Just what the doctor may order: Happy trails to you.

(Rich Lipski - Twp)
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Washington area has many prescription-suitable trails and parks -- and they're all free. Some options:

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail: This 830-mile network features trails and routes on both sides of the river. Go to http://www.nps.gov/pohe and click on "Plan Your Visit" for the full list. It includes, for example, the 10-mile Potomac Heritage Trail and the 18.5-mile Mount Vernon Trail, both along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. They're Metro-accessible via Arlington National Cemetery for the Potomac route and Braddock Road for the Mount Vernon option. Winter draws less of a crowd. Terrain: easy to moderate. http://www.nps.gov/gwmp.

Another part of the network is the 23-mile Fort Circle Parks Trail, a multi-use route between Georgetown and Oxon Cove Park. This route, which is not generally convenient for Metro users, connects an intricate system of fortifications intended to defend the District during the Civil War. Sites are open daily from dawn to dusk except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Terrain: difficult, hilly. http://www.nps.gov/cwdw.

Indian Head Rail Trail: The 13-mile paved trail opened on Nov. 3. Walking, bicycling and inline skating are allowed. Not Metro-accessible. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Terrain: moderate. http://www.charlescounty.org/pf/parks_rec/parks/trails.jsp#ihrt.

Rock Creek Park: The 27-mile trail network offers nature in the heart of the District. Closest Metro is Cleveland Park or Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan. Open daily during daylight hours. Terrain: easy. http://www.nps.gov/rocr.

Washington and Old Dominion Trail: This 45-mile paved trail snakes through a 100-foot-wide park that was once a railroad right of way. It's used for walking, running, bicycling and skating. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Closest Metro is East Falls Church. Terrain: moderate. http://www.wodfriends.org.

Greenbelt Park: This park includes four trails: Blueberry (one mile), Azalea (1.1 miles), Dogwood (1.4 miles) and Perimeter (5.3 miles). The park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Ride to the College Park Metro and hike to the park via Paint Branch Parkway. Terrain: moderate. http://www.nps.gov/gree.

-- Charity Brown

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