The Custis Trail near Washington, D.C. is one of the most important trails in the entire D.C. Metro region. Measuring just four miles, the trail doesn't seem like much on paper. There are some hills, so running from east to west is a bit more challenging than traveling the opposite way. The trail's best feature, however, is that it serves as a crucial link between two major trails in the area, joining them together as a connecting route that essentially links Purcellville, Va., 51 miles west of Washington, to Mount Vernon, which features the home of George Washington and is about 18 miles south of the nation's capital.
What Makes It Great
Starting in Purcellville, the W&OD Trail travels about 45 miles east to Shirlington, a neighborhood of Arlington, Va. All of the Custis Trail is in Arlington. Its west end hooks up with the W&OD near mile 4 of that trail, while the east end joins the Mount Vernon Trail.
That said, most runners don't plan to run almost the entire length of the W&OD Trail, hop onto the Custis Trail, and continue on the Mount Vernon Trail for 18 miles to Mount Vernon. That would be quite a long weekend run. The benefit there is more for cyclists.
Still, the Custis Trail very much has a place in runners' lives in the D.C. Metro region. For example, there's a great trail running and hiking area at Theodore Roosevelt Island, located at the western end of the Mount Vernon Trail. So if you live near the Custis Trail, head east to the end and then check out the island sitting in the middle of the Potomac River.
Or if you live or work in Arlington, a busy city with more than 200,000 residents along with countless office buildings and high-rise apartments, the Custis Trail offers a sweet running route for the weekend or even for a weekday lunch run.
A few pointers if you plan to tackle the Custis Trail: It runs along Rt. 66, a major highway that also features a train line in the median. That means there can be a lot of traffic noise, although strategically placed concrete barriers help keep that to a minimum. Also, the trail does feature some sharp turns and some narrow sections. Stay alert and watch out for cyclists and other runners.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners of all skill levels, ranging from 5Kers to marathoners. Less experienced runners can do an out-and-back route and build some endurance, while marathon runners can run west and hook up with the W&OD Trail or head east to link up with the Mount Vernon Trail and/or Washington via several other routes.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
At its east end, the Custis Trail starts across from Theodore Roosevelt Island. The island is accessible via a footbridge off the George Washington Parkway, and there are several free parking spots available there. The west end of the trail starts near Bon Air Park, which also has free parking.