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The Most Scenic Running Routes in Washington D.C.

Running past history in DC | © Elvert Barnes / Flickr
Running past history in DC | © Elvert Barnes / Flickr
Picture of Summer Whitford
Updated: 31 January 2017
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Washington D.C. is a city that never stops. Many locals walk, bike, and run to work, after work, and for fun in “America’s fittest city.” It probably helps that the capital is home to miles of scenic trails, spanning national parks, city parks, and river banks, all offering incredible views of the cityscape and beyond. Here are five of the best running routes to keep you moving.

East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park is a man-made island in Southwest Washington, surrounded by the main branch of the Potomac River, the Tidal Basin, and the Washington Channel. Picnic areas, parks, tennis courts, and fishing all attract visitors, but runners are lured by the beautiful scenery. Exceptional views of the water draw runners all year long, who take advantage of the paved roads and sidewalks stretching the length of the scenic, three-mile route. If you start at the park entrance, continue to the tip of the peninsula at Hains Point and then loop back again, you’ll see a side of the city few visitors ever glimpse.

Runners along the Potomac River in East Potomac Park
© Everett Mar / Flickr

National Mall

If you’re a morning person, consider a sunrise run along the National Mall. As the sun creeps over the horizon and bathes the Washington Monument in a pale-pink light, the beauty of it will catch your breath. Stately museums and plush, green lawns complete the scene, and you’ll quickly realize why the National Mall is affectionately called “America’s front yard.” Flat, paved paths make it a breeze to run the four-mile route that loops around the museums, the length of the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, past the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam memorials and the Constitution Gardens, and up to the Capitol.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

A world away from D.C.’s urban landscape, Theodore Roosevelt Island‘s wild beauty and striking views of Georgetown make it a hit with families, nature lovers, and runners. Set in the middle of the Potomac River, the island was created as a memorial to the president in 1930. Back then, Mason’s Island (as it was called) was little more than abandoned farmland, until the National Park Service, with the help of Olmsted Brothers architectural firm, transformed the area to its original native habitat. Today, the urban escape is a fantastic spot to run, pounding along the two-plus miles of tracks that include the Swamp, Woods, and Upland trails.

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