5 Fun Daytrips If You Like to Bike

Done all the bike trails around Washington? Here are reasons to put your bike in your car.

Take your new pandemic bike for a historic ride on the Virginia Capital Trail. Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation

Indian Head Rail Trail

26 miles, out and back

This 10-foot-wide, 13-mile paved trail in Southern Maryland passes through wetlands and the Mattawoman Creek stream valley, so you may spot bald eagles, turtles, deer, and other wildlife.

Covered Bridges Ride

39.8-mile loop

This ride in the countryside of Maryland’s Frederick County features a slew of water crossings—including on three covered wooden bridges. For directions, download the Heritage Bicycle Tours brochure, then scroll to the North County Bridge Sampler.

Virginia Capital Trail

52 miles, one way

This well-maintained paved path between Jamestown and Richmond passes old plantations and battlefields, views of the James River, the former homes of US Presidents, and more than 40 historical markers. Some stretches are next to a road and thus can be noisy. If you bike to either end, you can take Amtrak back—or take the train there and back from DC.

C&O Canal Towpath

184.5 miles, one way

Already biked part of the lush, unpaved towpath starting in Georgetown? If you’re saddle-ready, you could ride past Great Falls, then Harpers Ferry, to Cumberland, either camping or booking lodging along the way. The trip usually takes three to six days; from Cumberland, you can return on Amtrak. For tips, check out this website or this article.

Great Allegheny Passage

334.5 miles, one way

If you’re ambitious, you can ride all the way from Pittsburgh to DC, combining the C&O towpath and the 150-mile, mostly crushed-limestone GAP trail. Don’t let the mileage daunt you: In one 24-mile stretch, from the Eastern Continental Divide to Cumberland, it’s mostly downhill. Outfitters offer guided trips and support for self-guided journeys. You can also ride with your bike to Pittsburgh on Amtrak.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.