Five Favorites: Bike Routes

Photo courtesy of
‘Rounding the point’
courtesy of ‘randomduck’

Welcome to another edition of Five Favorites.  This week we’ll be checking out bike routes in the District.  Whether you’re a recreational weekend biker, a bike commuter, or a hard-core triathlete, DC’s bike routes have something to offer you.  Here are our picks for the top five bike routes in the city (including a map so you can check these out for yourself):

Number 5: Hains Point.  Hains Point in Southwest isn’t the most scenic bike route in the city, but it is nicely separated from traffic and offers some great straightaways to work up speed.  For that reason, it’s a favorite of serious competitive cyclists and triathletes in the city.  On weekday evenings and weekends, you’ll find cyclists doing ten or even twenty 5-mile loops.  The views of the Potomac River and the Washington Monument get old after the first couple laps, but you won’t find wide lanes with limited car access like these anywhere else.  If you’re looking to get in a flat but fast bike workout, Hains Point is for you.  Route stats: three or five mile loop, paved, plenty of room for passing, and limited car access.

Photo courtesy of
‘Running Against the Grain’
courtesy of ‘john w’

Number 4: C&O Towpath.  The C&O Towpath connects Georgetown west along the Potomac River out to Glen Echo and Great Falls.  While it’s not recommended for those with thin road tires because of the rough surface, it’s a beautiful scenic route that runs right along the C&O canal.  It runs 184 miles all the way out to Cumberland, MD and eventually out to Pittsburgh, and there are many places to stop along the way.  On weekends when the weather is nice, be prepared for lots of other bikers and joggers on the trail.  There are some moderate hills, but the DC section of the trail is generally an easy ride.  Trail stats: nine miles inside the Beltway, crushed stone surface, some narrow sections that will take some maneuvering around joggers and other cyclists.

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Eric Gilliland’

Number 3: Metropolitan Branch Trail. The Metropolitan Branch Trail is a mixture of off-road trails and on-road lanes that connects from Silver Spring down to the Union Station area in DC.  This eight-mile trail goes through many residential neighborhoods in the District, including Brookland, Brightwood, and Takoma Park, and leads to a major employment center in the District, so it’s popular with commuters.  Weekend riders are taking advantage of it as well, with its nicely paved off-road sections and wide lanes. The trail is still under construction, so this bike route will only get more popular in the future.  Trail stats: seven miles in DC, mixture of off road paths and on-road bike lanes, plenty of room to pass.

Photo courtesy of
‘Beach Drive’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

Number 2: Rock Creek Park/Beach Drive. While Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park might not be the most bike-friendly place during commuting hours, on weekends it is closed off to thru traffic and becomes a cyclist’s paradise.  Nice smooth roads, wide lanes, no cars to contend with, lots of shade, and a few rolling hills– what’s not to love? You’ll find pedestrians, joggers, recreational cyclists and serious athletes happily sharing the road on any weekend afternoon on Beach Drive.  Route stats: five miles in the District, paved, plenty of room for passing, limited car access.

Photo courtesy of
‘Shadow Riders’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

Number 1: Capital Crescent Trail. Here’s the one bike route in the city that seems to be used by a variety of cyclists throughout the week: commuters, serious cyclists, and people getting from point A to B can all be found on the Capital Crescent Trail. Stretching from Georgetown up to Bethesda and continuing on to Silver Spring, the Capital Crescent Trail is filled with commuters on weekday mornings and evenings and filled with recreational cyclists on weekends.  Trail stats: four miles within DC, paved, off-road, lots of room for passing (but can get pretty congested on weekend afternoons).

View WLDC_Bike Routes in a larger map

There you have it: DC’s five best biking trails.  These trails serve a variety of cyclists: hardcore athletes, recreational cyclists, commuters, and even little kids with training wheels.  If this pleasant fall weather holds out for a while, you’ve got a couple more weekends to check out these routes.  So grab your bike and go find your favorite!

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at)!

4 thoughts on “Five Favorites: Bike Routes

  1. Nice writeup. I haven’t tried the Met Branch yet because I’m really unclear as to how much of it is actually open.

    If you’re ambitious you can do a nice Capitol Crescent-Rock Creek Loop. You take the Capitol Crescent to Bethesda. Go under Wisconsin and continue on (it’s unpaved) until Jones Mill Road. Turn right and follow Jones Mill to Rock Creek. Take Rock Creek back to DC. Total distance: 22 miles.

  2. Pingback: We Love Weekends: January 16-17 » We Love DC

  3. Pingback: We Love Weekends, March 27-28 » We Love DC