Competitive and noncompetitive organized runs, races, and bicycling events are popular on the roads and multi-use paths of the National Mall and Memorial Parks ranging in size and route. These events must be balanced with the regular high visitation in the park throughout the year. Since space for these events may be limited, especially for road closure events, it is highly recommended to start the permit process as early as possible. Additional permits or permission may be required for events that include neighboring jurisdictions.
Applying for a Permit
Submit an Application for a Permit to Conduct a Demonstration or Special Event in Park Areas (Special Event Permit Application) to the Division of Permits Management in person or mail:
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Applications can be delivered Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, except federal holidays or other National Mall & Memorial Parks office closures. Special Event Permit Applications are not accepted via fax or email. Applications are accepted up to one year in advance inclusive of the first day of setup.
Application Processing Cost
A non-refundable application processing cost of $120 is required with the submission of the Special Event Permit Application. Follow the instructions on the application form for submitting a payment by credit card, check, or money order.
A permits specialist will contact you if additional meetings, discussions, or documents are required and continue to walk you through the permit process. A permit must be issued prior to holding the activity in the park.
Things to Know Before Applying
A permits specialist will guide applicants through the permitting process and can also be contacted before applying to answer any questions. Please also review the Permits Resources related to your proposed activity.
Additional Required Documents and Steps
Depending on the size and scope of the event, the permits specialist may require additional meetings and more in-depth event plans prior to approving the permit, such as site layout, setup/cleanup schedule, equipment lists, etc. All organized runs, races, and bicycling events require a description or map of the proposed route.
Location and Location-Specific Requirements
Organized runs and bicycling events take place on the various roads and trails throughout the National Mall and Memorial Parks; however, there may be special requirements or restrictions for different areas, such as crowd capacity, equipment requirements, turf protection considerations, etc.
Road Closures Events
The National Mall and Memorial Parks have three approved standard road course routes in East and West Potomac Parks for organized races and runs. Any road courses deviating from these routes need special permission and only nine deviations are permitted each year. Road closures are not permitted between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends or weekdays with the exception of federal holidays. Events must start no later than 8 am and clear of the roads by 9:30 am. View the park's Record of Determination for organized pedestrian and cycling events for more information.
East and West Potomac Parks
Pre-approved 5-kilometer and a 10-kilometer routes are commonly used for events in the roads in East and West Potomac Parks. The number of participants may not exceed 3,500 for events beginning in West Potomac Park and 500 for events beginning in East Potomac Park.
Memorial Core Area (Lincoln Memorial to US Capitol)
Organized runs, races, and bicycling events are not permitted on the walkways, trails, or turf on parkland between the Lincoln Memorial and US Capitol. A limited number of events each year may use Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue. View the park's Record of Determination for organized pedestrian and cycling events for more information. Organized walks are permitted in these areas, please view Special Events Permits for more information on applying to have an organized walk event.
Additional Associated Costs
A refundable cost recovery deposit may be required to pay for incurred by the National Park Service resulting from the activity, such as administrative cost (permit monitoring, utilities, management of activity), restoration and/or rehabilitation, or cleanup of parkland. Cost recovery is based on the size and scope of the event and can range from $500 to $500,000 or more.
Additional Planning Resources
A permits specialist will guide applicants through the permitting process and assist with event-specific details. Please also consult Permits Resources, including:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, organized group practice runs and other organized non-competitive runs require a permit.
Yes, organized runs that pass through any portion of parkland require a permit.
Yes, a run that passes through more than one national park in the greater DC area requires only one application and will be issued one permit to include all parks.
Exchange of money is not permitted on parkland. All participants must be pre-registered if payment is required to participate in the activity. Runs, races, and bicycling events that do not require a payment may check in participants who are signing up at the event.
Corporate sponsors can be recognized on signage throughout the event as long as the National Park Service determines that the size and form of the recognition is consistent with the special nature and sanctity of the National Mall or any other requested park area. The lettering or design identifying the sponsor must be no larger than one-third the size of the lettering or design identifying the special event.
Nonprofits can have signs without restrictions.
Merchandise may not be sold during the event. However, as part of a special event or demonstration permit, they may sell books, newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, buttons, and bumper stickers containing a message related to the activity.
Yes, soliciting donations on park land for a charity or for other types of organizations is allowed only with a valid permit for a special event or demonstration. Organizations or individuals engaging in onsite donation collection cannot:
(a) Mislead or give false information regarding the purpose of the donation
(b) Require a donation in exchange for an item, if the item is available for free
(c) Require a donation for t-shirts, CDs, pens, art, food or any other item that is prohibited by the National Park Service sales regulation.
No, non-competitive and competitive events are only permitted on the standard course routes specified in the National Mall and Memorial Park's Record of Determination for Footraces, Organized Runs, and Bicycling Events.
Yes, liability insurance naming both the permittee and the National Park Service is required for all competitive and non-competitive runs, races, and bicycling events. You can discuss the details including minimum coverage with your permit specialist. More information about insurance can also be found in the National Capital Area Events Guide.
Last updated: March 6, 2020