Little Bennett Regional Park in Clarksburg is the largest park in Montgomery County, encompassing over 3,700 acres of Maryland wilderness. The good news for runners is that this green space also boasts approximately 25 miles of trails, all of which have natural surfaces. Countless loops and out-and-backs make Little Bennett the perfect place to get lost on a weekend when trail running is on your schedule.
In addition, you won’t have to compete with mountain bikers, because they’re not permitted on any of these trails. Horseback riders, however, do frequent some parts of the park, so it’s best to use caution when approaching.
The loop outlined below provides a small sampling of what the park has to offer, including thick wooded forests, brilliant meadows, vibrant streams and boggy wetlands.
There was no medal, no bib and no race director. But for Silver Spring’s Adrian Spencer, none of those things mattered as he attempted a run to Washington, D.C from Gettysburg.
Spencer had not always been a runner. He started running six years ago while on a beach trip with his family. Back then, he was 50 pounds heavier and could not even run a mile. Quickly approaching his 30th birthday, Spencer decided to give running a shot, hoping it would get him in better shape.
Real estate developers may have their eye on Calvert County, Md. land, but at least 3,000 acres is safe.
The American Chestnut Land Trust protects hardwood forest, wetland and farmland. In the process, those lands offer 19 miles of trails that make it the ideal running spot in the county.
It’s off the beaten path, about an hour’s drive from D.C., but it’s not hidden. Signs on U.S. Route 4 point it out to anyone who passes, a turn onto Dares Beach Road, past Calvert High and Double Oak Road.
Update: Of the 14 local-ish Western States entrants, 13 finished, led by Jared Byrd’s 22:09:10.
Last year, my sister, Sarah Mercer-Bowyer, graduated from veterinary school in Southern California. She then accepted an internship at an equine medical center in Northern California. This required Sarah and her husband, Greg, to move.
I have a feeling, though, that Sarah didn’t have to twist Greg’s arm.
Their new home is in Auburn. It’s a town of 13,000, founded by gold miners, located approximately 35 miles from Sacramento, and it’s a great place for them to live.
It takes an hour to get here from Washington, D.C.
You head north on Interstate 270, pass by the main exits for Frederick and continue onto U.S. Route 15. Catoctin Mountain comes into view. And as Cactus Flats Roadhouse passes by on your left, be on the lookout for your exit: Mountaindale Road.
You wind down through fields, passing by Mountaindale Convenience Store. When you have to choose right or left, choose left, and continue on what is still Mountaindale (Putnam Road is to the right). If you start seeing log cabin-inspired homes and the Cold Deer Hunting and Fishing Club, you chose correctly, and are almost there.
Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro, Md. boasts more than 6,000 acres of nature trails and wildlife just ten miles off the Beltway.
I ran by it dozens of times on my routine eight-mile loop on Great Falls and Westmoreland. Down at the bottom of the hill near Lemon Road, it looked like nothing more than a neighborhood shortcut..
I don’t remember what prompted me to actually check out what turned out to be the Pimmit Run Trail, but I do remember the odd sense of wonder that took hold when I did. I had some exploring to do.
That, understandably, sounds strange. How lost can you get in McLean? It might be counterintuitive, but the prospect of somehow losing my bearings inside the Beltway only made the prospect of exploration more interesting. It wasn’t so much about charting new territories, but seeing where I’d end up. I knew the path from Great Falls Road would eventually get me to Westmoreland. When I saw that the trail continued on the other side of the street, a little to the left, all bets were off.
I’m not a fervent trail runner. It’s not that I dislike them, but my body has always held up well on pavement and I figured I had better things to do than spend time traveling to run in a park when it was all the same to me. Well, now I didn’t have to choose. Rather than tearing through the trails, the mildly technical terrain, especially north of Old Dominion Road, forced me to savor the experience.
The fun for me became finding out where I’d pop out if I left the park.
“Tucker Ave? I don’t even know where that is!“
I fancied myself looking for a route to the Potomac River. I knew I was headed in the right direction, there had to be a way…
There is, but it’s tricky. And although I fear I am ruining the experience you could have exploring for yourself – for me, the trial and error was half of the fun – here’s some specific direction to keep you on track.
If you reach the Highlands Swim and Tennis Club, head up Bryan Branch Road to Linway Terrace. After a quick left on Kirby Road, you have a choice. Keep going on Kirby, head into the Marie Butler Leven Preserve and take one of the wooded trails until you reach Maddux. Or take a right on Chesterbook and left on Maddux.
On your right, shortly after 1607, you’ll see a path to the downstream section, which will bring you along the George Washington Parkway and onto the Potomac Heritage Trail, where you can get off at the Chain Bridge.
There are some creek crossings, and sometimes your foot will have to take the plunge to take the next step. But each next step will make you appreciate what you’ll continue to find.
The Pimmit Run Trail is a 1.5-mile run from the West Falls Church Metro Stop. One section of the trail that purportedly connects to Olney park in Pimmit Hills is impassible because of fencing under the Dulles Toll Road.
I went to the woods to feed my soul; to gain back energy drained by a fast-paced life; to feel something other than cement beneath my feet. I found what I was looking for at Greenbelt Park. It was a massage for the senses, an elixir for the mind, a balm for the body. Greenbelt Park offers the sights of tall trees on a hot summer day, beams of sunlight straight off a prayer card, and melodies of birds for my ears only. It’s definitely not for those seeking an overly technical and mountainous trail experience, but it fills a need to experience the road less traveled with less traveling.
First, let’s get one thing straight — although there are numerous hills that make this run strenuous at times, Difficult Run is actually named after the tributary stream, or run, that runs for nearly 16 miles through Fairfax County, eventually ending at the Potomac River approximately two miles south of Great Falls.
Length: 10.1 miles
Description: A mostly-natural surface loop in rural Montgomery County that gives you five miles of the C&O Canal Towpath Trail, starting at Edward’s ferry and running to White’s Ferry, then back on River Road.