The Mount Vernon Trail is managed by the National Park Service and runs 18 paved miles from Theodore Roosevelt Island to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. The trail is popular with commuters, athletes, and recreational pedestrians alike, which can oftentimes make for crowded conditions. Runners are advised to keep to the right, except when passing, and to run single file. Given frequent traffic on the trail, runners should avoid using headphones while exercising—or, if nothing else, should keep the volume of those headphones to a minimum. Runners should also exercise good discretion when attempting faster workouts on this trail.
The Mount Vernon Trail is well-maintained and is generally in excellent condition. The trail is essentially flat, with some modest rolling hills scattered throughout it. Though the majority of the trail is protected from motor traffic, there are a handful of at-grade intersections in the vicinity of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and portions of the trail do run directly on busy side streets in Alexandria, VA, so the appropriate caution is advised. Runners can conveniently use this trail to connect to Four Mile Run Trail, Rock Creek Trail (via the 14th Street Bridge), and the Potomac Heritage and Custis Trails.
Water and Lighting
The bulk of the Mount Vernon Trail runs parallel with—and mere feet from—The George Washington Memorial Parkway. Therefore, the trail does receive significant lighting from passing traffic (direct lighting on the trail itself is infrequent and inconsistent). Nevertheless, runners should always be equipped with the necessary reflective gear and personal lighting, particularly because the trail is in such close proximity to a busy highway and because the southern portions of the trail, beyond the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, are fairly remote.
Water is available on the Mount Vernon Trail with some frequency (though athletes should be advised of possible seasonal restrictions). Runners beginning at Theodore Roosevelt Island can hydrate there. Heading south, water is available by quick detours to Lady Bird Johnson Park and National Airport. There is also a water fountain available on the trail while passing the airport. Beyond this point, runners can frequently detour into the various smaller parks that border the trail along its way to Mt. Vernon. Runners can also easily purchase water in Alexandria where the trail passes through Old Town.
Runners can easily access the Mount Vernon Trail from most any part of Old Town Alexandria. In Washington, DC, the trail is most easily accessed by the parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Island and by the pedestrian pathways on the north side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the west side of the 14th Street Bridge. Runners can intersect with the trail from the south side of the Memorial Bridge, but doing so involves crossing several marked, but very busy, highway intersections. Finally, there is ready access to the trail at Gravelly Point, National Airport, and the trailhead in Crystal City Water Park. Beyond these major intersection points, the trail is bordered almost entirely by busy highway traffic, and runners should never attempt to trailblaze or to cross the George Washington Parkway to access the trail.