By Angela Hazuda Meyers
Along with other recent developments along the Anacostia River, the outdoor trail system was improved, which bodes well for us springtime hikers. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is now over 20 miles, and these new segments connect the trail to other hiking paths, creating hundreds of miles of contiguous routes through MD, DC, and VA. For the next two issues we will explore the DC sections of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART).
Since we’re featuring the beautiful Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in our “Destinations” article, we’ll explore the northern segment of the ART. The parking lot for the Gardens is a convenient starting spot for trail access, and it also offers restrooms and dog water bowls, which is important because there are no other facilities from here on.
After parking, enter the Aquatic Gardens via the main trail. Once inside the park, take the well-marked 0.7-mile-long Marsh Trail to the ART and turn left. Here it’s paved, and you’ll be walking with the river on your right and a great view of the Kenilworth marshlands on your left. This pleasantly green scene extends for over ½ mile. The marshlands then give way to woods, and the river starts moving a bit further away. After ¾ mile, look across the river to spot the boat dock for the Arboretum. Continue another ¼ mile around the bend and up a short incline, bringing you to the Kenilworth Athletic Fields. At this point the ART splits: one path is more paved and urban, the second a secluded dirt path. The two trails converge a bit further south.
If you take the paved option, it is well marked and 1 mile longer than the dirt trail. You’ll continue past the athletic fields, turn right to cross the bridge, then right again to follow the divided road (stay right on the walking/biking lane). You’ll walk along an apartment building complex, then into some neighborhood streets. At the second street (Anacostia Avenue), turn right. At the end of the road, turn right again, back onto the paved trail.
If you take the unpaved way, turn right onto the dirt path just as you are starting up the incline, though the two concrete barriers. You’ll cross the Athletic Fields, veer slightly right, staying on the gravel road, and head toward two other concrete barriers at the far edge of the fields, on the lower right. This option is great for dogs as it is quite isolated, and while I couldn’t find any signage, it seems to be an off-leash dog park. The few people there were letting their pups run around, so if you have a well-trained dog, you can let them off-leash here to run ‘til their heart’s content.
When your pup has had his fill of running, head through those concrete barriers and across a meadow. At the end of that path you’ll reconnect with the paved ART. Turn right onto the ART, where you’ll start traveling along the river again. You can take this path another ½ mile to the Benning Road underpass. This is where we will pick up in the next issue.
Side Note: When first approaching the ART from the Aquatic Gardens, you can turn right and find another lovely trail that passes over the water. If you follow this for ¼ mile, you’ll reach the Maryland border. The trail returns to solid ground at this point, heading into a wooded area that hugs the river and gives you some lovely views. I only went about 1 mile in this direction, but the part I walked was enjoyable and 100% worth the side trip.
ABOUT YOUR GUIDE
Angela Meyers is the owner of both NOVADog Magazine and a lovely pup named Maggie.
Distance: 4 miles.
Fido Friendly Features: Shaded, streamside, stream access, off-leash area.
Best time to go: During Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens hours.
Access: Parking available at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019. Note the gardens closing time so your car doesn’t get locked up.
Rated: 1 Paw. The trail is very easy, no hills, 80% paved surface.