- Washington, D.C.
For the casual and avid cyclist alike, the USA’s Capital Region is full of scenic surprises.
Check out some of the most popular paths in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath
The C&O Canal was once a busy waterway for transporting goods to points between Washington, D.C. and Cumberland, Maryland. It is no longer in commercial use, but the hard-packed dirt-and-gravel trail that hugs the banks of the old canal makes for some great cycling.
Length: Nearly 300 kilometers
Access points: There are many access points and parking lots along the length of the path.
What you’ll see: Thick trees, waterfalls, scenic bridges, wildlife and historic structures.
Don’t miss: A bike ride in the fall for breathtaking autumn leaves.
Bike rentals: The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove and Thompson Boat Center are the two official park partners; many more independent outfitters are available. A free, two-hour bike loan program is offered in Potomac, Maryland (weekends and holidays only).
Biking the C&O Canal Towpath offers forest and river views through the Potomac River valley.
Great Allegheny Passage
If 300 kilometers on the C&O aren’t enough, you can continue on to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania via the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), which connects to the C&O in Cumberland, Maryland. The GAP uses old railway paths on a crushed limestone surface for a smooth, bike-and-pedestrian-friendly trail.
Length: 241 kilometers
Access points: Dozens of short- and long-term parking lots accessible from Cumberland to Pittsburgh
What you’ll see: Long-range mountain views, old railroads, rushing rivers, the Eastern Continental Divide, the Mason-Dixon Line and quaint trail towns with amenities
Don’t miss: Big Savage Tunnel, a trail favorite between April and November. This one-kilometer tunnel opens up to a spectacular view on its southern end.
Bike rentals: Multiple outfitters available with one-way and multi-day packages.
Virginia Capital Trail
The Virginia Capital Trail runs between the current capital of Richmond and the historic capital of Jamestown. This fully paved trail is great for all experience levels and has access to many amenities along the way.
Length: 83 kilometers
Access points: Bike access along the length of the path. Parking lots concentrated at the terminus points, with several more in between.
What you’ll see: A blend of natural and urban settings: the Richmond city skyline, James River, pastoral countryside, historic plantation homes and picturesque bridges.
Don’t miss: Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum at Mile Marker 0.
Bike rentals: Available in the cities of Richmond and Williamsburg.
The Virginia Capital Trail follows the James River and provides a fully-paved biking experience – perfect for families.
Virginia Creeper Trail
Have your camera handy for this trail. Formerly a railway, the Virginia Creeper Trail travels along idyllic, postcard-worthy landscapes in southwest Virginia. The path was inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame in 2015 and attracts bicyclists of all ages and physical fitness.
Length: 55 kilometers
Access points: The Whitetop Station Trailhead is the main trailhead at the southern terminus, Damascus in the middle and Abingdon at the northern end.
What you’ll see: Tranquil farmland, tree-lined trails, quaint towns, rivers and wooden bridges
Don’t miss: The hamlet of Damascus near the mid-point of the trail. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and five other major trails cross the town, earning it the nickname of “Trail Town USA.”
Bike rentals: In Abingdon, Damascus and Whitetop. Shuttle service is available.
The Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia is a shared-use trail, frequented by hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.