Looking for a good place to get out of the house and explore? Here’s a sample of seven popular trails in the DC area. Follow the links at the bottom of the list to find even more.
Washington & Old Dominion Trail — The W&OD, a popular paved rail trail, runs 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcellville, VA. It’s sometimes nicknamed the skinniest park in Virginia and is along the former roadbed f the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad. There are multiple parking lots along the trail, making it easy to jump on or off at socially distanced spaces.
Mount Vernon Trail — The Mount Vernon Trail is a multi-use paved trail following the Potomac from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate to Teddy Roosevelt Island. It connects with several regional trails along the way. The trail is open year-round from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and commuters can use the trail at any time. Please keep in mind, public restrooms and parking lots are currently closed so plan accordingly.
Anacostia Tributary Trail System — The Anacostia Tributary Trail System is over 30 miles of interconnected green space from the Bladensburg Waterfront Park to Beltsville along tributaries of the Anacostia River. It is used for bikers, hikers and equestrians.
C&O Canal Towpath — The historic towpath, which consists of packed dirt and stone, follows the Potomac River in Georgetown for 184.5 miles from Washington to Cumberland, MD. It was first built for mules to walk beside the canal as they towed canal boats through the river. Today, especially on sunny warm days, it is a popular trail for walkers, joggers and bikers.
Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail— The WB&A rail trail is a new project, with two sections (about nine miles) completed. It will eventually become part of the East Coast Greenway. The trail is built on the old WB&A Railroad (which operated from 1887 to 1935). The main railroad line ran between DC and Baltimore, parallel to the current Amtrak line.
Rock Creek Trail –This 14-mile trail in Montgomery County runs from Rockville to the DC border along the Rock Creek stream valley. The area mostly has urban surroundings, but the trail itself is mainly woodsy. The trail is known as a nice traffic-free path between Rockville and Bethesda. The trail ends where Beach Drive enters DC.
Martha Custis Trail— It’s only four miles long, but the Martha Custis Trail connects to the Mt. Vernon Trail and the W&OD and runs alongside I-66. It is known as a good shortcut for area bicyclists. Although it’s only four miles long, expect to experience some climbing and winding.
COMING SOON—The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) — This proposed eight-mile trail will run from Union Station to Silver Spring along the B&O Railroad line, passing through several historic neighborhoods. The trail will follow the Metropolitan Branch Line of the B&O Railroad. Plans include connections to the Capital Crescent Trail, Anacostia Trails system and more.
For more places to get out and about in the DC area, check out Bike Maryland, Bike Washington, Bike Virginia and Rails to Trails.
– Kate Oczypok updated this article on 5/6/20.