The District offers a wealth of cycling trails, ranging in degrees of difficulty, and an immensely popular bike sharing service. Don’t own a bike? Just rent one for a day from any of the Capital Bike Share racks dotted across the city. There’s no excuse to not immerse yourself in nature and work up a sweat. Maybe even save money on an Uber or two, while also reducing your carbon footprint!
The scenic, 11 mile trail spans from Georgetown to Bethesda. The property once belonged to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which is one of the oldest railroad lines in the U.S, and the trail was constructed atop the abandoned railbed. Capital Crescent is ideal for hotter summer days, because there’s plenty of shade and areas to stop for a picnic. It’s also expanding to reach Silver Spring, but that section has yet to be paved.
The Mount Vernon Trail passes through scenic sights and historic landmarks. Starting in Georgetown, ride along the Potomac River, past Roosevelt Island (or take a detour onto the island), crossing the river to reach Old Town Alexandria, and finish your ride at George Washington’s Virginia estate. The round-trip route spans 36 miles on mostly flat terrain.
The road, which traverses through much of Rock Creek Park, closes to vehicular traffic on weekends, and the cyclists come out in droves to ride. The shady, forested street is an ideal spot when there’s no drivers to fear. It’s the perfect route to reach downtown D.C., while experiencing a totally different environment on your journey there.
The C&O Towpath spans 185 miles along mostly dirt and clay trails; the rougher terrain is not recommended for cycling newbies. The trail covers ground in four states (let’s pretend DC is a state for a moment), starting in DC and winding into Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Once a canal used to transport goods to the Potomac River in the 19th century, much of the canal has drained and been reclaimed by the forests, but the towpath remains.
The northern Virginia trail is ideal for beginners due to its fully paved, 100 foot wide paths, allowing plenty of room for strollers, bikes, and joggers side-by-side without collision. Also once an old railroad, the trail was converted into Virginia’s “skinniest park.” The 45 mile journey makes for a pleasant workout that doesn’t pose too much of a challenge.
As the only District trail that permits mountain biking, Fort Circle features rough terrain, overgrown vegetation, and plenty of hills. The trail winds 7.9 miles one way. Be wary of the loose gravel and nuts that coat the path, which can be hell for both your tires and butt. You’ll definitely see more deer than people, so make sure to not slam into any wandering Bambis.