Experience DC on Two Wheels: A Local’s Top Picks for Biking Adventures
If you’ve read my previous post about the top 20 unexpected things to do in Washington, D.C. you may have noticed that I have a passion for exploring this city on my bike. I originally purchased my bike as a means of commuting to work, but it quickly became my favorite way to explore everything DC has to offer. From biking to local festivals in Navy Yard and the Wharf to cruising down scenic nature trails, I’ve discovered so many interesting places on two wheels. So, I’m excited to share some of my favorite biking spots with you. Here are my top picks:
My Top 7 Picks
Capital Crescent Trail & C&O Canal Towpath
In a previous post, I went into more detail about both the Capital Crescent Trail and the C&O Canal Towpath, so be sure to check that out. But here’s a brief overview: both trails are located in Northwest DC. The Capital Crescent Trail is a shorter trail, spanning only 11 miles, while the C&O Canal Towpath is a much longer trail, stretching for around 185 miles. You can access parts of both trails easily just north of Georgetown. As you bike, you’ll pass by a variety of historic landmarks, old lockhouses, and even a few small waterfalls. Overall, it’s a serene and scenic ride that’s especially lovely on a sunny day.
Rock Creek Park
Another spot to check out is Rock Creek Park, which is a massive park that stretches over 1,700 acres. It’s the perfect place to escape the city and get lost in nature for a few hours. You’ll find hiking trails, picnic areas, and even a planetarium. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can bike the entire length of the park on the Rock Creek Park Trail.
As an added bonus, you can rest assured that you’ll be safe while cycling down Beach Drive, as the upper part of the road in Rock Creek Park is closed to motorized vehicles year-round, according to a press release from the National Park Service. Pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy the area without worrying about sharing it with vehicles.
Biking on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is a must-do for anyone looking for a scenic ride in the city. It’s no surprise that it’s a popular spot, but be warned, it’s a challenging route. If you’re a beginner, I suggest starting at the northern end of Beach Drive and gradually making your way south. This way, you’ll be able to tackle the steepest hills and enjoy the exhilarating descents at the beginning of your ride. You can save the more relaxed and leisurely stretches for the end of your journey.
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
If you’re looking for a bit of history and culture, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is a must-see. This 20-mile trail winds through some of DC’s most historic neighborhoods, including Anacostia, Capitol Hill, and Navy Yard. Along the way, you’ll pass the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Congressional Cemetery, and the beautiful Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and learn a bit about its rich history.
Ah, Hain’s Point. I’ve spent wayyyy too many hours here over the years. Located in East Potomac Park, Hains Point is a long, skinny peninsula that extends into the Potomac River. The scenic bike path is popular among locals, and it offers some of the best views of the river and the city’s skyline. The best time to visit is early in the morning, when you can enjoy the sunrise and the quiet of the park. And if you’re looking for the best picnic spot in the city, I’d nominate Hain’s Point without hesitation. There are plenty of secluded areas where you can spread out a blanket and enjoy the view.
This is another one of my favorite spots in DC. Located in the middle of the Potomac River, Roosevelt Island feels like a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city. The island offers a network of hiking and biking trails, including a scenic loop trail around the island. I love biking around the island in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors and the air is crisp.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a short hike to the center of the island, where you’ll find a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt. Just be sure to bring bug spray in the summer months – the mosquitoes can be brutal!
Metropolitan Branch Trail
For a more urban adventure, check out the Metropolitan Branch Trail. This 8-mile trail connects Union Station to Silver Spring, Maryland, and passes through some of DC’s most vibrant neighborhoods, including NoMa, Brookland, and Takoma. Along the way, you’ll see colorful murals, trendy restaurants, and bustling markets. It’s a great way to experience the city’s energy and diversity.
Last but not least, if you’re a foodie, you’ll want to stop by Union Market along your bike travels. This indoor food hall is home to some of the best and most unique eats in the city, from artisanal ice cream to Korean tacos. And the best part? You can bike there on the nearby Metropolitan Branch Trail, making it a great pit stop on your biking adventure.
I hope you found these recommendations helpful and that they inspire you to get out and explore DC on two wheels. Remember, there are endless opportunities for adventure in this city, so don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and discover your own new favorites. And don’t forget to share your own favorite biking spots in the comments below. Happy biking!