Ellanor Lawrence Park
You wouldn’t think you could find peace so close to I-66 and routes 28 and 29 in Centreville. Yet here we are, in Ellanor Lawrence Park.
It’s a prime, largely woodchipped set of trails where you can forget all about the road on the other side of the tree line.
I typically start my three-mile loop from the Walney Park Visitor’s Center on Walney Road. There you’ll find a bathroom at times and parking spaces right next to the trail.
The park rather cleanly divides into three sections. Following the Walney Road Trail brings you to the winding Wild Turkey Trail, farther north. Plenty of quick turns keep this relatively flat portion challenging.
Crossing a pair of bridges, the trail transitions to steep hills, including a dramatic sweeping slope along a hillside. Coming back down the hill and across another foot bridge, you reach Walney Pond. You’ll hit some pedestrians here, but that’s all you’ll have to worry about. Bicycles are forbidden in the park, so runners are the fastest moving people on the trails. Across Walney Road, a chipped trail parallels Cabels Mill Road, but not for long.
Back into the woods from whence you came and an eventual right turn on the Historic Trail puts you on deceptively-tough climb before the trail spits you out next to the visitors’ center.
The Southwestern Youth Association, which offers a variety of sports for children in Centreville and Clifton, uses Walney Park for cross country practices.
“The variety is great,” said Mike McLenigan, who, along with Craig Edmonds, coaches the SYA cross country runners. “It’s almost entirely shaded and you can do hill training, flat stuff around the lake or strides on the grass.”
What’s important to him, when he is looking after his athletes, is that even though the park seems so big, it has clear boundaries in the surrounding roads, and not too far to reach them.
“The trails are in great shape and the kids love it,” he said. “They can get a little rowdy and throw walnuts at each other.”
Charle Setash of Centreville runs for SYA and particularly enjoys running in Walney Park.
“I love running around the lake,” he said. “I can run laps for a while there.”
Thank you to Alice Putman for recommending this run years ago.
This article originally appeared in the August/September/October 2013 issue of RunWashington.