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Neal Gorman Friday, 18 November 2011 09:20 TWEET COMMENTS 2

Capitol Trails

D.C.'s tremendous paths offer an urban escape

The term "trail running" conjures thoughts of wide-open spaces, nature, serenity and letting go. It is odd ...

Photo by Aaron Schwartzbard

The term "trail running" conjures thoughts of wide-open spaces, nature, serenity and letting go. It is odd to think that congested and politically charged Washington D.C., and the surrounding area, is home to a treasure trove of forest trails and robust trail-running community, but that is exactly the case.

For starters, the trails weaving and connecting in, out, around and through neighborhoods and parks in the D.C. city limits are a treasure—a national treasure at that. Many trail miles in D.C. are located in National Parks. Rock Creek Park, the Potomac Heritage Trail, The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath, Anacostia Park and the open space and paths surrounding the National Mall and Memorial Parks, to name just a few, boast tremendous, well-maintained, conveniently accessible trails.

"The trails are always empty. [At times] you feel like you're in the middle of the Shenandoah, with no sign of the city," says local trail speedster Sean Andrish. "It's amazing to have that kind of escape right in the heart of D.C. and then pop back out into civilization for post-run beer and pizza."

The trails are mildly technical in some parts and deceivingly torturous in others. Bring your game if you intend to blaze Rock Creek Park's Valley Trail, for example. The undulating, narrow singletrack bluff trails make for a fun ride but the rocks and the hills will wear you down. The irony of this trail is you will see more runners than hikers.

On the other hand, says Andrish, "The most technically difficult trail in D.C. is the Potomac Heritage Trail. It doesn't have the longer climbs found in the mountains west of D.C., but requires the same level of concentration as running in Shenandoah National Park and on the Appalachian Trail. Lose your focus for a moment, and come home with bloody knees."


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