It’s not often you get to pair the phrases “iconic American home” and “fantastic bike workout” in the same sentence. Leave it to George Washington to break the mould.
For DC-area cyclists, there isn’t a much more easily accessible distance ride than the 18-mile Mount Vernon bike trail. Of course, since it technically makes up part of the East Coast Greenway, you could conceivably continue on towards either Maine or Florida should you be feeling particularly ambitious. For most of us, however, the path originates in Arlington directly opposite Theodore Roosevelt Island, following the banks of the Potomac to its historic terminus: Mr. Washington’s acclaimed Mount Vernon estate.
While the destination may be rewarding enough in its own right, the Mount Vernon bike trail is replete with interesting sights and stops along the way. There’s the Ronald Reagan National Airport, Old Town Alexandria, Jones Point Park (which still displays remnants from its WWI-era naval shipyard), and the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve – not to mention some pretty stunning cross-river views of the National Mall.
Find the Perfect Ride for Cycling the Mount Vernon Bike Trail:
To make things even more appealing, the trail is almost entirely off-street. Riders are required to merge into traffic for about a mile as they pass through Alexandria, but it sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. Given the lethargic traffic and dedicated bike lane along Union Street, it’s possible you may not even notice.
Otherwise, it’s well-maintained asphalt and a series of wooden bridges the whole way down.
Since the Mount Vernon bike trail follows the west bank of the Potomac River, the topography is fairly gentle for most of the ride. The two noticeable exceptions are the 60-ft climb heading south into Fort Hunt, and the 90-ft climb as you reach the estate itself. And speaking of the renowned 21-room farmhouse, it’s up to you whether or not you want to shell out the $20 for an adult admission fee once you arrive at the front gates. Cheaper tickets are also available for advance purchase online.
If all you’re looking for is a scenic workout, however, you’ll have a hard time finding a better bike trail this close to the heart of American politics.
(The Mount Vernon bike trail is accessible via metro stations Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, National Airport, and Braddock Rd)