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Run, Bike & Exercise Outdoors in Washington, DC

national mall early sunrise

The District is full of green spaces to get your sweat on, so lace up and explore.

With miles of trails, the National Mall and Rock Creek Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, the DC region boasts plenty outdoor locations to run, bike or do what the locals do – join a group exercise program. When visiting the District, be sure to check out these scenic spots and unique workout experiences.

Journey through history

Stretching 2.2 miles from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall features wide promenades perfect for running or cycling. This is an ideal way to visit DC’s beloved monuments and memorials while keeping your heartrate up. For a truly unique experience, try running along the Mall during sunrise or sunset.

runners along co canal

Trade in monuments and memorials for a bygone era of trade and transportation and run or bike along the C&O Canal Towpath, a former economic engine of the city that took 22 years to build and was completed in 1850. The clay and crushed stone trail begins at the C&O Canal Visitors Center in Georgetown. If you’re feeling adventurous, Great Falls Park, one of the region’s most popular natural attractions, is near the C&O Canal 14 miles northwest of Georgetown.

Established as the third national park in the U.S. by Congress in 1890, Rock Creek Park will make you feel like you’re anywhere but in the heart of the nation’s capital. Access the grounds anytime of year and you may step through grass, kick up some leaves or hear the crunch of snow under your feet. The park is made up of natural surface trails for hiking and paved trails for jogging, rollerblading and biking.

Only in DC can you go for a run amongst lions, tigers and panda bears at the Smithsonian National Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in America, the grounds of the zoo open at 8 a.m. and feature plenty of paved pathways. At that time, only some of the 1,800 animals are up and at ‘em.

If you’re just across the river in Virginia, the Mt. Vernon Trail, an 18.5-mile section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, offers breathtaking views of the Potomac River and monuments, passing points of interest like Theodore Roosevelt Island, Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery and the local favorite, Gravelly Point (at the north end of Reagan National Airport's main runway, where planes take off and land overhead).

Namaste in the nation’s capital


Good karma abounds in DC. Unleash your inner yogi with plenty of opportunities to perform the downward dog and bask in the sunshine. Each spring yogis from across the region come together for Metro DC Yoga Week, which includes free yoga on the National Mall. Just blocks from the White House yoga and pilates lovers come together for the Golden Triangle’s Pilates in the Park in Farragut Square. Pop-up yoga classes are popular during warm-weather months, so keep your mat close by.

What if I have a group or want to join a group?

Then just show up! That’s the motto of November Project, where many locals come together and turn DC’s urban landscape into their personal gym. Depending on the day, you could find yourself running the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, doing push ups in front of the U.S. Capitol, or sprinting across Meridian Hill Park.

It’s easy to maintain your wellness routine while in DC. Read up for more on local spas, boutique workouts and fitness.