Walking, Running, Hiking, Biking Trails to Explore

By Katie Dishman, Host Committee Member

While you are in the D.C. area, there are numerous parks to enjoy, especially if you want to get some exercise.  In addition to the post “History in Our Midst” by Jen King who discusses the C&O Canal Towpath where people walk, run, and bike (with information about the Capital Bikeshare program, https://www.capitalbikeshare.com/), there are other locales as well.

Rock Creek Park

Being relatively new to the east coast, it has been nice to discover a variety of places to get a workout in.  One is Rock Creek Park, part of the National Park Service, created by an Act of Congress in 1890.  Rock Creek Park is approximately 1800 acres, in the urban northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. and extending into Montgomery County, Maryland. It is the oldest and largest park in the National Park Service.  Included are two bodies of water: 75-acre Lake Needwood and 55-acre Lake Frank.

There are two sections to the park, in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, both encompassing many trails that go through scenic, hilly terrain.

Following are a couple maps of the D.C. components of the park for orientation.  The Washington section of Rock Creek Park Trail is 8.5 miles and heads south ending at the Roosevelt Bridge (I-66) behind the Kennedy Center, with Rock Creek heading toward the Potomac River.

RCP 1.jpg
Map of Rock Creek Park with areas of interest


Map of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

When you hit the Maryland border at the north end, the name changes slightly to Rock Creek Trail which is 14 miles; it is operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.  The total 22.5 miles of trails are often winding, and some parts have steep hills.  Also, there are many side paths that go in various directions, and they do not necessarily intersect with each other.


Map of Rock Creek Park in Maryland

For more information about Rock Creek Park in Maryland, check the Montgomery County Parks site:

You can find out about more things you can do in Rock Creek Park via the Conservancy’s website:  https://www.rockcreekconservancy.org/rock-creek-parks/enjoy-the-parks.

Besides the great trails for running/walking/biking, Rock Creek also has a Nature Center and Planetarium, open Wed.-Sun. 9-5, the Peirce Mill, originally built in 1829, and an Old Stone House, first constructed in 1765.  There are dozens of places to enter along the route.  For more information on the other attractions at Rock Creek and directions you can check https://www.nps.gov/rocr/planyourvisit/directions.htm.

Capital Crescent Trail

Another long, varied site is the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT), which spans from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Silver Spring, Maryland.  There are seven bridges and two tunnels, and the trail is built on the former railbed of the 11-mile Georgetown branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  The original Georgetown railroad line began use in 1910 for freight such as coal; train service was discontinued in 1985.  The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail was formed in 1986 to promote the development of a hiker-biker trail along the disused right-of-way, with a membership comprised of community and environmental groups as well as individual citizens.

The trail is complete for seven miles from Georgetown to Bethesda. This section features a 10-foot wide asphalt path and wherever possible an adjacent 2-foot wide stone-dust trail for joggers. The trail is used for commuting purposes, too, since people can bike into Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Washington, D.C.  Most of the trail is through parks and woods and there are some nice views of the Potomac River.

The CCT connects with a few other trails such as Rock Creek Trail and the C&O Canal Towpath, which CCT runs parallel to at certain points.

Like Rock Creek Park, there are different jurisdictions managing the areas, both local (Montgomery County government, Silver Spring government) and national (National Park Service).


Map of Capital Crescent Trail

Areas of interest along this trail can be found at https://www.cctrail.org/points_of_interestYou can find places to access the trail at https://www.cctrail.org/access.

Mount Vernon Trail

If you are feeling adventurous, particularly if you have a bike, you may want to explore the Mount Vernon Trail, which is accessible from other regional trails including Rock Creek.  The Mount Vernon Trail is 18 miles, extending from Theodore Roosevelt Island to the north to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate at the southern end.  The trail winds along the Potomac River with views of the D.C. skyline which includes national monuments like the Washington and Jefferson Memorials. If you complete the trip to Mount Vernon, there is, of course, that estate to see.


Mt. Vernon Trail map

Part of the National Park Service, you can find more information at https://www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/mtvernontrail.htm

Having lived in the Midwest most of my life, which is primarily flat, some of the trails in the D.C. area can be challenging if you are not used to hilly inclines.  But they are lovely in their own way, and getting out and seeing nature is always good.


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