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Best Running Trails in Northern Virginia

May 31st, 2024

By Sofia Alonso

2 min read

Northern Virginia, a vibrant hub nestled near the nation’s capital, offers an unparalleled blend of scenic beauty and historical richness, making it a paradise for runners of all levels. Whether you’re training for a marathon or looking for a peaceful jog, the diverse trails of Northern Virginia provide not just a path, but an experience. 

These trails not only provide a great workout but also offer scenic views, wildlife observation opportunities, and a chance to explore the region's rich history. This article explores the best running trails in Northern Virginia, highlighting their unique features and the benefits they offer to both the casual jogger and the serious runner.


Popular Running Trails in Northern Virginia

Here are some popular running trails in Northern Virginia:


1. Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD Trail)

Stretching 45 miles from Arlington to Purcellville, the W&OD Trail is a favorite among local runners. This paved trail, following the route of the former Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, offers a relatively flat and straight course, making it ideal for long-distance runs, interval training, or leisurely jogs. The trail passes through urban, suburban, and rural areas, providing a diverse running experience.


2. Mount Vernon Trail

The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved path that offers breathtaking views of the Potomac River and Washington, D.C.'s iconic monuments. Running from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island, this trail is perfect for runners who enjoy scenic views and historical sites. The trail's proximity to the river also provides a cooler environment during the warmer months.


3. Custis Trail

Connecting the W&OD Trail in Arlington with the Mount Vernon Trail near the Key Bridge, the Custis Trail spans about four miles and is known for its challenging inclines. This trail is ideal for runners looking for a workout that tests their endurance and strength. Despite its urban setting, the trail offers greenery and shade, making it a pleasant route for running.


4. Burke Lake Park

Burke Lake Park features a 4.7-mile loop trail around Burke Lake, offering a mix of natural beauty and recreational amenities. The trail is mostly gravel and dirt, providing a softer surface for running. With its flat to gently rolling terrain, the trail is accessible to runners of all levels. The park's picturesque setting, complete with a lake and forested areas, makes it a popular spot for a peaceful run.



5. Cross County Trail (CCT)

The Cross County Trail offers a more adventurous running experience, with its route spanning approximately 40 miles through Fairfax County. The trail traverses diverse terrains, including forests, stream valleys, and urban areas. Parts of the CCT are paved, while others are natural surface trails, catering to runners who prefer off-road running. The trail's varied landscape provides both scenic views and physical challenges.


6. Prince William Forest Park

For those seeking solitude and a connection with nature, Prince William Forest Park offers over 37 miles of running trails through dense forests and past historic sites. The park's trails range from easy to challenging, with options for both short runs and longer, more demanding routes. Running in Prince William Forest Park is an opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness while getting a great workout.


7. Four Mile Run Trail

This nearly 7-mile paved trail runs along Four Mile Run, a stream in Arlington, connecting several major trails and parks. The Four Mile Run Trail is popular for its accessibility and urban scenery, including parks, wetlands, and community gardens. The trail is flat and fast, suitable for runners seeking a straightforward route for speedwork or an easy jog.


These trails in Northern Virginia offer something for every runner, whether you're training for a marathon, seeking a leisurely jog in a beautiful setting, or looking to explore the region's natural and historical landmarks on foot. With options ranging from urban pathways to secluded forest trails, Northern Virginia's running scene is as diverse as it is vibrant.


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