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Best Bike Rides In The DC Area

April 6, 2013 9:00 AM

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

If you’re tired of being cooped up indoors, then grab your bike and take a little ride. The DC metro area has plenty of bike trails to choose from. Whether you prefer a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life or an earth-friendly way to get to the heart of the city, check out this list of best bike rides in the DC area.

Capital Crescent Trail
3500 K St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 234-4874
www.cctrail.org

Get on the Capital Crescent Trail and take a little ride from Georgetown to Bethesda. The 11-mile, hard-surface trail was once part of the B&O Railroad. Andrew McCasker, an avid local area cyclist and triathlete who has toured many popular bicycle trails in the area, calls the ride a “dream,” thanks to its gentle gradients, plenty of shade, a pretty bridge and gorgeous overlooks. The Capital Crescent Trail is also popular among joggers, walkers and rollerbladers as well. The trail goes along many popular destinations including a bookstore, ice cream shop and restaurants.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath
1057 Thomas Jefferson St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 653-5190
www.nps.gov

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, more commonly referred to as the C&O Canal Towpath, features 185 miles of pure bike riding fun. The journey starts in the heart of DC along the Potomac River and makes its way through Virginia and West Virginia and into Maryland. The C&O Canal was known to provide a lifeline to area businesses as it helped transport lumber, coal and produce along the Potomac River. Much of the trail is hard-packed dirt, a condition that may provide for a rough ride for narrow high-pressure tires, advises John Wetmore, a local area bicycling enthusiast. The towpath also provides passages to an overlook over Great Falls as well as access to the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that leads all the way to Pittsburgh.

Related: Tips for Keeping Your Kids Active from a Washington DC Fitness Professional

Washington and Old Dominion Trail
21293 Smiths Switch Road
Ashburn, VA 20147
(703) 729-0596
www.nvrpa.org

Perhaps considered the most popular bike trail in the area, the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, better known as the W&OD trail, features 45 miles of paved wonderfulness. The 100-foot wide path also provides plenty of room for bicyclists, joggers, rollerskaters and parents with strollers. Previously used as a railroad system to help transport goods across the state, the trail is now known as “the skinniest park” in Northern Virginia, according to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The W&OD trail features asphalt as well as dirt and crushed stone and runs from Shirlington near I-395 to Purcellville, located west of Leesburg. McCasker advises that the trail is perfect for novices and with its almost even surface and frequent rest stops, bicycling the W&OD is a great way to spend a beautiful spring day. Be sure to stop by various shops and restaurants at Falls Church and Vienna along the way.

Mount Vernon Trail
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, VA 22121
(202) 289‑2553
www.nps.gov

For a trail with a view, grab you bicycle and head to Mount Vernon where you will find an 18-mile, multi-use trail that rolls right along the Potomac River. The mostly flat trail provides scenic views of the first president’s home, the Washington Monument and other DC popular destinations. The trail also features plenty of points of interest including Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall. McCasker particularly enjoys “heading over the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac and riding out on Haines Point,” another popular DC destination. Grab a bite to eat off King Street or take a trip to Roosevelt Island. Mount Vernon Trail also connects with many regional trails including Rock Creek Park, Four Mile Run, Potomac Heritage and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail.

Related: Best Running Clubs in Washington DC

Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail
137 National Plaza
National Harbor, MD 20745
www.wilsonbridge.com

Journey across the Potomac River thanks to the newly built trail added to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The 1.1-mile, multi-use path provides access to bicycles, joggers, rollerskaters and pedestrians to travel from Alexandria to Prince George’s County in Maryland. The trail provides a handful of “bump out areas,” which feature benches, informational displays and sightseeing telescopes. The trail also provides access to the National Harbor, a popular destination with plenty of activities and entertainment. Refuel at one of more than 30 restaurants, release your inner shopaholic or simply enjoy the view of boats bobbing atop the Potomac River. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail also connects with popular regional parks including the Potomac Waterfront Community Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail.

Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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