By Julia Winkler
As the beautiful weather continues, take advantage of the warmth to skip the gym and get outside for your exercise routine. The following biking and jogging trails offer a beautiful respite from stuffy gyms; whether you’re seeking a challenging solo ride or leisurely family adventure, the area has something to offer. So, dust off the bikes and get out there—just don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray.
CITY OF ALEXANDRIA
Alexandria Heritage Trail
This 23-mile trail through historic Old Town Alexandria takes the rider past much of the town’s historic landmarks. A portion of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the trek is detailed in Pamela Cressey’s “Walk and Bike the Alexandria Heritage Trail: A Guide to Exploring a Virginia Town’s Hidden Past.” This guide is available at several bike rental shops throughout the city. Guided bike tours are offered twice a year. While there are a few steep hills, the trail’s largest challenge is its urban setting, as traffic can pose a danger. Portions of the trail are off-road, though the entire trail is paved and well designated, with sidewalks offering a respite at the more challenging portions. Contact the Alexandria Archaeology Museum at 703-838-4399 for more information.
Martha Custis Trail
Lee Highway and Lynn St., Rosslyn; map
A popular bicycle commuter trail, Martha Custis runs through Arlington parallel to Interstate 66. Connecting the W&OD trail to downtown Washington, it runs directly to the Key Bridge and connects to the Mount Vernon Trail, accessible to other entrances to the district. Housing a few moderate climbs and winding turns, it is not recommended for beginners.
Culpeper Area Mountain Biking Organization (CAMBO) Trails
While there are no public bike trails in the county, CAMBO members gain access to four miles of cleared trails at Laurel Valley Park and 10 miles of buff single-track at Burke Farm in Rixeyville. The organization leads scheduled group rides for members and offers trails ranging from beginner to expert levels. Contact The Bike Shop at 540-825-2105 or visit www.cambomtb.com for information on membership.
Burke Lake Park
7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station; 703-323-6601; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/burkelake
A relatively flat 4.7-mile loop gravel trail circles Burke Lake and the bays jutting out from it, welcoming walkers, runners and bikers. The American Hiking Society’s trail specialists rated it one of the 10 best metropolitan area fitness trails in the nation.
A 40-mile-long trail connects the entire county from one end to the other, beginning at Great Falls Park and extending south to the Occoquan River. Rich with stream valleys, this trail provides an organic experience in that it’s maintained but not groomed, so bikers and runners can expect to find snow, mud and stone dust in places. An “Appalachian Trail-like experience,” it is open to hikers, joggers, equestrians, strollers and neighborhood dog walkers alike. Accessible to the Vienna and Franconia/Springfield Metros by connector trails, as well as linked to the W&OD Trail, it provides an all-encompassing countywide experience. Highlights include the Sugarland Run and Cub Run Trails. See www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/cct to learn which segments are more family-friendly versus those that are more rustic and challenging.
Difficult Run Trail
A flat but lengthy trail, Difficult Run runs 12 miles from Glade Drive in Reston to Great Falls National Park. Good for beginning to intermediate riders, it is a mix of single-track and dirt path that requires several crossings.
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park (Big Rocky Run Stream Valley Trail)
5040 Walney Road, Chantilly; 703-631-0013; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ecl
Approximately four miles of trails through upland and bottomland forest and along meadows offer extensive views of wildlife to walkers and joggers. Bicycles are permitted on Walney Road and Big Rocky Run Stream Valley Trails, the latter offering a gravel/paved 2-mile path ending at the Fairfax County Parkway.
Fountainhead Regional Park
10875 Hampton Road, Fairfax Station; 703-250-9124; www.nvrpa.org/parks/fountainhead/index.php
A nearly 8-mile mountain bike path is open, weather permitting, to bikers only. A fairly difficult course, it follows a series of cascading loops and is recommended for intermediate to advanced bikers. Separate trails include a 17.5-mile course for hikers and joggers from Fountainhead to Bull Run Park and a looping 2-mile horse trail, separate but at times overlapping.
Great Falls National Park
9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean; 703-285-2966; www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm
A segment of the George Washington Memorial Parkway trail, Great Falls National Park is made up of 15 miles of hiking and running trails, five of which are shared with bikers and equestrians. These trails offer something for bikers of any level of experience: While the Ridge Trail is fairly steep and difficult, the others are mostly flat and level terrain. A National and Virginia Historic Landmark, the park offers gorgeous views of the falls and Potomac River.
Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Park Road, Springfield; 703-569-0285; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/accotink
A relatively flat biking/jogging trail circles Lake Accotink, with offshoots that include a 2.5-mile gravel/asphalt path along Accotink Creek and a 5-mile gravel trail connecting to Wakefield Park in Annandale.
Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Road, Lorton; 703-339-2385; www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/mas.shtml
A Virginia State Park, Mason Neck has three miles of unpaved hiking trails open to runners and four miles of multi-use paved trails. All are considered easy except for the Eagle Spur Trail, which is moderately difficult given its longer distance and greater number of hills. Bike trails also connect it to Pohick Bay Regional Park. No horses allowed.
Pohick Bay Regional Park
7550 Reservation Drive, Springfield; 703-866-0566; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/srunrec.htm
Although bicycles are permitted only on the 4-mile trail connecting the park to Mason Neck State Park, joggers can find a series of trails totaling seven miles with some of the most difficult terrain in the county. Featuring steeper and more uneven than other trails in the area, Pohick Bay’s runners can expect a challenge amid views of wildlife including bluebird boxes. Four miles of trails are reserved for equestrians as well.
7550 Reservation Drive, Springfield; 703-866-0566; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/riverbend
Riverbend contains 10 miles of unpaved multi-use trails open to hikers, jogger, bikers and equestrians, although certain portions are closed to bikers. The park’s terrain is relatively flat; small hills are wide and well-marked. Also contains a segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail, as well as a path downriver connecting it to Great Falls National Park.
Town of Remington
The town of Remington now offers four marked biking routes, all rich with historical sites. See Civil War battlefields on the 11.7-mile Civil War Loop and a vast display of architecture on the 10-mile Tinpot Turn. The 28-mile Bealeton Loop winds around historic Elk Marsh, and the Mountain View trail traverses 23.2 miles around the Rappahannock and Hazel Rivers. See www.remingtonva.org/biking.html for detailed maps and historical information.
17501 Franklin Park Drive, Purcellville; 540-338-7603; www.loudoun.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=914
Popular with high school cross-country teams, the park has two perimeter trails totaling around 3.5 miles. While the inner trail is used primarily by equestrians, the outer is open to bikers, joggers and walkers. Terrain is hilly and recommended for intermediate runners and bikers.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
A designated National Recreation Trail, the trail in its entirety runs 830 miles from the Northern Virginia to Pittsburgh, Pa. Fifteen miles of the trail run from Seneca Rocks on the Fairfax County border to Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park on Goose Creek.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Prince William Forest Park
8100 Park Headquarters Road, Triangle; 703-221-7181; www.nps.gov/prwi
The national park offers over 12 miles of paved and 9.2 miles of gravel roads for every level of biker. Three miles of Scenic Drive are a dedicated bike lane that’s relatively flat and recommended for beginners or families. More experienced mountain bikers can use any of the park’s 10 fire roads for off-road biking. Bike maps are available at the visitors center.
Mount Vernon Trail
Just over 18 miles long, the trail runs alongside the Potomac River from Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island in Rosslyn. One of the most popular trails in the area, it runs through Old Town Alexandria and four miles in Arlington with views of the Navy Marine Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Entirely paved and fairly flat, there are few large challenges; only one large climb exists near Mount Vernon. Other views include the Washington Skyline, Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove and Gravelly Point.
Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park
Park office: 21293 Smiths Switch Road, Ashburn; 703-729-0596; www.nvrpa.org/parks/wod/index.php
Prominently seen throughout Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties, the W&OD trail traverses the region in a 45-mile route from Purcellville to Shirlington. Built on the roadbed of the former W&OD Railroad, it welcomes walkers, joggers and bikers and includes an adjacent 33-mile gravel bridle path for equestrians. Accessible to the East Falls Church Metro station, it also connects to the Custis and Mount Vernon Trails. See www.wodfriends.org for a map and information on the varying difficulties of trail segments.