This month I took some time to ride the trails in and around Washington, D.C., beyond the C&O Towpath. The city and surrounding area has a system of fantastic trails that allows you to bike in and around the D.C. Metro, see the sights, explore the neighborhoods, and generally have an awesome time.
The Mt. Vernon Trail may be my favorite example of the D.C. trail network. For over 18-miles you can bike (car-free!) from Arlington all the way to Mt. Vernon itself, enjoying a variety of scenery and historic stops all along the way. Not to mention the incredible site that is Mt. Vernon, itself, at the end!
The trail is paved and starts at Roosevelt Island and can be accessed from Arlington/Rossyln directly; it’s also easily reached from Georgetown (via the Key Bridge) and DC (via Arlington Memorial Bridge). This northern end of the trail is well-paved, well-marked, and signed a-plenty. The signs help direct you to tourist destinations, to local spurs like the Pentagon, Crystal City, and even to Washington National Airport.
As you can imagine, this eminently useful trail sees daily commuter and recreational traffic, as well as tourists, so be prepared to go slow in places.
[Click on the pictures to learn more.]
Beyond Crystal City you’ll follow the trail directly into Alexandria, a worthwhile tourist and historic destination in and of itself. The trail can be a bit difficult to follow through the city, but if you take the waterfront option, just stay on N. Union Street and continue through to Jones Point Park.
Take time to get off the bike while in Alexandria and explore the renovated waterfront and walk up Prince Street. Plenty of history, shopping, and dining can be found there.
Pro tip: the visitor center on Prince Street has some excellent public bathrooms, along with information on the area 🙂
Ride through Jones Point Park (bathrooms can be found here, too) and follow the trail out to S. Washington Street, where the in-ground stone medallion will point you on your way.
Past Alexandria, the trail takes on a more suburban character and has some fairly steep (but short) up and down sections. Again, take your time and be careful around steep turns. Be careful of walkers and joggers.
The trail takes you directly to the front of Mt. Vernon, the estate of George Washington, which is owned and maintained by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
The site is open to the public 365 days a year and it is worth spending at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours exploring. History buffs will want to allow for even more time to cover the extensive grounds.
The gift shop and, more importantly, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is open to the general public. I highly recommend this as a refueling stop. There is a food court as well, but the restaurant offers good food at reasonable prices, and you’ll definitely need something after 18 miles on the trail!
I truly enjoyed the variety and pace of the Mt Vernon Trail and recommend it as a full-day trip from D.C. Because it is so popular, be sure to pace your day with the assumption of lots of starting and stopping, both to accommodate fellow trail users and to see all there is to see along the way.