East Potomac Park & The Mall


One of L=Enfant=s many enduring marks is designing the layout of the city and the Mall.  Parisian in concept, built on a filled-in swamp, mostly open and wide, the Mall is cared for by the National Park Service.  Packed with museums, monuments, and memorials, it is mostly a placid place where lunch hour bureaucrats (like me) dance for Americans who have come from the heartland to contemplate the greatness of the country.  The country=s leaders are seen here on the streets or in siren lead motorcades.   It=s a place where science, art and humanity are held in high esteem, and a place where historic and modern battles for freedom are waged.   Tanks once chased Bonus Marchers (protesting veterans of WWI) away from here in 1932.  The British burned the White House, set fire to the Capitol, the Treasury and several other buildings during the War of 1812.  Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 to a tumultuous country of his dreams of non-violence and freedom before his life was ended early by a shot.  Pro-Choice and Pro-Life protestors line-up to be counted from the air.  Farmers parked their tractors here when policies were unfavorable.  Harrier Jets dropped from the sky as Gulf-War veterans were celebrated and welcomed back here.  The Beach Boys played a concert on the Fourth-of-July one year but were said to attract the wrong element, and left out the next.  A Million-Men marched here in brotherhood and discussed personal responsibility.  Celebrations such as A Taste of D.C., The Folk Life Festival, The Cherry Blossom Festival, and of course the biggest party of all, the Fourth of July, are regular events. 


Getting There


From Montgomery County, MD

Exit the Capital Beltway (I-95), onto Connecticut Avenue south.  Follow it 7.6 miles to K Street, then bear right as it becomes 17th Street.  After crossing the Mall one mile later, bear right onto the one-way portion on Independence Avenue.  Turn left at the traffic light 0.6 miles ahead onto Ohio Drive, which goes along the shore of the Potomac.  After crossing the bridge over an outlet of the Tidal Basin, turn right to stay on Ohio Drive.  Park at the third lot on the left, after the metro rail overpass and before the railroad overpass bridge going over the Potomac. 


From Northern Fairfax County, VA

Exit the Capital Beltway onto the George Washington Parkway.  Go southbound for 10.4 miles to the 14th Street Bridge (I-395), then go northbound into Washington D.C.  Stay to the left while crossing the bridge to stay on 14th Street (see the sign for Route 1).  Turn left on Jefferson Drive, just after the Independence Avenue intersection (there=s no left turn onto Independence Avenue from 14th Street).  Turn left again one-block later at the T intersection with 15th Street, in front of the Washington Monument.  Bear left at Main Avenue, and then turn right immediately on the ramps toward I-395 south, and the Jefferson Memorial.  Stay to the right, passing the Jefferson Memorial on the right as the bridge traffic merge lanes on the left.  Bear left, onto Ohio Drive, at the small bridge on the right.  Park at the third lot on the left, after the metro rail overpass and before the railroad overpass bridge going over the Potomac. 


From Southern Fairfax County, VA

Exit the Capitol Beltway, I-95, northbound onto Henry G. Shirley Highway (I-395).  After approximately 9.5 miles, cross the 14th Street Bridge, staying to the left where the road splits.  This puts you on 14th Street and Route 1.  Follow the instructions above (from 14th Street) for northern Fairfax County. 


From Prince Georges County, MD

Use the Capital Beltway (I-95), to get to Rte. 50 west or I‑295 north.  From either, take the westbound Southeast Freeway (I-395) after 11 miles or approximately 6 miles respectively.  After 0.9 or 2.75 on the Southeast Freeway respectively, bear right onto Main Avenue.  Main Avenue merges onto Independence Avenue at the Tidal Basin.  Follow the directions above (from Independence Avenue) for Montgomery County. 


By Metro Rail

Ride metro rail=s Blue or Orange lines to the Smithsonian station, using the Mall exit.  Start from there on one of the routes that passes by or turn right at the top of the escalator to Jefferson Drive.  Turn right along Jefferson Drive toward the Washington Monument.  Turn left on 15th Street, then follow the directions above (from 15th Street) for northern Fairfax County. 


Area Routes


Tidal Basin and Haines Point (5.3, 5.05, or 2.55 miles; IV, III or II)

This classic route has made-up the core of many of the areas most famed road races.  The annual Marine Corps Marathon and the Cherry Blossom races both use variations of the same route.   Starting along Ohio Drive South, head northwest along the Potomac.  The fountain in the garden to the right of the crosswalk before the Tidal Basin=s Inlet Bridge, was erected at the direction of First Lady Helen Taft.  After crossing the bridge, turn right to the very edge of the Tidal Basin and go around it clockwise.  You will pass under (you may have to duck occasionally depending upon how tall you are) the famed Cherry trees, a gift from Japan.  Don=t expect to be able to run here during the blooms (no bicycling at anytime).  The rail-less sidewalk is packed with people when the blooms are out.   Blooms usually occur in late March or early April but don=t always coincide with the timing of the Cherry Blossom Festival and parade (April).  As you go around the basin, the newest major memorial, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is on the left.  Use the narrow sidewalk on the Kutz Bridge to cross over a portion of the Tidal Basin, then continue around past the boat rental and parking areas.  As you approach the Jefferson Memorial, you will find the left turn along Ohio Drive North which takes you out to Haines Point.  A complete loop around only the Tidal Basin is 1.81 miles. 


Haines Point is a flat peninsula in-between Washington Channel and the Potomac River.  Nearly every Washington area runner who has raced here has felt at one-time or another a certain misery with the long straight and often windy stretches.  They usually happen to coincide with the latter half of races.  The scenery is splendid, but the long straightaways can make you feel like you=re running on a treadmill.  You have options to take the road as the races do (during 5/29B9/6 the road is closed to traffic 3PMB6AM) or use the sidewalk   The sidewalk is along the shoreline and has the best views however, it is in need of repair.  Watch-out for storm damaged tilted concrete blocks and occasional debris from the river if you use it.  Both the road and sidewalk circumnavigate a public golf course.  For those taking the road, a reward at the turnaround is the sight of the famous Awakening sculpture.  It features a gargantuan image of a man in a pained expression (hopefully not reflecting your own physical state upon arriving) perhaps struggling as he emerges from the ground.  Children climb all over it and even stand in the mouth.  Those taking the sidewalk go further and reach the last bit of land at the point.  From there you can see the mouths of the Washington Channel and the Anacostia river, a view of the Potomac down to the Wilson Bridge, and a view of National Airport=s jets landing and taking-off.  Complete loops only around the Hains Point using Buckey Drive are 3.46 and 3.19 miles for the sidewalk and road respectively. 


Memorial Tour (4.45, 4.75 or 3.5 miles, III, III or II)

Four majors bridges cross the Potomac River into downtown Washington.  Use two of the largest on this route to pass near many of the memorials and monuments that define Washington=s outward image.  From Ohio Drive South, take the stairs up to the 14th Street Bridge.  Optionally go around along the road and past the garden and fountain that Helen Taft=s instituted, to use a ramped trail up to the outbound 14th Street bridge (George Mason Bridge).  On the bridge the views are great.  The trail is wide enough for two bicycles coming in opposite directions to pass safely.  See the waters below, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Park, Arlington Memorial Bridge, Rosslyn, and the Virginia shore.  After crossing the river, use the Mt. Vernon Trail to pass through Lady Bird Johnson Park (technically part of D.C.).  Carefully cross the George Washington Parkway and an exit ramp to get onto Arlington Memorial Bridge.  The wide walkway on Memorial bridge leads to a traffic circle around the Lincoln Memorial.  The short route returns from here along Ohio Drive South through Franklin D. Roosevelt Park, and past the great President=s memorial.  The longer route passes along the east side of the Reflecting Pool, and near the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  A memorial to veterans of World War II may be built at the end of the Reflecting Pool, near 17th Street.  Cross 17th Street and turn right.  The sidewalk/trail will bear left to parallel Independence Avenue at the Tidal Basin.  The Washington Monument will be on your left.  Turn right at 15th Street to reach the Tidal Basin and go past the Jefferson Memorial on the return through West Potomac Park to East Potomac Park. 


The Mall & Capitol Hill (6.7, 6.95, or 5.3 miles, VI, VI, or IV)

Go northwest along the shores of the Potomac River, past the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial.  Round the circle and head straight up along the Reflecting Pool.  The path along the Reflecting Pool is soft and shaded under rows of trees.  As an option, from the Lincoln Memorial take Henry Bacon Dr. to Constitution Avenue past the Vietnam Memorials.  Continue from there in sight of the Einstein Memorial (across Constitution Avenue), and through Constitution Gardens (a Bicentennial addition) to the Reflecting Pool to join the regular route.  As an art piece, the Einstein Memorial is one of my favorite memorials.  A larger than life bronze sculpture of Einstein depicts him sitting comfortably on the edge of a circular map of the Universe made into the floor below him.  Stand in the center of the circle and say Athank you for Relativity@ to him for a surprise.  From the path along the Reflecting Pool, cross 17th Street, and go toward the base of the Washington Monument.  About 50 yards before getting there, look for a small stone marker on the right.  It signifies the location of Jefferson Pier, which stood here between 1804 and 1889.  Also see a good view of the White House from here.  After passing the monument and crossing 15th and 14th Streets, you=ll pass several of the older Smithsonian museums; American History, Natural History, and the East and West wings of the Natural Gallery of Art.  The 19th century philanthropy that got the Smithsonian Institution started came from the newly acquired riches of James Smithson.  A story has it that he was shunned by British society peers that he wished to socialize with, so he somewhat spitefully resolved to make his name outlast theirs through history.  He accomplished his objective elegantly and beneficently through the museums bearing his name.  They educate and stimulate people from all over the world.  Just before the 7th Street crossing, are the National Sculpture Garden, installed in 1999, and an ice rink.  Turn back at 7th Street to the other side of the Mall for a shorter route or continue on to loop around Capitol Hill. 


As you approach the Capitol building, keep the pool on your right by following a dirt path.  At the circle at 1st Street NW (Union Square), go clockwise three-quarters of the way around.  Turn right off it up a road onto the Capitol grounds.  A ADo Not Enter@ sign posted there is for cars.  Climb (about 70 feet vertical) the curving road and at the top bear left at a triangular intersection.  It leads to 1st Street NE at Constitution Avenue.  Turn right on 1st Street, passing the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress on your left.  Just before hitting Independence Avenue, turn right into the Capitol building grounds again, past another ADo Not Enter@ sign for cars.  Go back down the hill to a second circle at Union Square.  Going clockwise again around the circle, pass the Botanic Garden, and the future site of the National Museum of the American Indian.  Other sights as you continue back down the Mall are: the National Air & Space Museum, the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture garden, the Centennial Museum, the Smithsonian Institution Building (affectionately known as The Castle), the Freer Gallery of Art, and the Department of Agriculture.  As you approach the Washington Monument again, turn left on 15th Street following it past the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to the Tidal Basin.  Round the Basin past the Jefferson Memorial to East Potomac Park. 


Southeast Tour (10.45 or 10 miles, IX, VIII)

No tour of Southeast Washington would be complete without some time spent along the water.  This route does that and more.  Expect for Capitol Hill, the only hills are those of the bridges.  Leaving Ohio Drive, the route takes a different way to the Mall than other routes listed here.  By doing so it avoids several traffic intersections.  Pass over a portion of Haines Point, then use the trail on the Francis Case Memorial Bridge (I-395) to get to Banneker Circle and L=Enfant Plaza.  Pass under the Department of Energy complex and into the formal Enid Haupt gardens in front of the Smithsonian Castle.  On the sides of the garden are the Centennial Museum, the National Museum of African Art, and the Sackler and Freer galleries.  Exiting the garden around the right end of the Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle), hit The Mall at the carousel and turn right toward Capitol Hill.  Most Washingtonians born and raised here like me (and many who were not) have ridden this carousel as kids.  Pass the Hirshorn Sculpture gardens, the Air & Space Museum, the future site of the National Museum of the American Indian, the Botanic Garden, and the Capitol Building. 


Once past the Capitol, you=re in Southeast D.C.  Turn left to get to East Capitol Street, then pass the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.  East Capitol Street is reminiscent of streets found in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria.  Young professionals, Congressional Representatives, many other long-time D.C. residents live there.  As Washington area traffic has gotten worse, many have found that living here is convenient and animated.  Being street savvy here is important however, as the character of the surrounding areas changes quickly.  Cut through Lincoln Park, a grassy square, then turn right up 13th Street.  Turning left on Kentucky Avenue, the neighborhood gets quieter and you emerge at Barney Circle.  If you prefer staying on the beaten path, you can skip all the above, and come straight from the Capitol grounds, down Pennsylvania Avenue to Barney Circle.  You=ll pass Eastern Market, a weekly produce and artisan vending place, as well as some of the local night spots where conversation in the bars and dinning spots is more likely to cover foreign and domestic policy rather than the weather or the movies. 


From Barney Circle, the John Phillip Sousa Bridge takes you over the Anacostia River into Anacostia Park.  A sidewalk is available part of the way through the park but unless you use the grass, it is necessary to use the road a little.  The road parallels the river.  Traffic is usually light but on a warm spring days when those with cabin fever come out, it can be busier.  Across the river you can see the Washington Navy Yard, the oldest continually operating federal facility in the nation according the Washington Post.  The guns of the USS Missouri were made here and the USS Barry can be seen moored.  Cross back over the Anacostia River on the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge.  The path on the bridge is narrow but is protected and offers nice views.  Cut-over to the Washington Channel by passing Fort Lesley McNair (circa 1791), site of the Naval War College on your left.  As you reach the channel, observe the angelic statue on the left, a memorial to the Titanic (It is reminiscent of a famous seen from the more recent hit movie).  The ship sunk in 1912 and the memorial was erected in 1931.  A walkway along the channel lets you see Haines Point, waterfront restaurants and many ships and boats.  Pass the Fish and Seafood Market and turn left before reaching the Tidal Basin.  Turn left again using Ohio Drive and Buckeye Drive to return to the parking. 


Nearby and Connecting Zones


What to do Afterward


Food and Drink

Bull Feathers - (202) 543‑5005

Bread & Chocolate -  (202) 547‑2875

Hogate's Seafood Restaurant - (202) 484‑6300

Phillips Flagship Restaurant - (202) 488‑8515

Old Post Office Eatery - 202 606-8691

Entertainment and Edification

Odyssey Tours - dinner and lunch cruises on the Potomac - (202) 488-6000

Folger Shakespear Library - (202) 544-7077; www.folger.edu

Arena Stage - theater performances - (202) 543‑5005

F.D. Roosevelt Memorial - W. Potomac Park

Jefferson Memorial - (202) 426‑6822

The Washington Monument - (202) 426‑6839

Smithsonian Museums - (202) 357‑1300

The White House - 202 755-7798

and many, many more national institutions. 

Tidal Basin and Haines Point

Distance:          5.3, 5.05, or 2.55 miles

Rating:              IV, III or II; concrete sidewalks at water=s edge and paved roads


5.3 Mile Route


R     0.0   Ohio Dr S from the parking lot

       0.2   stairs on R to 14th St Bridge


L     0.25 at Rd X & xwalk to stay on Ohio Dr; over Inlet Bridge


R/L 0.3   trail X on R after bridge & clockwise on trail around the Tidal Basin

       0.45 F.D. Roosevelt Memorial on L (no bikes)

       0.8   trail X on L to Lincoln Memorial


R     1.0   Independence Ave; Kutz Bridge over the Tidal Basin


BR  1.15 after Kutz Bridge to continue loop around the Tidal Basin

       1.4   docks/boat rentals

       1.5   15th Street on L

       1.55 water, then begin Outlet Bridge



XS  1.65 crosswalk on L


BL  1.7   Ohio Drive North (underpasses I‑395)

       1.85 trail X on R to Banneker Circle

<*, <**

L/R 2.0   across grass at Buckeye Drive to sidewalk along Washington Channel

       3.55 Awakening Sculpture on R

       3.65 Hains Point


R/L 5.1   across grass to Ohio Drive S at Buckey Drive

>*, >**

R     5.3   into parking



*5.05 Mile Route


       2.0   Buckeye Drive on R

       2.3   golf course entrance on R; phone

       2.4   water

       3.3   trail X on R

       3.5   Awakening sculpture on L

       3.75 trail X on R

       4.0   restroom/water

       4.65 restroom/water

       4.85 Buckey Drive on R (pickup cues at mile 5.3 on 5.3 mile route)



**2.55 Mile Route


R     2.0   Buckeye Drive


R     2.3   Ohio Drive South (pickup cues at mile 5.3 on 5.3 mile route)

Tidal Basin & Hains Point

Memorial Tour

Distance: 4.45, 4.75 or 3.5 miles

Rating:           III, III or II; paved and crushed gravel trails, sidewalks; fairly flat


4.45 Mile Route


R     0.0   Ohio Dr S from the parking lot


R     0.2   stairs on R to 14th St Bridge


UR  0.2   14th Street Bridge; Potomac River


L     0.75 at T; Mt Vernon Trail (unmarked)

       1.0   parking for LB Johnson Park on L


L     1.65 trail X on L to Memorial Bridge (unmarked) crosses the GW Pkwy (!)

       1.75 trail X on L to the Pentagon

       1.8   cross exit ramp (!)

       1.85 trail X on L to Arl Mem Cemetery; go S onto Memorial Bridge

       2.3   circle at Lincoln Memorial; follow walkway counter-clockwise around


       2.4   Ohio Dr South on R

R     2.5   first ramp/stairs down to the Reflecting Pool; pool is to L


CR  3.0   17th Street; follow trail as it bears L and then parallels Independence Ave at the Tidal Basin


R     3.35 15th Street


CL  3.6   Main Ave; follow trail clockwise around the Tidal Basin; (water)

       3.75 trail X on L to Ohio Dr North

       4.0   trail X on L to 14th Street Bridge; restroom under Jeff Memorial on R


BL  4.2   Ohio Dr South; Inlet Bridge on R


       4.25 stairs on L to 14th Street Bridge


L     4.45 parking after metro bridge


*4.75 Mile Route


       0.2   stairs on R to 14th St Bridge


BR  0.25 at Inlet Bridge on L; leave Ohio Dr S


R     0.4   trail X on R at crosswalk; to 14th Street Bridge

       0.5   begin 14th Street Bridge; stairs on R (pickup cues at mile 0.2 on 4.45 mile route)




**3.5 Mile Route


CR  2.4   Ohio Dr South


XS  2.5   at crosswalk after crossing Independence Ave


BL  2.55 join trail at circle w/river on R and Ohio Dr South on L

       2.8   FDR Memorial and parking on L (water at mile 2.85 and 3.05)


BR  3.2   to follow Ohio Dr S over Inlet Br


CR  3.25 at Rd X after Inlet Bridge to stay on Ohio Dr S (pickup cues at mile 4.25 on 4.45 mile route)

Memorial Tour

The Mall & Capitol Hill

Distance: 6.7, 6.95, or 5.3 miles

Rating:           VI, VI, or IV; paved and crushed gravel trails through city parks


6.7 Mile Route


R       0.0     Ohio Dr S from the parking lot


L        0.25   at Rd X to stay on Ohio Dr S; over Inlet Bridge


BL     0.3     follow trail on L after bridge; trail X on R is to Tidal Basin (water at miles 0.5, 0.7)


XS     0.95   at crosswalk before circle

          1.0     Independence Avenue


R       1.1     circle at the Lincoln Memorial


R       1.25   second ramp/stairs on R to Reflecting Pool

          1.7     trail X on L to Constitution Gardens


BL     2.0     Washington Monument; BL through circle & BL again to 15th Street at Madison Dr


S        2.1     15th St; walkway/path along Madison Dr


          3.1     3rd Street; dirt trail toward pool


BR     3.25   clockwise around circle at 1st Street; go around 3/4 then R on road into Capitol grounds; (ADo Not Enter@ sign is for cars)


BL     3.55   triangle X at top of hill; Capitol on R

R       3.7     1st Street NE

          3.85   East Capitol St on L


R       3.95   road into Capitol grounds; (ADo Not Enter@ sign is for cars)


BL     4.05   triangle X; then down Capitol Hill


CL     4.3     clockwise at circle at 1st St and CL at Maryland Ave


BR     4.45   dirt trail to 3rd St


R/L    4.55   R after crossing 3rd St; L on gravel path


          5.05   after Carousel


BL     5.2     after the Castle; to follow path along Jefferson Dr

          5.25   Smithsonian Metro station on R


CL     5.5     15th St

          5.6     Independence Ave


CL     5.85   clockwise around Tidal Basin; water


BL     6.45   Ohio Dr S; Inlet Bridge on R


L        6.7     parking after metro bridge



*6.95 Mile Route


R       1.3     Henry Bacon Dr


R       1.45   Constitution Ave


R/L    1.7     19th St on L; R to the pond; L at the pond


L/R    1.85   L to stone patio away from pond; R on patio


L        1.95   at T at the Reflecting Pool (pickup cues at mile 2.0 on 6.7 mile route)



**5.3 Mile Route


R       3.1     3rd Street

R       3.15   second gravel path in the open on The Mall (pickup cues at mile 5.05 on 6.7 mile route)

The Mall and Capitol Hill

Southeast Tour

Distance: 10.45 or 10.0 miles

Rating:           IX or VIII; crushed gravel on the mall, sidewalks, asphalt paths and roads; sunny


10.45 Mile Route


L        0.0     Ohio Dr S from the parking lot


CL     0.2     Buckeye Dr


L        0.55   Ohio Dr N


L        0.65   trail X on L toward bridge


UR    0.7     at Francis Case Bridge (I-395)


L        1.15   Banneker Cir; L=Enfant Promenade


S        1.55   cross Independence Ave; go through Enid Haupt Garden exiting R of the Castle past Jefferson Dr onto The Mall


R       1.7     The Mall; R at the carousel toward the Capitol


R/L    2.2     3rd St SW; onto dirt trail toward pool


BL     2.3     Maryland Ave SW


R       2.4     at 1st St SW circle go counter-clockwise and turn R into Capitol grounds up hill


BR     2.65   at triangle X at top of hill


L        2.8     1st St SE


R       2.95   East Capitol Street


S        3.7     cross 11th St SE into Lincoln Park


R       3.9     at T; 13th St SE


L        4.05   Kentucky Ave SE


CL     4.75   Barney Circle on to trail (Bike Route)


BR     4.85   trail X; go to bridge: Penn Ave SE


L        5.2     trail X (triangle) after bridge


L        5.3     Water St SE (unmarked) go under bridge

          6.15   underpass 11th Street Bridges

          6.35   Good Hope Rd on L


CL     6.9     Rd X on L before bridge


R/L    7.0     trail X on R to go under bridge


UL     7.15   sharp L onto Frederick Douglas Br


L        7.7     O Street SE


L        7.95   Water St SE


CR     8.0     at T onto P Street SE


S        8.2     P St SE ends; use walkway to the waterfront


R       8.3     at T; Washington Channel walkway


R/L    9.05   R at Fish Mrkt; L on sidewalk on Main Ave


L        9.45   after 14th St underpass (unmarked)


BL     9.6     Ohio Dr North


XS     9.65   at crosswalk

          9.8     trail X on R toward bridge


CR     9.9     Buckeye Dr


R     10.25   Ohio Dr South


R     10.45   into parking after RR underpass



*10.0 Mile Route


S        2.8     onto Independence Ave


BR     2.95   Pennsylvania Ave

          3.4     7th Street SE (Eastern Market)

          3.85   13th Street SE


CL     4.25   Barney Circle onto trail (Bike Route)


R       4.35   trail X (triangle) (pickup cues at mile 4.85 on 10.45 mile route)

Southeast Tour