May is National Bike Month and with Spring in full bloom it's the perfect time to get out and explore the many great bike trails in the DC area. Here's a list of five of our top favorites.
1) Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved, multi-use trail that meanders from Theodore Roosevelt Island in DC to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. The trail offers a variety of scenic views and many opportunities to stop at points of interest along the way.
Heading out from Roosevelt Island, riders are treated to views of the Potomac River and DC's monuments. A fun experience for folks of all ages, a stop at Gravelly Point provides the opportunity to get a close-up view of planes taking off and landing from Reagan National Airport. Continuing further south, the trail makes it way into charming Old Town Alexandria, an ideal spot for a lunch break by the water or at one of the many local eateries. As it can be tricky to follow the trail in Old Town, click here for more information on this part of the route. The scenery becomes more wooded as you get closer to the the southern end point at the exquisite Mount Vernon estate. Bonus tip: just south of Old Town, the Mt. Vernon Trail connects to a route that goes to National Harbor via a unique bike/walking path on the north side of the Wilson Bridge (about 4 miles roundtrip).
The trail is appropriate for all skill levels and with multiple access points, it is possible to bike the trail in sections if you aren't up for the full 18-mile ride. View the map, highlighting access points, facilities, picnic areas and more here.
2) The Washington & Old Dominion Trail
The Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail is a 45-mile paved "rail trail" in Northern Virginia. A rail trail is a former railway track converted to a biking/walking path that typically makes its way through towns and historic areas. The W&OD Trail has many of the characteristics of a typical rail trail with stopping points in a number of Virginia towns and several train cabooses along the way!
Starting from the east, the trail begins in Shirlington or at the Key Bridge. Urban scenery gives way to suburbs and then the Virginia countryside, with the trail ending at the Purcellville Train Station. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for enjoyable stops, such as a picnic at Bluemont Park, a side trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens or exploring historic Leesburg.
The trail is well-marked and maintained and popular with weekday commuters and recreational cyclists. View the list of access points to the trail and places to park here.
You can also connect to the W O&D trail on the VA side of Key Bridge. At that same corner, you can also connect to the Mt. Vernon Trail that passes by Roosevelt Island.
3) Capital Crescent Trail
The Capital Crescent Trail is a popular 7-mile paved rail trail from DC's charming Georgetown neighborhood to Bethesda, Maryland. The trail follows the former rail line of the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and offers lots of leafy scenery and points of interest along the way. These include the Loughborough Mill, the last remaining evidence of Fort Sumner and the Abner Cloud House, one of the oldest standing structures along the C&O Canal.
This popular trail is used by commuters, recreational cyclists, walkers and joggers. The trail inclines as you go from DC to Bethesda so if you are looking to do a bit less pedaling, begin your route in Bethesda!
Note that there is a section of the trail that typically continues from Bethesda to Silver Spring. However, this part of the trail is currently closed for the construction of the new Purple Line light rail and anticipated to re-open in 2022.
4) C & O Canal Towpath
Spanning 184.5 miles, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath follows the north bank of the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, MD. Built in the 1800s, much of the canal no longer has water but the towpath remains a fantastic trail for exploring the area.
While 184.5 miles may seem daunting for most, the first 14 miles of the towpath from Georgetown to Great Falls offers a great starting point. Along the way, two lockhouses are located at mile markers 5.4 and 8.8. These historic houses offer a glimpse into the past and are available for overnight stays! Beautiful views of the Potomac River continue as you make your way to Great Falls Park.
The trail is popular with cyclists, walkers and joggers. This is not a paved trail. It consists mostly of clay and crushed stone so be prepared for some bumps! View maps here. A mobile app is also available to help navigate the route, calculate your distance from nearby amenities and more.
5) Four Mile Run Trail
Four Mile Run Trail is a 7-mile mixed-use, paved trail that runs through Arlington, VA. The trail parallels the W&OD in places and connects to many other trails, local neighborhoods and parks. The trail begins at in the north at Bluemont Junction Park and runs through Four Mile Run Park to the Mount Vernon Trail near Reagan National Airport.
Popular with cyclists, walkers and joggers, the trail offers wooded views and plenty of opportunities to stop off at local parks, including several for your four-legged friends.