Washington, DC is a popular destination for runners in the tri-state area. With its pedestrian-friendly layout that includes wide, spacious streets and plenty of sidewalks to choose from, running in Washington, DC provides a vast array of trails and streets. The DC area is built on mostly-flat grounds that feature an abundance of beautiful trees, rivers, and canals for those who prefer a more scenic run. Whether you’re a beginner who is just now hitting the streets or you’ve been at it for a while, the DC area offers a variety of routes to suit virtually any runner.

If you want to shake things up a bit and enjoy some new scenery, we’ve compiled this list of the best places for running in Washington, DC to take the guesswork out of changing up your route!

Headed to Washington, DC? Check out these other postings for urban outdoor adventures in and around Washington, DC:

Most Popular Places for Running In Washington, DC

National Mall - Running in Washington, DC

The National Mall

Location: Washington, DC
Trail Length: 4.3 miles
Highlights: Numerous historical landmarks, monuments, and memorials are well-lit at night and very safe.

We’ll kick off this list with one of the most iconic locations in Washington, DC – The National Mall. For urban runners who like to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and crowds as they go for a run, The National Mall is an idyllic location right in the heart of the city. As you make your way from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll be greeted by iconic and inspirational landmarks including the Washington Monument, and the memorials for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Vietnam War veterans, Thomas Jefferson, World War II veterans, and Martin Luther King Jr. You may choose to run adjacent to the Reflecting Pool where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, or along the strikingly beautiful canopied walkway. 

For a quick two-mile run, you can stick to the core of The National Mall which is sandwiched between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue. However, if you’d like to extend your run to 4.3 miles, you’ll want to continue on and loop around the Tidal Basin before making your way back toward the Capitol.

Embassy Row - Running in Washington, DC

Embassy Row

Location: Washington, DC
Trail Length: 1 mile
Highlights: Beautiful architecture, rich American culture and history, and it’s quick and easy!

With such a rich history, Washington, DC is perhaps one of the most interesting places to run in the United States. The stretch along Massachusetts Avenue called Embassy Row is a great location for running in Washington, DC. Between Dupont Circle and Observatory Circle (the home of the Vice President!) you’ll find most of the 170+ embassies of foreign countries. Scattered among the embassies are elegant and striking mansions and beautiful structures that serve the diplomatic community as ambassador residences and chanceries. This quick and easy run in DC doubles as a rich cultural lesson!

Rock Creek Park - Running in Washington, DC

Rock Creek Park

Location: Washington, DC
Trail Length: 4.6 – 7.7 miles
Highlights: Variety of trail options, shaded for hot days, and a quiet and serene atmosphere.

For runners who prefer to run in the midst of wildlife, majestic trees, and seasonal foliage, we suggest checking out Rock Creek Park! Scattered throughout this 1,754-acre city park, you’ll find several trails with varying lengths, elevation levels, and paving styles.

Rock Creek Trail (North) and Beach Drive are mostly flat areas that feature paved roads for beginners, while Valley Trail and Archbold Park feature easy grades on dirt that offer a bit of a challenge for more seasoned runners. A hidden gem tucked away in the shade, Rock Creek Park offers respite for those hot summer days with its shaded pathways and lush foliage. Plus, you’ll never believe you’re actually running in Washington, DC due to its idyllic and green atmosphere. 

Mount Vernon Trail - Running in Washington, DC

The Mount Vernon Trail

Location: Mount Vernon, Virginia
Trail Length: 17 miles
Highlights: Long trail for experienced runners, beautiful view of the DC skyline, and several historical landmarks along the way.

As a part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the Mount Vernon Trail is a 17-mile paved pathway just outside of Washington, DC that begins at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Whether you’re looking for a short run, or to make the trek along the entire 17-mile path, the Mount Vernon Trail offers an undisturbed view of DC’s beautiful skyline along the Potomac River. Along this trail, you’ll find a number of interesting landmarks that include Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery, and Gravelly Point.

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail - Running in Washington, DC

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

Location: Washington, DC
Trail Length: 12 miles
Highlights: Scenic route along the Anacostia River, close to the Capitol, and a large loop with several noteworthy landmarks to see.

A newer addition to DC’s running scene, the Anacostia Riverwalk is located about a mile and a half from the Capitol and features a 20-mile trail that stretches along each side of the Anacostia River with multiple bridges that allow the trail to loop around. As of this writing, 12 of the 20 miles are currently open and heavily used by runners, cyclists, walkers, skaters, and joggers. During your run, you’ll enjoy an excellent view of the Anacostia River and its wildlife as you make your way past fields, stadiums, and courts and head toward downtown DC. There you will have access to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and the Navy Yards.

This trail is customizable with several loops available depending on how long you’d like your run to be. There is a great 8-mile loop between South Capitol St. and Benning Rd. that includes each side of the river, or you can alter or extend your run by heading about a mile and a half north toward The National Mall and the Tidal Basin.

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