Run (or walk!) These Beautiful Trails Near Fort Meade

One of life’s simple pleasures is the joy of a beautiful springtime run, especially on the heels of a hard, cold winter. The ability to simply “be” … and relish … being outdoors, to enjoy a nice run or even a brisk walk is wonderfully uplifting.

Whether you need a quick run on base or crave a scenic, winding route – there are no shortage of trails to accommodate all running levels in the Ft. Meade area. 

On Ft. Meade

Need to get a run in – but don’t have time to leave the installation? Here are a few options. Just remember to check the rules regarding headphones when running on a military installation.

  • Parade Field Loop: Clocking in at just over 2.0 miles, the Parade Loop near the center of Ft. Meade is a good option for runners looking to get a lunchtime run in, or for those getting ready for their PT test.
  • Burba Lake Loop: For those wanting a more picturesque run without leaving the base, this 0.8 mile loop around the lake offers a quick, easy option. It’s also centrally located, and just a few blocks southeast from the Parade Field.

Pro Tip: Combine the two and stretch a short run into a longer distance. This area is where most of the installation’s monthly 5k races are run.

Nearby Nature

Ft. Meade is ideally positioned near two major nature preserves; the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and the Piney Orchard Nature Preserve. In addition to being a lush refuge and forest for wildlife, runners will be re-energized at Patuxent as well. There are over 20 miles of trails lacing through the 12,800-acre preserve, along with over 1,100 plant species and 270 species of birds.

There are several trails in the Patuxent Refuge, but here are two notable favorites among the running community. More options and trail maps may be found at the Patuxent Refuge website.

Patuxent Wildlife Refuge

  • The Cash Lake Loop Trail: Enjoy one of the most scenic areas in the refuge along a 1.8-mile loop that runs along the Cash Lake waterfront. Pass by beaver dams or stop and catch your breath and gaze at the lake on the fishing pier. The trail is also a great fit for jogging with dogs or a day hike with kids.
  • Forest Trail Loop: Located in the North Tract of the refuge, the Forest Trail offers a nice run for all skill levels at 4.9 miles. Run for time, or simply enjoy a long nature walk along a trail well-known for its butterflies and dragonflies. As much of the trail enjoys heavy shade, this trail is a nice pick for a warm, sunny day.

Nearby Piney Orchard Nature Preserve, located just east of the Patuxent Refuge, offers further jogging options with nearly five miles of trails.

Rock Creek Park

Runners won’t want to miss hitting the trails at Rock Creek Park, in neighboring D.C. Established in 1890, the park is actually one of the oldest national parks in the nation and offers over 32 miles of several picturesque and historic trails. In addition to the main, Rock Creek Trail, the following three trails are favorites.

  • Valley Trail: Runners will feel a million miles away on this rugged 7.0-mile stretch. The Valley Trail is one of the more strenuous trails in Rock Creek, and with elevation changes and a bit of rock scrambling, is best suited for experienced trail runners.
  • Western Ridge Trail: A mostly dirt trail, the Western Ridge offers a nice 4.5-mile run. This one tends to be a quieter run, as you’ll definitely see more runners on the more popular (and paved) Rock Creek Trail.
  • Milkhouse Ford (Fort DeRussy) Trail: This historic 1.75-mile trail offers a look into Civil War architecture, including Fort DeRussy – and an old wooden cabin, once home to the eccentric poet, Joaquin Miller. The Milkhouse Ford trail is well signposted, and a shorter, easy loop, making it an easy favorite of Rock Creek Park.  

Washington D.C.’s Top Trails

When you’re at Ft Meade, combine the best of both worlds – sightseeing and a great run – with trails that feature some of the country’s most iconic landmarks and monuments.

Pro tip – runners will need to hit these trails early, particularly in spring and summer, to avoid being overrun with tourists.

  • The “Mall”: Anchored by the white-spired Washington Monument on one end, and the unmistakable domed Capitol Building on the other, the National Mall offers a scenic 3 mile loop in the heart of D.C. See even more sights by extending the run past the Washington Monument, along the iconic Reflecting Pool and up to the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Tidal Basin: Few runs are more picturesque than D.C.’s Tidal Basin – particularly in spring. Fluffy pink cherry blossoms dot the trees as runners circle the waterfront, also passing three noted memorials, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island: Although it certainly receives a large share of visitors, the island can be a hidden gem. Most tourists don’t just stumble across it, as the island is in the Potomac River. There are three trails on the island, but the Swamp Trail is the most fun. Part pea gravel, part boardwalk, part bridges, the trail weaves through cattail marsh and lowlands. Runners will also be treated to views of Georgetown, the Key Bridge, and Washington Harbor.

Whether you are stationed at Ft. Meade, or simply TDY – make sure you carve out time to enjoy one of these great trails!

Written by: Kristi Adams

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