The Washington, DC area has hundreds of miles of scenic bike trails. The following bike trails are also suitable for walking, jogging and roller blading. The best trails in the area are also the most popular and crowded, especially on weekends. If you have the opportunity, get out there and ride on a weekday, or during the early morning hours or late in the day.
Capital Crescent Trail: 13 Miles - Paved/Crushed Stone
This is my favorite bike trail in the area. The trail is a rail-trail, built on the abandoned railbed of the Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad. The Trail is paved for the first 7 ½ miles from Georgetown to Bethesda, and is a limestone crushed stone surface from Bethesda to Rosemary Hills, in Silver Spring. The trail will eventually be extended to downtown Silver Spring. The Capital Crescent Trail is a beautiful trail with views of the C & O Canal and lots of shade. The first three miles run parallel to the C&O Towpath, but then veers off through affluent neighborhoods of NW Washington, DC. Between Georgetown and Bethesda, Fletchers Boat House is a great place to picnic, rent a bike or a canoe. From here you can follow the Capital Crescent Trail or you can veer off to the C & O Towpath. See Photos of the Capital Crescent Trail
Chesapeake & Ohio Towpath: 184 Miles - Natural Surface
The C&O Towpath is a National Historic Park that follows the Potomac River between Georgetown and Cumberland, Maryland. Along the way, you can see 19-th century locks from the canal’s working days and notable sights including Great Falls, the Monocacy River Aqueduct, Harpers Ferry, and the Paw Paw Tunnel. Beginning at mile 26, you will find overnight camping areas and water pumps about every 5 miles.
Mount Vernon Trail: 18 Miles – Paved
This is a scenic bike trail that starts from Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC and runs along the Potomac River to George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon. The trail passes through Old Town Alexandria, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Sailing Marinas and Fort Hunt Park. The section that passes through Old Town Alexandria follows public roads with a lot of traffic (which does yield to bike riders) and may not be suitable for young children.
Washington & Old Dominion Trail: 45 Miles – Paved
This is a rail trail built on the former roadbed of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, which runs from Shirlington to Purcellville, Virginia. A horse trail runs along side much of the route. Access to this trail from Roosevelt Island is made by using the 4 mile long Custis Trail.
Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail: 20 Miles – Paved
This trail is a collection of paths through Rock Creek Park that were linked together over the years. Sights on the bike trail include the National Zoo and the Equestrian Center at the Candy Cane City playground. There are also some nice picnic areas at the north end of the trail. The Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail now extends to Beach Drive where the National Park Service closes the road to automobiles on weekends and holidays.
See also a guide to Rail Trails in the DC Capital Region