blend of urban energy and natural beauty, creating a truly unique experience for runners of all levels.

Washington, DC, has many fantastic running trails that go around urban parks, neighborhoods, and historic landmarks.

Running trails are also a great way to explore the city and discover new areas you may have never visited before.

Here is a list of the 15 best running trails in DC that you can visit today. A wide variety of routes are available in DC, so check them out below and find the best one for you.

15 Best Running Trails In DC

1. The National Mall 

Whenever you think of Washington, DC, the National Mall is one of the first things that comes to mind for many people.

It’s home to many of DC’s grand monuments and landmarks but this isn’t the only reason why the National Mall makes for a great running trail. 

It’s flat, easily accessible, and mostly car-free, so it’s a super safe place to run in DC.

In its relatively short distance of 4.3 miles, you can pass iconic American landmarks like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and more while you stay fit and healthy.

This makes it a must-try running trail in the heart of Washington DC! 

2. The Extended National Mall

Want to run the National Mall but wish it was a little longer? Looking for a more challenging run in DC? Then try out the extended National Mall running trail. 

It still takes you around the Mall so you can see all the city’s most iconic landmarks. However, it starts and ends at the top of Capitol Hill.

Not only does this add an extra bit of length to the run but an extra challenge thanks to the change in elevation! 

3. Washington Monument Loop

If the National Mall is too easy a run for you, then this running trail is a little more difficult. This makes it a great option if you want to step up your gain while keeping the amazing historic views of the Washington Monument. 

Not only do you get to loop around the National Mall but you also get to run through West Potomac Park and President’s Park.

This gives this trail plenty of distance to travel and some great views to see along the way. However, it’s still a pretty flat trail (like most running trails within DC).

4. The Metropolitan Loop

Metropolitan Loop also provides great views of Washington, DC, while running.

This expert running trail also runs through the National Mall and West Potomac Park, but it’s much longer still.

You also get to run down and loop around the East Potomac Golf Links and Park, following the Potomac River and its stunning views. 

While it still remains pretty flat with plenty of paved paths, the length of this nearly 13-mile-long running trail makes it a great endurance test for avid runners and joggers.

5. Rock Creek Half Trail

Rock Creek Park is one of the most popular parks in Washing DC. It’s home to a lot of great running trails and this specific trail is a good one to start with.

This running trail will have you following Rock Creek as it runs south and meets the Potomac River. Then, you loop around the Foggy Bottom neighborhood and circle back up the creek. 

It’s mostly flat paved surfaces which makes it an accessible trail suitable for all skill levels. Due to the 6.27 mile length of this trail, it bumps up its difficulty to intermediate if you want to run the whole trail from start to finish. 

6. Rock Creek Full Trail

This Rock Creek trail will take you away from the busy metropolitan area of Washington DC.

You get to follow Rock Creek from Kalorama Heights right up to the top of the DC area, making this one of the best nature running trails in DC. 

Although this is a super long trail that is nearly 20 miles long, you can adjust it and choose different paths. This also means it’s a great trail to try re-running from time to time as you can choose different paths. 

7. Embassy Row

A stone’s throw from Rock Creek is Embassy Row. While Massachusetts Avenue doesn’t have a dedicated trail, running on a wide sidewalk is possible.

You can enjoy a scenic run along Massachusetts Avenue, taking in the impressive architecture of the various embassies and diplomatic buildings while you face the challenging inclines of the hills.

This route allows you to incorporate urban running into your workout. If you want to experience one of the most charming running spots in DC, this is the route for you. 

8. Roosevelt Island 

Roosevelt Island can be found in the middle of Potomac Island, and it’s also a great place to do running laps. It’s scenic and pretty easy to run, so this makes it a great route to start your running in DC. 

This trail also includes parts of Georgetown and Mount Vernon. This means you get a taste of the bustling metropolitan area but for the most part, this trail is a scenic nature run that is great for beginners.

9. Haines Point Circuit 

Another super easy running trail in DC is the Haines Point Circuit. 

This running trail loops around the East Potomac Links and Park, taking you right up to Haines Point. It’s one of the most accessible trails in the area and great for running, jogging, cycling, and plain walking! 

If you have never taken to running outdoors before, then this circuit is a nice simple way to get started. 

10. National Arboretum Trail

A lot of the main running trails in the DC area are flat because they pass through metropolitan areas. However, if you are looking for something with more challenging terrain, try the National Arboretum Trail. 

This trail starts out in a nice flat metropolitan area to warm you up before you get to the more difficult terrain. It’s a mixture of both road and dirt trails, and there’s plenty of elevation to challenge you as you loop around the grounds. 

The only drawback is the national Arboretum grounds are only open between 8 am to 5 pm – so you are limited when you can actually run this trail.

11. Hamilton Loop

For this trail, we once again visit the grounds of the National Arboretum. This circuit is an easier version of the National Arboretum Trail as it’s shorter with less elevation, making it suitable for runners of all skill levels. 

So, if you’re not up for the challenging National Arboretum Trail, the Hamilton Loop is your next best running spot in DC! 

12. Kingman Island Circuit 

Want a running trail that is half scenic, half metropolitan? Then try out the Kingsman Island Circuit! 

This running trail will take you through the Roost food hall and then up past Kingman Island as you follow the Anacostia River.

This route is pretty much half in the busy city area of DC and half against the scenic nature of the Kingmans Islands – so you get the best of both worlds! 

13. Metropolitan Branch Trail

Perhaps you’re not interested in waterways and scenic views. If you want a trail that shows you the best of the city rather than a ton of nature and greenery, then this trail is the best option for you. 

The Metropolitan Branch Trail is an easy trail that runs through some of DC’s more populated areas. You get to run through residential areas with dog parks and green scapes, but also more industrial and commercial districts too.

This makes it a great trail if you really want to explore the DC by running. 

14. The Half Marathon

This running trail is only for the most experienced runners who have experience and training for running such an intense circuit.

The Washington DC Half Marathon trail can be hard to try if you are not prepared – so don’t run this trail if you are not ready. 

The trail itself is all road and passes a lot of DC’s most iconic parts. So, if you are marathon-trained, this is a great circuit to do to fully explore the city. 

15. The Chesapeake And Ohio Canal Trail

This trail is a 184-mile towpath that is a popular spot for runners, joggers, cyclists, and more. It is a very flat trail that follows the Potomac River into Maryland. This makes it very scenic and peaceful. 

Of course, you can’t run it all in one go – so it’s a great route to return to time and time again. 

Final Thoughts

Running in DC gives you a fusion of urban energy, natural beauty, and iconic landmarks.

DC may not have as many sprawling parks as other cities, but it’s got a fair range of metropolitan and nature running trails for you to explore.

So, check out the list of best running trails in DC, pick out the spots that speak to your skill level and desires, and give them a try! Enjoy!

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