Three Family Friendly Stroller Runs in Washington DC
Peirce Mill to National Zoo Stroller Run - 3 Miles
First up on our list is one of my favorite running areas of the city: Rock Creek Park. With miles and miles of both trail and paved running routes, Rock Creek Park can seem a little daunting to navigate. But this easy out-and-back, 3-mile paved run is a great place to start.
If you want to end up picnicking, park at Grove Picnic Area 1 located across the street from Peirce Barn and Mill. If the lot here is full, there is generally a fair amount of street parking available right next to it. There are bathrooms and a water fountain at the picnic area, so we like to make sure everyone hits both before our run. If you're running on a weekend, Peirce Mill itself is open at various times throughout the year and a fun visit with kids after the run too. Pick up the paved trail out of the parking lot and head south along the creek. The trail is nicely shaded and fairly flat with the exception of slightly hillier portion around Porter Street. You'll run just about 1.5 miles until you hit the National Zoo, crossing back and forth over the creek a few times across bridges. I like to stop at the zoo and let the kiddos stretch their legs and check out the animals for a bit (it's free to visit!). You'll be at the bottom zoo entrance, which is closest to the Kids' Farm, Buzz-Me and the Bee Playground, and the Mane Grill—all great spots for kids. Bathrooms and water fountains are also fairly close by. After your visit, run the 1.5 mile trail back to Grove Picnic Area 1.
If you want to end at the zoo and not stop in the middle of your run, you can park at the zoo and do this run in reverse. Parking at the zoo is expensive, but free for some levels of membership. I've also scored street parking just opposite the bottom entrance in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, but it can be tricky. Just pick up the trail outside of the zoo and run north about 1.5 miles until you reach Grove Picnic Area 1. You can use the bathrooms and fill up on water here and there is a huge open field for kids to play. When you're done, run back south along the same trail route until you end up back at the zoo.
Tips: The trail is busy with runners and bikers on the weekends, so make sure to stay in your lane. Water fountains along the trail and in the zoo itself aren't super reliable, so always pack your own water too. If you're running without a stroller and have older kids, you can pick up a portion of the dirt trails in Rock Creek Park right off of this paved path too.
National Monument + Memorial Loop Stroller Run - 2.5 Miles
Perhaps my kids' most favorite running loop, this route will take you by six national monuments and memorials. With plenty of bathrooms, water stops, and sights to see along the way, it's a great run any time of year. The loop, not counting steps up into any of the memorials, is just about 2.5 miles.
Park along Ohio Drive SW, just behind the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (there is generally plenty of metered parking here, especially if you're running on the earlier side of the day). Walk toward the Tidal Basin, you'll be starting your run just north of the Ohio Drive SW bridge. Pick up the paved path next to the Tidal Basin and run north along it. If you like, pop up into the FDR Memorial—there are bathrooms and water fountains here. Continue along until you reach the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. We like to walk through here and take in all the amazing quotes throughout. There are bathrooms, including a family restroom with changing table, and water fountains at the MLK visitor center just behind the memorial.
Head towards the National Mall and cross over Independence Ave. SW. Keep an eye on the Lincoln Memorial and run along Independence Ave. towards it. You'll see the Korean War Veterans Memorial on your right and you can stop to walk through it or keep heading to the Lincoln Memorial. My kids love to race each other up the steps to see Abe and we always stop in the bottom of the memorial to fill up water and use the bathrooms.
Both the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials are wheelchair accessible and have elevators, but occasionally they are out (check the websites first). We've also left our stroller at the bottom and just kept an eye on it while we climbed up the steps. Turn to look down the Reflecting Pool and you'll see the World War II Memorial at the end. That's where you're headed.
Run alongside the Reflecting Pool until you reach the beautiful fountain at the World War II Memorial. As we've often just started moving again from the Lincoln Memorial, we generally don't stay here long, but you can if your kids need another break. Otherwise, continue through the memorial, cross 17th St. SW and back over Independence Ave. SW towards the Tidal Basin. Pick up the path along the Tidal Basin again and follow it south towards the Jefferson Memorial. You'll run right by the Tidal Basin paddle boat rentals as well as a snack kiosk (the hours and seasons of operation vary so check if you plan to visit).
Continue your run along the Tidal Basin until you reach the Jefferson Memorial. The entrance to the bathrooms and water fountains are under the stairs and we visit those first before heading up to see the memorial. When you're done, pick back up with the Tidal Basin path and run across the Ohio Drive SW bridge to return to the start of your run!
Tips: the path directly along the Tidal Basin can get really muddy in parts if it's been raining a lot, so run carefully. In many parts, there is also a sidewalk just a few feet up from the basin path that we jump up on if needed. As you might expect, the Mall gets a lot of tourist traffic, so keep an eye out for people not paying attention.
Anacostia Riverwalk Stroller Run - 2 - 2.5 Miles
The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is a 20-mile loop run along both sides of the Anacostia River, but this stroller run is a small out-and-back portion starting at kid-friendly Yards Park. If the weather is still warm enough, my kids love splashing in the water features there. This area of town is bustling with boats and construction, so there is tons for kids to look at during the run too!
There is street parking available around Yards Park, but that can be hard to grab. There are also several reasonably priced parking lots close by. Once you've got a spot, walk towards the Anacostia River to the bottom of the Yards Park Lawn Steps next to the river. Start running east along the Riverwalk and continue for about .6 miles where you'll approach the Southwest Freeway. You'll need to cut up to O St. here for just a bit until the Riverwalk picks back up. Cross 11th St. at O and follow the sign pointing east for the West Bank Trail. Run until you've hit 1.25 miles total (just past the Washington Yacht Club) and then turn around and run back to Yards Park. That will get you to about a 2.5 mile run.
The portion of this run east of 11th St. can be pretty quiet and isolated during the week. If you prefer to run in the company of more people, stop at 11th St. and turn around. Run west back along the Riverwalk, past your starting point. Continue along the trail until you reach DC Sail and the Nat's park. Then turn back and run to your starting point. That will be about 2 miles total.
There are public restrooms and water fountains in the building underneath the Overlook at the bottom of the Lawn Steps (next to the Living Classrooms at the Yards Marina office).
Tips: There are a ton of spots to eat nearby at the Yards Park and nearby Navy Yard (also home to a Pacers running store!) and Dock 79 developments, including Ice Cream Jubilee (we'll always run for ice cream!). And there are plenty of other activities in the neighborhood, including The National Museum of the U.S. Navy and the Ballpark Boathouse which offers kayaking and canoeing (check for seasons and hours).