Chances are, if you’re reading this, you likely know me personally somehow. You likely know that Patrick and I moved to Virginia this year and you should definitely know that I love to run. A recent development in my running is that Patrick joins me now! He started doing my weekend, trail runs with me when we first moved here and now he’s just following along with my whole training plan. He realized quickly that the weekend mileage would become unsafe for him to do if he wasn’t training during the week, too.
I’ve always enjoyed trail running, but didn’t do a ton of it back in Austin because there weren’t a ton of convenient options. However, Virginia has a bounty of parks and trails to explore, and with COVID closing down anything else to do, we’ve been venturing out west to trail run almost every weekend! I’ve been wanting to make a list of all the places we’ve been to, but never quite got around to it. I finally started sorting through my photos and Strava runs to try to figure out where and when we went to different parks and trails. I can now present to you a definitely incomplete list of the beautiful places we’ve visited to run/hike/camp/explore. If it didn’t have a picture, it didn’t make the list 😉
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
We actually went hiking here with Erica when we had first arrived! The park’s trail ultimately leads to the Potomac River and the Potomac Heritage Trail. Great for hiking, unexpectedly technical for running!
Theodore Roosevelt Island
LOL. My only image is my hairy, scraped up leg from a fall while running there. The island sits in the river between VA and DC, though I have no clue which it actually belongs to. The nation maybe? Who cares. It’s small, but has trails running around the island with a sweet memorial to Teddy Roosevelt smack dab in the middle. Crazy busy on weekends.
Great Falls National Park
The Virginia side, I should say! We trail ran at Great Falls and got lost and confused hahah. The falls are awesome, though. Every time I see them I think of the Land Before Time. The VA side of Great Falls gets very crowded, too, but the trails are pretty magnificent.
Trestle & Palisades Loop Trail
Our go to DC trail. Nestled in by Georgetown, the Glover Archbold Park/Trail system is so convenient and fun. It’s maybe 15 minutes away and we frequently do 5k or 5 mile loops. Always sporting the bandanas as makeshift masks for running. We’ve been back to this trail many times since June and, wow, it has changed so much with the seasons. What was once a shady, green trail is now a leaf-covered path with plenty of sunlight.
We’ve hiked and ran on the AT in many places, many different times. As you can imagine, the trail is long af, so we’ve encountered it at many parks. The photos above are from a single trailhead, though different hikes! It’s a popular entrance because the overlook (as seen in the first photo) isn’t too far from the trailhead. I’m always low-key worried about encountering bears, but so far so good.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve
Another great park, not too far from our house! Lots of intersecting trails and the park ultimately borders the Potomac, so it was very popular in the summer. Parking is scarce (bc it is a nature preserve), so we don’t go too often anymore, but the trails are wide and smooth.
C&O Canal aka The Towpath
Oh, the beautiful towpath. We’ve done a little bit of everything here: bike riding, running, hiking. It’s so pretty and the gravel is so nice to hear crunch. It starts in Georgetown, but goes all the way to PA. The old canal still has many of the locks that were used to move boats along it back in the 19th century, so it is very cool to visit.
FYI if you ever find yourself on the towpath going past Brunswick, MD stop for burgers at Boxcar Burgers. Thank me later.
Potomac Heritage Trail
The PHT is gorgeous, technical, and all over the place. When I think of the Potomac Heritage Trail, I think of the trailhead I used by Roosevelt Island back when we lived in Rosslyn in 2017. The trail runs through many parks (especially the ones mentioned above) and follows the Potomac River closely. While sort of a pain to trail run on (so. many. rocks.), it is definitely fun to hike!
Mason Neck State Park
A small, but pleasant state park south from where we live. We hiked, we picnicked, and we splashed in the water. You can also rent kayaks or canoes, but you had to make reservations. The boardwalk and the swampy feel of the park reminded me of Florida, actually! Man, I miss sunshine and sweating.
Sky Meadows State Park
Quite possibly my favorite park so far. Out west on 66, Sky Meadows is so peaceful and pretty. The AT runs through the park, the trail running is fabulous, and it has the most ridiculous hill at the very start of the course. The camping is all back country and the vibes are so serene. The 10k route we run we’ve lovingly dubbed Sky Meadows Soul Crusher, but that’s beside the point.
AKA more Potomac Heritage Trail. Fort Marcy is a remnant from the Civil War. It’s about 15 minutes from our house, down George Washington Parkway. You can still see the grooves and hills in the earth from the trenches that were dug for soldiers. The PHT connects to the park, so we hiked down towards the river. It’s an awesome park to visit and it makes me wonder what it was like being a Union soldier in one of those trenches… so many mosquitoes…
Shenandoah National Park
You knew it was coming. The classic Shenandoah NP. We’d been there before and it is so beautiful. I’ll be honest, though. It’s definitely not my favorite park! We still haven’t hiked Old Rag, which I hear is great. The greenery at the park is next level and there’s some definite elevation gain.
Prince William Forest Park
A shockingly large park with miles of trails! Sooo many roots, so watch out while running. I had my first running fall since June at this park because I caught my foot on a protruding root. Bummer. I love this park because you really start to feel that you are in the thick of the woods, despite being decently close to Quantico.
Loudon & Fauquier Counties
Not parks or trails, but Loudon and Fauquier Counties are full of unpaved, gravel roads that we’ve enjoyed running and riding on! You get into the rural country side with nothing but the sound of crunching gravel under your feet or tires. Good stuff.
George Washington & Jefferson National Forest
This park is great for hiking and is well known for mountain biking on many of its trails (Massnutten is the most popular, I think). The route I made for our run, however… not so much. We started off a great forest road and eventually started climbing up the side of the hill. We got to the ridge and fully realized how rarely the trail is used. The blazes were clear (thank god), but the path was overgrown with brush and extremely rocky. It ended up being 3.5 miles of running and 3.5 of trying not to sprain ankles or get sliced by anything thorny. The views were excellent, though. Not to mention, Patrick got to try out his new poop trowel.
Rivanna River Trail
We ran on the Rivanna River Trail when we explored Charlottesville for Erica. The trail runs around the city. It was super cool, though a bit confusing at times. You would really not know that you were running right around Charlottesville (except for in a few parts). We did a 10 miler and then finished right as it started to downpour. Followed up with burgers on Main Street.
Fountainhead Regional Park
Another popular mountain biking park! This park has easy to follow trails, is maybe 30 minutes from our house, and wasn’t technical for running. Patrick again got to try out his poop trowel. TMI? Whatever. This was not my favorite run, but that’s likely because we essentially did an out and back.
Okay, calling this Poolesville is an oversimplification because that’s just where we started this bike ride. We rode 40 miles around the MD countryside and finished on the C&O Canal. There was some gravel and lots of open skies. That’s what I do miss about Texas a lot. Of course, I love desert > forests, but also I love looking up and seeing blue skies with white fluffy clouds and lots of sun.
Blockhouse Point Park
Blockhouse is in MD and we’ve been twice! The trails are always challenging, but the loop we do takes us on the C&O for a few miles, which is always a nice bit. The neighborhood this park is by is a sight to see in and of itself. There’s one home that looks straight up like a French chalet. Our most recent run here was followed up by a trip to Safeway for chips and a MASSIVE sandwich that we split between the two of us.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Definitely one of our go to routes! It’s roughly half an hour away, the trails aren’t too steep or technical, there’s wide open skies, and the battlefield is always interesting to see. We have a 9 mile loop we like to do here and it takes you through such a variety of scenery. One of these days we will go just to walk and actually read the signs. Just like Fort Marcy, I always wonder what it looked like for troops to actually be in those fields. Wild.
Cross Country Trail
We took the CCT to Great Falls Park for a 10 mile run one weekend, but Patrick has also ridden parts of it on his bike. It’s pretty solid dirt/rock single track and we passed a few other friendly runners. I have a special place in my heart for water crossings. Even if I get my feet wet, they’re always so fun.
Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
I’ll be honest right off the bat, this park was a little underwhelming hahah! We also did get a flat when we were trying to leave the park, which always makes me salty. It was a nice park to walk through and the leaves on the ground were outstanding. A bit too far of a drive to make it worth another visit, though.
Shenandoah River State Park
I might’ve spoken too soon. This is our favorite park in Virginia. Quietly nestled right next to Shenandoah NP, this state park was BEAUTIFUL. The trails were excellent for running, but would likely be a blast on a mountain bike. It never got too crowded, people were great about trail etiquette, and this was the day we found out Biden won!
Okay, this was not an outdoor adventure but an adventure nonetheless! We took a quick overnight trip to Philadelphia in November. Of course, we had to get cheesesteaks. That was low-key my primary motivation for going. I would love to go back once COVID is over. Seeing people dining on the streets was so romantic and the city came to life when the sun went down.
Cedarville State Forest
A sweet little state forest in Maryland. It’s actually not too far from Mudd’s House (who was the doctor who aided John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Lincoln). The park reminded me so much of Texas. The trees and greenery were so similar to that in Magnolia or The Woodlands. We also had a great time figuring out how to cross a very flooded area. Followed up with McDonald’s because it was an hour’s drive and we were going to get hangry.
Lake Fairfax Park
We drove out to Lake Fairfax on Thanksgiving for our Turkey Trot! The trails flow nicely and it’s geared (heheh pun) to mountain bikers. I would absolutely give it a try! They were great for running and weren’t ever too technical. The signage could be a bit better, but we made it work.
So Arlington is awesome. It has miles and miles of paved hike/bike paths around the city and some that lead into DC or deeper into VA. I’ve ridden my bike and run on pieces of the paths many times, but we most recently crushed our long run primarily on these paths. My favorite part is that they’re not just an afterthought. Like this wasn’t just a lazy attempt to get cyclists and pedestrians off roads. They are well developed with playgrounds and bathrooms and the scenery is beautiful. We had to crush an extremely icy bridge when we ran yesterday, which was a first for me too!
Whew, that took longer than I thought it would! I can’t believe all the places we’ve been. And these were just the places I had photos for. I think we’re pretty intense weekend warriors. Hopefully this list will continue to grow. I’m dying to go cross country skiing in West Virginia this season, too. Happy holidays!