15 Best Bike Trails in Washington DC For You

By Nikita Das on Mar 14, 2017
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With abundant of bike trails that are well maintained and replete with great scenic views, Washington D.C. easily passes off as the best biking destination in the USA. The love for bicycling is so prevalent here that you can spot bicycle enthusiasts hitting the road wherever you go. To further complement this phenomenon, all these trails come with distinguished characteristics catering to the needs of the varied type of cyclists, from casual to athletic ones.

Even for travellers, it is a trustworthy means to explore the city and that too in a very convenient way. For the ones who wish to know more about what this city has to offer, here is the list of some of the best biking trails in Washington D.C. that one must surely check out.

1. Mount Vernon Trail

Image Source: Elvert Barnes/flickr.com

It is one of the prominent trails in The District and spans a distance of 18 miles, from Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon. Located near the downtown Washington, the trail offers exemplary views of DC monuments and is considered to be the folks favourite. A ride through this trail will lead you to some specific point of interests including the Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery and Gravelly Point, all of which are worth exploring.

To further complement this endeavour, there are many restaurants and shops lined alongside the route near the king street intersection where you can stop by and relax before continuing. Easy in nature, the trail is great for anyone who wishes to indulge in a sportful exploit.

Distance: 18 miles
How to reach: From Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC to George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon by cycling alongside Potomac River.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

2. Capital Crescent Trail

Image Source: eddie welker/flickr.com

The trail stands atop an abandoned rail route of the Georgetown Branch and is semi-paved in first 7 miles from Georgetown to Bethesda. From Bethesda, the route is decked in limestone crushed surface which continues until the very end i.e. Rosemary Hills. A cycling detour in this route if often said to be a mesmerising one, attributing to its beautiful surrounding that passes through vibrant neighbourhoods of Bethesda.

You can fetch a little rest during your trip here as these neighbourhoods are quite affluent and filled with various shops and food places. Getting a little forward to George town will further treat you to waterfront vistas and a happening atmosphere. The beautiful trail caters to people of all ages and is comparatively quiet and traffic free.

Distance: 13 miles
How to reach: From Georgetown to downtown Silver Spring via Bethesda and Rosemary Hills.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

3. Washington & Old Dominion Trail

Image Source: Padraic/flickr.com

Another railroad turned bike trail, Washington & Old Dominion is a loop that runs from  Shirlington to Purcellville in Virginia. The gorgeous trail is a well-paved one making it quite a delight to ride on for both kids and adults. Considered to be one of the best in the area, this 45 mile long trails runs parallel to a horse trail, offering opportunities to enjoy other activities as well like horse riding and such.

In fact, the place is so popular that the only problem you might encounter on your way is the overt number of people and myriad street crossings which may seem annoying at times. Nonetheless, the stunning beauty you will come across in the last 15 miles of your trip (when you will be passing through the rural area) will make up for any hassles happened during the ride.

Distance: 45 miles
How to reach: Shirlington to Purcellville in Virginia.
Bike Type: ATB, Hybrid
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Walking, Cross Country Skiing


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4. Rock Creek Trail

Image Source: TrailVoice/flickr.com

The trail is nothing but an accumulation of individual paths, coming together to give shape to its current form. Despite being this, it is well liked among natives and sees a lot of bustle on the weekends when the path is closed to automobiles and other vehicles. It gets its access from Key bridge in Roosevelt Island and continues towards the Needwood Lake, MD and Washington DC while passing through the Rock Creek Regional Park. Due to its inconsistent built, the path is not considered to be a suitable one for kids and can be even hard for adults who are not very fit.

Although a little rough, the bike trails offers visits to some nice attractions like the National Zoo and the Equestrian Center along with picnic areas at the end of the trail. If you don't mind a little legwork, get on this trail and get acquainted with other athletes, joggers and pedestrians who will be happily strutting along the way.

Distance: 20 miles
How to reach: From Key bridge in Roosevelt Island to the North End of Washington DC via Rock Creek Regional Park.
Bike Type: ATB, Hybrid
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

5. The Zoo Review

Image Source: Pexels.com

The route of The Zoo Review Trail consists of the Rock Creek Parkway and the Capital Crescent Trail and is counted among the premier bike routes in the region. The trail is well paved and moves towards the south in Washington while giving you a stoppage at National Zoo where you can linger for a while and immerse amid nature. Your bike tour will ultimately end in Georgetown which is replete with myriad attractions and shops.

The difficulty level is not very high, yet taking a route through Capital Crescent will lead you through a rough trail patch. On the bright side, it is not very crowded so you can be rest assured to have some quiet time transcending its terrains and enjoying the greenery.

Distance: 20 miles
How to reach: Head to the south along the Rock Creek Parkway, past the National Zoo, towards the Georgetown district.
Bike Type: ATB, Hybrid
Trail activities: Bike, Walking

6. Skyline Drive

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Passing through the 200,000-acre of green plains of Shenandoah National Park, the Skyline Drive is laden with amazing vistas of trees and nature that will provide you with the perfect atmosphere to unwind. To add up to that, there are various interest points in the midway like picnic areas, campsites, restaurants, and hiking trails which you can indulge in during your trip. A day here can be easily spent exploring its vivid scenery and experiencing nature up and close.

The park is about 75-miles from downtown making it easily accessible for tourists. If you are done exploring this trail already, you can further ride on the 469-mile pass on the southern side of the park that runs to the Mountains National Park in North Carolina.  

Distance: 1.5 miles
How to reach: From entrance of Shenandoah National Park to the Rockfish Gap that furthers on the passway to Mountains National Park
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

7. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Once the throbbing commercial point in the city, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath now stands as an 184.5 mile long stretch of roughly-paved path that runs parallel to a canal and offers numerous recreational opportunities to cyclists. Loved by many nature enthusiasts, the path goes from Georgetown west to the Great Falls while passing along the lovely Potomac River and vivid scenarios.

If you further on this trail that reaches all the way to Pittsburgh, you will realise that your endeavour is accentuated by various wonderful stoppages, more likely campsites, shops and food joints where you can stop for a breather. It is better to choose the weekdays for a quiet cycling practice as the trail gets pretty crowded in the weekends.

Distance: 184.5 miles
How to reach: From the west of Georgetown to Glen Echo and Great Falls while running along the Potomac River.
Bike Type: ATB, Hybrid
Trail activities: Bike, Walking, Dog Walking, Jogging

8. Hains Point

Image Source: Flickr.com

It might not be the most popular one in the city, yet the quietude that it provides gives it enough edge to be on the list. The trail is nicely tucked way from the pedestrian crowd and offers great assistance to athletes and competitive spirits who can come here to test their speed and accuracy. On a fine weekend evening, you can easily spot the cyclists running marathon laps on its pathway that goes well alongside Potomac River and Washington Monument. Even for a flat bike workout, the trails is great and has limited car access which makes it all the more fun!

Distance: 3.2 mile
How to reach: A loop around Hains Point at East Potomac Park
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Walking, Dog Walking, Jogging, Wheel Chair Accessible

9. Sligo Creek Trail

Image Source: Elvert Barnes/flickr.com

Sligo Creek Trail is 10.6 miles long pathway and considered to be one of the best trails in the capital for families. The reason it being decked with numerous parks and playgrounds that you come across during your detour. On a sunny day, you can easily come here with you family and enjoy a nice cycling session along with barbeque or picnic. The trail is well paved and sees the end point at the Wheaton Regional Park which itself is a hotspot of fun with activities like an ice rink, lake, and a mini train that your kids will adore. Ride along it for some time then unwind in the green surrounding of Brookside Gardens grounds.

Distance: 10.6 miles
How to reach: From Wheaton to Hyattsville via Takoma Park
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

10. A Ride to the Falls

Image Sourc: Pixabay.com

Who wouldn't like a weekend getaway to the happening place of Great Falls in DC? Lying in the northwest part of Washington, the best way to access this wonder is by taking a route on MacArthur Blvd or CO trail both of which strategically passes through some significant historic places. The MacArthur Blvd, which is the main point of this route, sits on two gravity based water supply aqueducts resulting in a winding pathway passing through the communities of Bethesda and Potomac.

Riding on this route will lead you through numerous shops and restaurants in Cabin John and Glen Echo where you can sneak some after those hours of cycling. Not only that, the Glen Echo Park with its greenery and quiet will only add up to your fun. For outsiders, another alternative can be Carderock Recreation Area.

1.5 miles
How to reach: A route through MacArthur Blvd neighbourhood.
Bike Type: ATB and Hybrid
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Walking

11. Oxford Loop, Maryland

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Oxford loop, located between Easton and Oxford, can be really great if you are looking for a quintessential Maryland Eastern Shore ride. The established route passes through myriad small towns and quaint village, all of which will have you feel the true side of the city. You can get a ferry in the middle to get to Bellevue and have a heartful lunch at St Michael's and also have a thorough shopping indulgence. Once you are done biking the path, you can head on to the beaches which are just a few more miles away.

Though the loop can be accessed in many ways, the best choice, of course, will be Easton's Idlewood park which will go through the Oxford and St. Michaels and is deemed to be very attractive. The ride across the Tred Avon River will leave you with a memorable impression of DC biking experience.

Distance: 35.5 miles
How to reach: Starts from Easton, passes through Oxford and St. Michaels and returns to the starting point.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

12. Baltimore and Annapolis Trail

Image Source: Ken Mayer/flickr.com

Not the most popular, neither in the city, so what makes this outskirt trail a great option for your next biking trip in DC? Simple, its accessibility and what it has to offer. The trail is a healthy 13 miles long stretch which begins from Annapolis and finishes off in Glen Burnies. You may encounter varied attractions in between with the popular ones being the Planet Walkthrough which will provide you with some significant info on planets and stars. To add more to this, there are water bodies, resting areas and nice hill points with mesmerising views of the surrounding. Since it is in outskirts, you won't find any food points in between. Be wise and take plenty of food and water with you.

Distance: 13 miles
How to reach: From Annapolis to Glen Burnies via The Planet Walkthrough.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

13. The U.S. Arboretum

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

With a short distance stretch of 3.5-mile, the U.S. Arboretum is probably one of the easiest biking loops in the city and makes up for a convenient family outing. The route is wide and cemented so the children will not have any hassles biking on it. You can always bring some food and eateries to accompany your biking rendezvous, which you can savour later in the picnic areas. The route has many of them along with some major interest stops like bucolic gardens and its exhibits. It might be a little crowded but get past that and you will have a pleasurable time here.

Distance: 3.5 miles
How to reach: From Azalea Road to Crabtree Road, then Hickey Hill and Meadow roads in the North East of DC.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

14. Metropolitan Branch Trail

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A melange of rugged off-road trails and paved on-road lanes,  Metropolitan Branch Trail is an 8-mile long pathway connecting the Silver Spring down and the Union Station area. While biking through this trail you will pass through many quiet neighbourhoods like  Brightwood and Takoma Park which makes it a peaceful sojourn to go through. Being in the city with wide lanes and away from crowd highly contributes to its popularity, which will be further enhanced after its completion (under construction and planned to be extended).

Distance: 8 miles
How to reach: From Silver Spring down to the Union Station area in DC.
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Walking

15. Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Image Source: bobistraveling/flickr.com

If a delightful workout is what you are looking for then the Great Allegheny Passage Trail is really a great option for you. This 150-mile passageway starts from Maryland town of Cumberland which passes through various significant stop points and ultimately ends in Pittsburgh. While completing the entire loop in one go is a feat in itself, for more adventurous folks, there is an another route which can be a delightful challenge i.e. C & O Canal Townpath. The townpath directly links with the Great Allegheny Passage Trail making it a helluva trail with an exaggerating distance of 334.5 miles.

During your ride, you will come across small towns, state forests and excellent stretches of whitewater that will leave you with enough indulgence for a while. Not very crowded, it also offers amenities and accommodations on the way which you can make use of.

Distance: 150 miles
How to reach: From Maryland town of Cumberland to Pittsburgh
Bike Type: All
Trail activities: Bike, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

It doesn't matter if you are a recreational biker, a hardcore cyclist or someone who just loves bicycling, the capital of the country has enough to serve you all (and serve you well!). Just choose the one that suits you the best and go for it!

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