Seneca Creek State Park comprises more than 6,000 acres of land in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, following the body of water it's named after into the Potomac River.
A small slice of that, however, is more developed and sits in the heart of Montgomery County, Maryland. And in that section lies miles of pristine trails perfect for all runners.
The developed park is centered around Clopper Lake and is bordered on the north and south by busy roads. But being in the park is quite a peaceful and relaxing experience.
What Makes It Great
Around the developed park in Gaithersburg, Md. are more than 11 miles of trails that range from wooded to open paths that encircle Clopper Lake. There are four separate trails in the area surrounding the lake, and they're all easy to get to. Jumping from trail to trail isn't too hard, either.
If you want to try an easy route, hop onto the Lake Shore Trail that goes around the lake. It measures 3.4 miles, although you can add an extra mile by taking the Mink Hollow Trail located roughly in the middle of the southern end of the trail (the Great Seneca Highway side). The Mink Hollow Trail isn't always open, depending if trail conditions are wet.
For another option, try the 4-mile Long Draught Trail that stretches from just outside the southwestern corner of the park up to its northern end. This path turns into the Greenway Trail about halfway up. This route has some more hills and is generally for more advanced runners.
The other main trail within the Clopper Lake area of Seneca Creek State Park is the Great Seneca Trail, a 2.5-mile route that overlaps parts of the Long Draught/Greenway Trail. This loop is a bit less challenging but still features some hills along the way.
There are small side trails that branch off the main ones listed above; everything is well marked, so staying where you need to be is not too much of a challenge.
Several parts of the trails in the Clopper Lake section of Seneca Creek State Park have rocks and exposed roots, and there are a few stream crossings. Wearing a solid pair of trail running shoes would be a smart move.
The Seneca Ridge Trail continues out of the Clopper Lake area of the park and follows Seneca Creek for 14 miles down to the Potomac River.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners looking for a mild to moderate challenge on trails that aren't too technical or difficult to traverse. The three trails near Clopper Lake all vary in length and difficulty. One of them extends out of the lake area and goes south on natural surface trails to the Potomac River, and is a more technical route.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take the Capital Beltway (Rt. 495) to 270 north. From there, get off at exit 10 and take Rt. 117 for 2 miles to the park entrance.