Updated: April 16, 2018 at 3:15 p.m.
The DMV boasts more than 40 miles of bike lanes and 8,000 miles of trails, making it the ideal area for planning a pedaled escape.
With the advent of dockless bike-shares last fall and the emergence of warm weather, now is the ideal time to explore the city on two wheels. Ride alongside other bikers, walkers and joggers on trails through underrated D.C. neighborhoods, stretches of grass, marshy lands and over river bridges. Lime bikes are $1 for every 30 minutes spent on the ride, and others are competitively priced, so you’ll never splurge on this outdoor exercise session.
Pack some sunscreen and water bottles, and hit the road at these bike trails around the District:
For an eclectic urban sampler: Metropolitan Branch Trail
Starting at Union Station and traversing more than seven neighborhoods into Maryland, the Metropolitan Branch Trail is an approximately eight-mile trail with paved, off-road trails and designated bike lanes that takes more than an hour to complete.
The trail follows the Metropolitan Branch Line of the B&O Railroad, which runs from Union Station to Silver Spring. Along the tracks, you’ll find remnants of the District’s industrial history. Several colorful murals on buildings and underpasses showcase some of D.C.’s best street art, including a four-story painting commemorating those who built the Lincoln Memorial.
The eclectic mix of concrete and natural terrain suits riders of all skill levels and provides an opportunity to better explore neighborhoods that students may not often approach on foot. Take a break and grab a no-frills snack from diner Murry & Paul’s in Brookland, or cool off with an iced drink from Culture Coffee Too at Takoma Park to fuel your ride.
For green space and cityscapes: Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
Along most of the about 8-mile river, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is the choice for nature lovers that want to remain in the District. The trail – a loop around a section of the Anacostia River – gives you access to one of D.C.’s largest green spaces. The Riverwalk Trail lets you explore largely untouched wetlands with copious greenery as you ride through the entrance to Kingman Island behind Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
For all of the flora that you will pedal past on your trip along the Riverwalk Trail, you will also see vibrant Southeast D.C. cityscapes and riverfront views. Yards Park is along the trail and offers a wading fountain to cool off at River Street Gardens, along with secluded seating areas nestled under shady trees.
While you’re there, you can also stop at one of the restaurants at Navy Yard or pick up a scoop at Ice Cream Jubilee, located at 301 Water St. SE, as a reward for a day of exercise.
For an endless ride: The Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is a paved, 18-mile track that runs from Rosslyn to George Washington’s riverside Mount Vernon Estate just south of Alexandria. Although the trail is mostly flat, the length will provide a more rigorous journey to those looking for at least a half-day excursion.
This trail is long, so you will find an array of riders from commuters and racers to families leisurely pedaling as they pick up and drop off the extensive path. End your ride at the Arlington Cemetery for a far-off monument sighting, or complete the trail to the end for a longer journey.
Along the trail, you’ll find some of the best views in the DMV. Marvel at monuments and experience historic Old Town Alexandria. End your journey with the option to experience the Mount Vernon Estate. The area surrounding the trail is just as breathtaking, treading through wooded stretches, riverside willows and a boardwalk over cattail marshlands.
For the casual biker: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail
Running more than three miles between the National Harbor and Alexandria, this trail is ideal for those looking for a short ride. Along the bridge, there are binoculars and lines of benches for those who need breaks to take in the view or catch their breath – nobody’s judging.
Off the Alexandria Metro, you can take a shuttle down King Street or start your ride early, window shopping in the boutique stores along the way. When you finally make it to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, prepare for even more sights on the horizon.
At night, you can strap on a bike light and ride to the bridge’s other side, along the Capital Wheel, a ferris wheel with more than 1.6 million LED lights. Since it is a short ride and you saved on travel fare, throw some cash or enjoy a show at one of D.C.’s closest casinos, MGM National Harbor. This ride is the perfect fit for the college student who hasn’t gotten exercise all winter but wants to start losing that hibernation weight.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Anacostia River is 12 miles long. It is about 8 miles long. We regret this error.