6 mile run in DC
February 25, 2016 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I am taking a spur of the moment trip to DC this weekend! On Sunday I'd like to do a 6-mile run as part of my half-marathon training. What routes would you recommend that maximizes water/scenery?

I generally prefer loops or straight shots (taking transit to get out there, then running back) and would prefer not to do an out-and-back that involves returning on exactly the same route. I really like running next to water but barring that, the monuments sound scenic too?

I am staying at a hotel on Scott Circle between Farragut and Dupont, but am happy to walk or take transit within reason (will carry Smartrip and hotel key cards on me), say up to 30 min or 45 min if it's really worth it, especially if it means I can avoid lots of crossings/stopping at crossroads.

The length of the run can vary up to 7 miles if it makes it easier to plot a route.

I'm going to play around on MapMyRun but I'm not very familiar with DC's running paths so any guidance would be appreciated!
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The National Zoo isn't that far away from there and is really lovely. It may not be far enough for you.
posted by msamye at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2016

I'm a fan of looping around the Mall, as it's basically the only flat part of the city. Go Capitol building to Lincoln and back as a loop, and it's about 4.5 miles. You can go past Lincoln over to MLK and FDR to add some mileage, and you should easily a. hit your mile goal, b. see lots of memorials and sites.
posted by General Malaise at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

The easiest thing to do would be to run south (double-check that, I'm directionally challenged) on 14th St NW to Constitution and run along the Mall. You can run past the White House, the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and MLK Jr. Memorial. If you need more miles, head towards the Capitol.

As for stopping for cross-streets, well, this is an urban area, but the Mall is relatively nice for running. If you were more familiar with the area, I'd suggest running out to Hains Point via East Potomac Park but I live here and I still get turned around heading that way. Similarly, the Capital Crescent Trail is good for mileage without having to stop but it's kind of boring and getting there and back would eat up most of your mileage.

An easy way to get miles that I've done is just run up Massachusetts Ave NW through Dupont Circle, past the embassies and the Naval Observatory. Keep going until you hit the halfway point you need, then turn around. But that will mean lots of traffic lights. Rock Creek Park is another option but I've just never felt comfortable there. Good luck and have fun!
posted by kat518 at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2016

Head west to Georgetown Waterfront Park -> Key Bridge -> Mt Vernon Trail -> Memorial Bridge - > Lincoln Memorial. From there you can either take Rock Creek Trail back up the east side of the river, or head through the mall and go north past the White House. Here's a rough map version: https://goo.gl/maps/NmPtQM1f5K72

Or alternately, on the Mt Vernon Trail you'll pass the bridge to Roosevelt Island, which has woodsy trails too that you could work in.

Or a completely different suggestion, if you don't mind an out and back, would be the C&O Canel, a lovely dirt path along the canal that starts in Georgetown and heads west (to Pittsburgh).
posted by veery at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! Just wanted to add that I've lived in DC for a summer so am generally familiar with the city (and have thus seen the monuments before), but wasn't a serious runner at the time so not particularly well-acquainted with running paths.
posted by andrewesque at 9:40 AM on February 25, 2016

Oh, and a slightly different route would be to take the very beginning of the C&O to the Key Bridge, rather than going through the Waterfront (recommended)
posted by veery at 9:49 AM on February 25, 2016

Definitely the Mall, unless you're really desperate to avoid lights/crossings. Sounds like you're a straight shot to the White House, then you just hit a few lights until the Washington Monument. Head to the Lincoln and take a left, go along the Potomac to the Jefferson, and then around the Tidal Basin back up 15th St. If you want to add some more distance, just head to the Capitol for a bit.

If you really want a light free path, you can walk or cab to the Lincoln, then go along the river and into Hains Point (aka East Potomac Park).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:51 AM on February 25, 2016

there are a million miles of right next to the water miles of mt vernon trail on the virginia side with no lights/stops to worry about
posted by skrozidile at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2016

The natural scenery will be better in Rock Creek Park than anywhere else, but the towpath is also nice and fairly flat if you don't mind a soft gravely surface and you can do an out-and-back as long as you want. If the big river and monuments are your thing, the Key to Memorial suggestion is best. From memorial bridge you can loop in Hains point if you're still feeling peppy, but the bridges can be very windy and cold so it's hard to feel peppy right after crossing them.

I personally avoid the Mt Vernon trail near the cities on the weekends because of crowds and people who don't call their passes out, but that's probably not in full swing this time of year so you should be safe.
posted by mattamatic at 9:55 AM on February 25, 2016

Oh I work right around there and I LOVE to do the Hains Point loop.

Starting from Scott Circle might be more than 7 but you can always start running once you get to "x" point. I would go to 14th street, run down it to Ohio Drive which takes you around the tidal basin and then to the hains point access. There should be signs to go let to West Potomac Park and if you run around the island right there, there are nice views of the river and SW water front and takes you past some other fun things on the way day. PLUS traffic (which there is very little of) is one way and people are always just running in one of the lanes, very runner friendly. I love seeing the water the whole time :)

There is a bathroom and water fountain at the tip of the island too as a bonus.
posted by whitetigereyes at 10:17 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was just about to suggest the Mall and Haines Point. There's also the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
posted by slogger at 1:02 PM on February 26, 2016

Response by poster: Reporting back: I looked through these and did a combination thereof, which was:

- Metro to Crystal City, which is a block away from a spur onto the Mt Vernon Trail
- Mt Vernon Trail northbound, past DCA and Gravelly Point to Arlington Memorial Bridge (~3 mi)
- Across Arlington Memorial Bridge, around the Lincoln Memorial and along the Reflecting Pool, around the Washington Monument (~1.5 mi)
- I meant to run just a bit further down and cross the Mall in front of the USDA Building (AKA the next crossing), but found that the Mall was closed for maintenance and ended up going all the way down to 7th St NW, going to Constitution, right on 15th St NW, left on Pennsylvania Ave and then a right on 17th St NW to end at Farragut Sq (~2.5 mi)

All in all, a very pleasant route with a pretty low number of grade crossings and a very scenic one, would totally do again. Thanks for all your help!
posted by andrewesque at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2016

Response by poster: Also I would concur that the Mt Vernon Trail seems like it would get very crowded on nice weekend days. It was pretty chill because it was still February (albeit mild) but it's not super wide and I could see it getting packed.
posted by andrewesque at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2016

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