There are so many fascinating and beautiful places to run in Washington D.C. that most visitors never learn about one of the nicest runs in this, or any other, area. I’m talking about the C&O canal, and while most local runners, walkers, and cyclists are familiar with it, many out-of-towners never get the opportunity to run this nice, flat, earth-paved towpath along the Potomac River.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, commonly known as the C&O was created in the early 1800s as a shipping passageway. It runs about 185 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland alongside the Potomac River. The entire length of the canal, along with the trail that runs beside it, is now a national park.
Most runners even on their long runs will never get outside the beltway, but distance is no problem. The 185-mile path is well used and well maintained, and depending on the time of day is in the shade much of the way. As it is flat and consists of hard packed dirt, the trail is also easy on the joints. The path and the scenery are so pleasant, many runners find themselves extending their long run, wanting to go just a little bit further.
To get there, head to the White House on the Pennsylvania Avenue side and continue west on Pennsylvania, through Washington Circle onto M Street and into Georgetown. You can turn left as early as 29th and run the two blocks down to the towpath, or use Thomas Jefferson and stop by the Georgetown Visitors Center for more information. The start is a little more than a mile from the White House along with a very scenic and historic route.
If you find yourself in D.C. and need a longer run than the mall can provide, I highly recommend a run down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath.
Running along the C&O Towpath