6 great biking trails in Northern Virginia

These biking trails across the region provide both exercise and entertainment for a healthy and happy spring and summer.

mount vernon biking trail with bikers on it with a view of dc in the background
The Mount Vernon Trail (Photo by Renee Sklarew)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for our April print issue, before the current coronavirus situation we are facing. Please check the trails’ websites to see if they are open at this time.

Written by Renee Sklarew, Mathina Calliope and Nevin Martell

Mount Vernon Trail

Go if: You want to time travel on two wheels.

Address: Arlington, Alexandria and Belle Haven

Mileage: 36 miles round-trip from Key Bridge to Mount Vernon. (For a shorter ride, find free parking at Theodore Roosevelt Island, LBJ Memorial Grove, Washington Sailing Marina, Dyke Marsh and Fort Hunt Park.)

Difficulty: Intermediate, Old Town section joins city roads

The Mount Vernon Trail takes you on a picturesque path along the Potomac River, with the river opening up and getting wider the closer you get to Mount Vernon. The trail starts at Roosevelt Island (or, if you’re feeling particularly energetic, start earlier on the Potomac Heritage Trail and ride past all the monuments along the same path as the GW Parkway). With many historic things to see along the way (Netherlands Carillon, Old Town Alexandria, Jones Point, Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove, Arlington Cemetery), it’s a history-packed day. For a shorter ride, there are multiple parking lots along the way. Arrive at Mount Vernon, lunch at the Inn, say hello to George and then don’t worry about pedaling the 18 miles back to civilization. You can hop aboard a Potomac Riverboat Company by Hornblower vessel and get a new view.

Where to cool your wheels: Top off the history theme with lunch at The Mount Vernon Inn serving up American classics with servers in Colonial-period costumes. At a midway point, grab a snack in Old Town Alexandria, or start the day with a picnic at Gravelly Point Park, watching the airplanes take off from Reagan before you hit the trail.

Massanutten Mountain Bike Park 

Go if: You want to visit a ski resort in spring.

Address: 1822 Resort Drive, McGaheysville

Mileage: 30 miles (split amongst multiple trails)

Difficulty: Varies by trail

Yes, Massanutten Resort is well known for its skiing and even its summer activities, but the resort’s Mountain Bike Park is a pretty cool feature that flies under the radar. Mountain bikers love it for the gorgeous views and thrilling descents—and the added novelty of taking the ski lift to the top of the mountain. With 30 miles of beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert trails, nobody is going home without a challenging workout. Looking to shred? The renowned World Cup Trail has rocky, tight, technical sections and super rock gardens. If you’re looking for daredevil jumps and maximum speeds, take the Creamy Trail. Trying mountain biking for the first time? The Peanut is the perfect practice track with its mellow, gentle slopes. No snow, all the hills.

Where to cool your wheels: We’d recommend making a weekend out of this one. Get your exercise in on your bike, then cool out in the spa, followed by dinner at the lodge.

Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail
Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail (Photo by Don Sweeney)

Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail

Go if: You want to have fun throughout Fairfax.

Address: Across Fairfax County

Mileage: 40 miles

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Named after the congressman who has worked to protect natural lands in Fairfax, the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail (GCCT) runs 40 miles of flat bike path from Great Falls Park all the way to Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Especially scenic in the spring, look for a carpet of bluebells on either side of the path. GCCT knits together 10 Northern Virginia parks, including Lake Accotink, Wakefield Park and Reston’s segment of the W&OD Trail. In busier spots, expect to share the trail with joggers, equestrians, dog walkers and strollers. If you’ve ever wanted to try a multiday bike tour, the newish path is part of the East Coast Greenway, which stretches from Maine to Key West.

Fountainhead Regional Park

Go if: You want to be truly challenged.

Address: 10875 Hampton Road, Fairfax Station

Mileage: 15 total miles, with shorter sections

Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced

Hard-core mountain bikers have lots of options on Northern Virginia’s network of hilly and forested trails. But for true mountain bike enthusiasts, they all know that Fountainhead Regional Park offers the most challenging trails in the region. Bike it and you’ll find it’s got a head-spinning series of twists and turns with 14.2 miles of short steep climbs and several fast descents. The expert-only section consists of double-black loops with three major drops, heart-pumping jump platforms and fields of rocks. But it’s also an equal opportunity park: The stacked loop system means there are trails for beginners and intermediate mountain bikers as well. Beginners love the Green Loop’s gentle series of bridges, while the Blue Loop’s rooty rivulets and screaming berms make for some technically difficult terrain. When you stop for a breather, take in some gorgeous views of the Occoquan River.

Where to cool your wheels: Just about 4 miles from the park is the recently revamped and now more casual (read: it’s OK to go with your post-biking glow) Trummer’s. The quaint town of Clifton is the backdrop for the restaurant’s seasonal, modern takes on Southern cuisine. After that rigorous ride, Trummer’s house-made s’mores are guilt-free.

Cupcake Ramble at BicycleSpace DC

Go if: You want to eat sweets from your seat.

Address: 1512 Okie St. NE, Washington, DC

Mileage: 15-20 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate

Forget bikes and brews, how about cupcakes? BicycleSpace DC offers a weekly come-one, come-all ride on Saturdays called the Cupcake Ramble that ends with a sweet treat. A 15- to 25-mile easy ride through the city with the finish line at a local bakery? Sign us up.

Where to cool your wheels: After the cupcakes, want a cocktail? BicycleSpace in Ivy City is near a number of hip distilleries and City Winery.

Loudoun County Ale Trail 

Go if: You want a side of beer with your bike.

Address: Find stops at visitloudoun.org/drink/loco-ale-trail

Mileage: 10 miles

Difficulty: Beginner

Loudoun County is home to 34 craft breweries and owners have joined forces to create the Loudoun County Ale Trail. Some say it was designed especially for beer drinkers with a bike habit. You can tour these innovative breweries from a bike seat by hopping onto the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (W&OD), a 45-mile paved trail stretching from Arlington to Purcellville.

This post originally appeared in our April 2020 print issue. For more great hiking and biking trails, subscribe to our Parks & Rec newsletter.

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