What's Your Favorite Trail Inside the Beltway?

I know there are quite a few iRunFar readers inside the beltway. As many of these beltway insiders will be stopping by for iRunFar’s Massanutten 100 coverage this weekend, it seems like an ideal time to ask:

What are your favorite trails within the Capitol Beltway and why?

While I know many of the local trails, I’d love to learn of more. (Just last week I learned of the excellent Gulf Branch access trail to the Potomac Heritage Trail.) I’m sure other local iRunFar readers as well as future tourists or business travelers would also love to know more about the trails the area offers.

I’m also writing a article on the area’s trails and would like to hear people’s thoughts on the DC area trail systems. [I will ask for permission before quoting anyone.]

With that, it’s off to the Massanuttens!

There are 8 comments

  1. bgill

    As I am new to trail running and ultras, I don't have much feedback for you. The trails I run on in my area (actually slightly outside of the beltway, but that still counts, right?) are the trails around Lake Needwood (Rockville, MD) and the trails in Greenbelt Park (Greenbelt, MD). They're all I know, but I like 'em. I can't wait to see your review of all the other stuff in the area.

  2. Argentine Rocket

    Rock Creek Park is my favorite, because you don't feel like you're in a city at all. The nicest trails are obviously in the northern part of the park, but you can make a pretty long loop in the southern part of the park, all on trails, if you cross Connecticut on the Melvin Hazen trail, down to Glover-Archibold park, then Whiteheaven park, Dumbarton-Oaks, and back to Rock Creek, just South of the National Zoo. Second would be the Billy Goat Trail(though sometimes it's too crowded) and other shorter trails by Great Falls park, great for short hills.The Sligo Creek area in Takoma Park and the Northwest Branch park are pretty nice, that'd be my number three pick. And if you don't mind some bike trails, you can make a long loop by heading North on Rock Creek Park and connecting with the Capital Crescent trail just north of Bethesda, which comes down all the way to Georgetown – that's about 25-ish miles total. The Potomac Heritage trail scares me… too many weirdos out there…Have fun rockhopping this weekend!

  3. Caren

    Inside the beltway? I've seen a very little bit of Rock Creek Park trails, but what I have seen is nice. The Cabin John Trail system is nice too, not very technical but still pretty neat considering you're in some pretty developed areas. Outside the beltway, I spend most of my time on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail since it's close to home and is pretty long so I can get some decent long runs in. More recently I've discovered Sugarloaf Mountain which is the only place I know of locally where you can get some kind of climb…well for us suburban MD people anyway. Good luck this weekend and I can't wait to hear about it!

  4. Trail Goat

    bgill,While I'll probably stay within the beltway for my article, I do hope to profile trails in a wider area. Regardless, I'm always looking to learn new trails for myself or friends, so thanks!Rocket,I love the Archibald-Glover, Battery Kemble, Rock Creek loops. Sometimes I still run down into DC to run it. It's fun to tack a map up on the wall and see what green spaces you can try to connect. That's how I learned of that loop.I've never been to the Billy Goat Trail, perhaps I should go photograph that if I stay in town this weekend. Actually, I need to email you about photos. As for Great Falls Park, I've never run on the Maryland side, I do like those on the NoVa side and from GFNP you can head west on Difficult Run or north on the Potomac Heritage Trail.Never tried Sligo Creek either.. at least not that I know! I've only done the Cap Crescent- Rock Creek loop once and it was a beast.Caren,Thanks for pointing out the Cabin John trails… I've never tried those either! Y'all are filling me in on so many new trails – thanks! I have run the Seneca Greenway Trail as part of the annual spring races – they are some nice, benign single track – I love it.Kay, You are tougher than me. The canal does me in… and quickly. I grew up not 200 meters from a tow path and long ago grew averse to running along canals. That said, it is a nice resource and my favorite way to hit the Archibald-Glover trail!

  5. Kiry

    Rock Creek Park's Western Ridge Trail. You can make it a big loop with the Valley Trail. Beautiful, good hills, runnable and exhilarating because I can walk out my door in the city and get lost in the woods.

  6. Mark Tanaka (Ultrail

    I don't live in the D.C. area, but when I last visited my sister who lives there a couple years ago, I had to get my trail fix (no no no to rehab…), especially since a 100-miler was coming up at the end of the month. That Rock Creek Park was awesome, I ended up running it twice in the week, despite having to run a few miles of pavement each way to get there and back. I'll have to bookmark these comments so I can look up the other trails everyone mentioned.

  7. Trail Goat

    Kiry,That is a great loop – I've mentioned it in my draft article. Mark,Glad you found the website – a couple of your fellow La Sportiva teammates stop by and share their thoughts from time to time. There are tons of great trails around DC. These comments should be a good start to finding some. I intend to add fuller descriptions of local trails and parks to iRunFar in the future. Please drop me a note whenever you come to town.

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