Don’t wait for summer: Spring and Fall are the best times to be outdoors, after the winter thaw and before the burning heat of July and August. April & May as well as September & October are always your best bets for optimal outdoor weather.
I have always enjoyed biking. Elsie has more recently bought in. It’s great exercise, it’s low impact, and as a bonus you get to tour around on a slower-moving vehicle which opens up vistas you wouldn’t notice in an automobile.
But biking is dangerous. Biking at night is putting your life in your hands (lamps, reflectors, or not!), but even biking during the day on major roads and intersections can be pushing the limits of safety. So we choose trails not used by motor vehicles. There are always some dangers but the threat of collision with major traffic pales in comparison. Here are some of our favorite routes:
- Capital Crescent Trail (Bethesda Outdoor Pool to Bethesda Row)
There’s lots of free parking at the Bethesda Outdoor Pool and Bethesda Row has a great little coffee shop – Paul – that sits right on the bike path. It’s less than two miles which takes under 10 minutes even for the leisurely bike rider and you get the reward of a drink on the other end. You’ll find lots of bikers, walkers, and runners on this popular trail as well as a lot of greenery even though you’re going right through the city.
- Capital Crescent Trail (Bethesda Outdoor Pool to Fletcher’s Cove)
Same starting point but heading South, a long gradual descent down to the Potomac River but lots of interesting sites along the way. This is a much longer bike ride which could be a couple of hours there and back. Keep in mind that the return trip will be slightly uphill! But again, a great reward at the end as Fletcher’s Cove is a great place to have an ice cream, watch boaters, picnic, and relax on the shore of the river.
- C&O Canal Towpath (Fletcher’s Cove to Georgetown)
The Capital Crescent Trail merges into the C&O Canal at Fletcher’s Cove and it’s just a short jaunt along the towpath down to Georgetown, the origin of this 184-mile canal. The path is fairly level and peeks out onto grand views of the Potomac along the way. Once you get to Georgetown, you can go up the hill and grab a drink or just hang out at the beautiful boardwalk area. As is the case with routes #1 and #2, biking in is a great way to easily access hotspots that are otherwise a pain to park at.
- C&O Canal Towpath (starting at Monocacy River Aqueduct)
Unlike the first three routes, this one is far away from any development whatsoever; on this portion of the towpath, you are completely surrounded by nature. Go in either direction and you can pretty much decide how many miles of serenity you’d like on this pristine path. Make sure you save some time to take in the aqueduct itself, an engineering feat that survived multiple Civil War attacks. If you decide to go South, you’ll pass the Dickerson Coal plant and get a first-hand view of its gargantuan size.
- Carl Henn Millenium Trail
This trail is a fully developed gigantic loop around the city of Rockville. Travelling the whole loop could take a while so you may want to start with just a section of it. While you’ll see lots of sites along the way, keep in mind that there are lots and lots of intersections; make sure you can get on and off the bike easily. This trail is by far the most urban of any on the list.
- ICC Bike Path
This is one long, well-built path next to the Rte. 200 from Neelsville Road to Emory Lane. Unlike #5, it has zero intersections and is the absolute safest two-mile stretch you’ll find anywhere. It’s only disadvantage: no cool destinations – neither end offers anything to buy or see. But if you just want a safe place to bike, this is the route!
- Vernon Trail (Teddy Roosevelt Island to Gravelly Point)
On the other end of the spectrum, this route is nothing but attractions: from the huge statue of Teddy Roosevelt on the island to the best place to view planes coming in and out of Reagan airport, and everything inbetween – great views of the Washington Monument, picturesque meadows fronting the Potomac River, causeways and bridges; it’s DC at its best! And the number of intersections is reasonable. The only drawback to this one might be its distance from Germantown!
And if you’re not into biking, many of these are great walking or jogging paths as well. And great for families. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are many more to explore! But it gives you a taste of what’s out there.
Biking is physical exercise, family fun, and spiritual rejuvenation. That makes it worthwhile all the way around.
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