During the Civil War, the Union Army constructed a series of forts designed to keep Washington, D.C. safe. Sixty-eight were made, and there were dozens of other locations that housed cannons and other weapons should the capital city come under attack. Today, six of the forts are linked together via the 7-mile Fort Circle Parks trail, which runs along the eastern side of Washington. Running on them provides a glimpse back in time to what life was like during the Civil War.
What Makes It Great
The trail begins at Fort Mahan, east of the Anacostia River and just outside of Rt. 295. It snakes south through northeast D.C., stopping at Fort Stanton in the southeast quadrant of the city.
Between the two parks, which contain the remains of the old forts built to protect Washington from Confederate forces, the trail runs through Fort Chaplin, Fort Dupont, and Fort Davis. Next to Fort Stanton is Fort Ricketts; the trail ends between the two.
There are several other forts, or at least the remains of them, still intact in and around D.C., but not all of them are on public land. After the Civil War ended in 1865, most of the land on which the forts were built was given back to their original owners. A plan in the early 1900s called for all of the forts to be joined via a park, but that plan fizzled out. Today, there is a renewed effort to make more of the forts public land and link them together via the Fort Circle Parks system.
The trail surface of the current version of the Fort Circle Parks varies from grass and/or dirt to some paved sections. You'll run past old roads that have become overgrown. Really though, you'll be surprised at how much open space there is to be had in Washington.
There are some mild hills to climb on this 7-mile route, but nothing too difficult. The trail is a historic field trip first, and a running trail second. That right there makes it a big draw.
If you complete this run and want to see more of the old forts that guarded D.C., there are others in Rock Creek Park, a 1,700-acre swath of land in the middle of the city with miles of trails. Visit nps.gov/cwdw for information on all of the forts.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners who don't believe there is this much open space in the middle of the nation's capital must check out this trail to prove themselves wrong. Civil War history buffs will love it too.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
With several places to jump on and off the Fort Circle Parks trail, it's best to get directions on the Internet. The trail passes through Fort Mahan, Fort Chaplin, Fort Dupont, Fort Davis, Fort Ricketts, and Fort Stanton, situated in northeast and southeast D.C.