Bicycling in Washington, D.C.
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
The numerous trails in the District and its surrounding areas are well maintained and clearly marked.
C&O Canal Towpath. For scenery, you can't beat the C&O Canal Towpath, which starts in Georgetown and runs along the C&O Canal into Maryland. You could pedal to the end of the canal, nearly 200 mi away in Cumberland, Maryland, but most cyclists stop at Great Falls, 13 mi from where the canal starts. The occasionally bumpy towpath, made of gravel and packed earth, passes through wooded areas of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. You can see 19th-century locks from the canal's working days, and you may catch a glimpse of mules pulling a canal barge. The barges now haul passengers, not cargo. Washington, DC. www.nps.gov/choh.
East Potomac Park. Cyclists might try the 3-mi loop around the golf course in East Potomac Park at Hains Point, the southern area of the park (entry is near the Jefferson Memorial). Though somewhat less scenic than a run around the Mall, it's a favorite training course for dedicated local racers and would-be triathletes. Washington, DC. 202/485-9874 National Park Service.
Mall. Each day bicyclists cruise the Mall amid the endless throngs of runners, walkers, and tourists. There's relatively little car traffic, and bikers can take in some of Washington's finest landmarks, such as the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, WWII Memorial, and the Smithsonian's many museums, as they travel from the Lincoln Memorial all the way up to the Capitol and back (about a 4-mi loop). Those looking for a longer trek can extend their ride up and down Independence and Constitution Avenues. Washington, DC.
Mount Vernon Trail. Mount Vernon Trail, across the Potomac in Virginia, has two sections. The northern part, closest to D.C. proper, is 3.5 mi long and begins near the causeway across the river from the Kennedy Center that heads to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It then passes Ronald Reagan National Airport and continues on to Old Town Alexandria. This section has slight slopes and almost no interruptions for traffic, making it a delightful biking route. Even relatively inexperienced bikers enjoy the trail, which provides wonderful views of the Potomac. To access the trail from the District, take the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge or the Rochambeau Memorial Bridge, also known as the 14th Street Bridge. South of the airport, the trail runs down to the Washington Marina. The final mile of the trail's northern section meanders through protected wetlands before ending in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. The trail's 9-mi southern section extends along the Potomac from Alexandria to Mount Vernon. Washington, DC.
Rock Creek Park. Rock Creek Park covers an area from the edge of Georgetown to Montgomery County, Maryland. An asphalt bike path running through the park has a few challenging hills but is mostly flat, and it's possible to bike several miles without having to stop for cars (the roadway is closed entirely to cars on weekends). Bikers can begin a ride at the Lincoln Memorial or Kennedy Center, pass the Washington Zoo, and eventually come to the Washington, D.C., line, where the trail separates, with one part continuing to Bethesda and another to Silver Spring. Fifteen miles of dirt trails crisscross the park; these are best for hiking. Washington, DC.
Washington Area Bicyclist Association. WABA provides an organizational home for bike enthuasists across the Washington metropolitan area. Members conduct local outreach to encourage biking, do advocacy for better bikes lanes, and educate the public about bike safety. WABA also provides an institutional structure for those looking for organized longer rides. 1803 Connecticut Ave., 3rd fl., Upper Northwest, Washington, DC, 20009. 202/518-0524. www.waba.org.
Rentals and Tours
Big Wheel Bikes. Big Wheel Bikes, near the C&O Canal Towpath, rents multispeed and other types of bikes hourly or for the day. Rates range from $5-$10 per hour and $25-$100 per day. There is a three-hour minimum. Tandem bikes, kids' bikes, and bikes with baby carriers are also available. A second location is near the Capital Crescent Trail. There's also an Alexandria branch if you want to ride the Mount Vernon Trail. 1034 33rd St. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC, 20007. 202/337-0254. www.bigwheelbikes.com. 2 Prince St., Alexandria, VA, 22314. 703/739-2300.
Bike and Roll. Bike and Roll is a tour company that offers three-hour, 4- to 8-mi guided tours of Downtown Washington. The company offers tours that range in cost from $35 to $50, and bike rental is included. Bike and Roll has locations at the Old Post Office Pavillion and at Union Station. Advance reservations are required. Tours start from the Mall. 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Downtown, Washington, DC, 20004. 202/842-2453. www.bikethesites.com.
The Boathouse at Fletcher's Cove. The Boathouse at Fletcher's Cove, next to the C&O Towpath and Capital Crescent Trail, rents fixed-gear bikes for $7 per hour and $28 per day. 4940 Canal Rd. NW, at Reservoir Rd., Georgetown, Washington, DC, 20007. 202/244-0461. www.fletcherscove.com.
Capital Bikeshare. One of the nation's largest bike-share programs lets you pick up a bike at one of 140 stations located around Washington and Arlington, Virginia, and then return it at a location near your destination. Using a credit card to pay the $7 24-hour membership fee at a bike station kiosk, you receive a code to unlock a bike. The membership entitles you to an unlimited number of rides during the 24 hours. The first 30 minutes are free, then different rates apply; a 90-minute trip is $4.50. Bikers provide their own helmets. Capital Bikeshare is designed for quick, short trips. A bike rental shop may be a better option for visitors needing a bike for a full day. Washington, DC. 877/430-2453. www.capitalbikeshare.com.
Thompson's Boat Center. In addition to it's access to the river, Thompson's Boat Center allows easy access to the Rock Creek Trail and the C&O Towpath and is close to the monuments. Adult single-speed bikes are $7 per hour and $25 per day. Rentals are on a first-come, first-served basis. 2900 Virginia Ave. NW, Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC, 20037. 202/333-4861 or 202/333-9543. Nov.-Feb. Foggy Bottom/GWU.
Washington Sailing Marina. Washington Sailing Marina rents all-terrain bikes for $8 per hour and $25 per day. The marina is on the Mount Vernon Trail off the George Washington Parkway, south of Ronald Reagan National Airport. 1 Marina Dr., Alexandria, VA, 22314. 703/548-9027. www.washingtonsailingmarina.com.
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