In many cities and towns across the United States, summer is the season for partaking in outdoor fun, like having a picnic, playing baseball or riding a bicycle.
In D.C., where the climate matches that of the deep south, summer is the season for hiding in your basement with the A/C at full blast until the sun has begun to set and it’s safe to go outside again.
Luckily that season is over. Although autumn doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 22, Labor Day marks the unofficial start of fall, after which you can no longer wear white shoes (unless you are Nancy Sinatra, Colonel Sanders or Pee-wee Herman).
It also means you can go outside and do more than scurry quickly to your air-conditioned car. You can walk. Heck, you can even run. Or, try biking.
Rock Creek Park — At 3 square miles, this big chunk o’ northwest D.C. offers a plethora of trails for riding bikes or horses, running, walking and hiking. Portions of Beach Drive are closed to vehicle traffic every weekend from 7 a.m. Saturday until 7 p.m. Sunday, giving non-motorized users a turn on the roads.
Bikers may even spot some deer here, if you’re the sort who sometimes looks around while riding a bike and not the sort who keeps your eyes to the ground while barreling along at 40 mph wearing one of those stretchy suits that looks like it’s for superheroes.
C&O Canal Towpath — Short for Chesapeake and Ohio, the C&O Canal is 184 miles long, running from Cumberland, Maryland, through D.C. Mile 1 starts in Georgetown and heads north. The path is not paved, and steep drop-offs and a lack of fencing make this a trail on which to always stay aware.
Capital Crescent Trail — This 11-mile trail starts out in basically the same spot as the canal towpath and ends in Silver Spring, Maryland. Built on the site of the old B&O Railroad tracks, this paved path is reasonably level. The 15-mph speed limit keeps the use of this gem recreational.
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail — The first portion of this 28-mile trail in the southeast quadrant opened in 2012, and 15 miles of trails have since been completed. The multi-use trail takes riders north to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a 700-acre national park teeming with blooming plants, open ponds, birds and other wildlife.
Directly across the Anacostia from Kenilworth is the United States National Arboretum, 446 acres of beautiful gardens. The arboretum has 9 miles of paved roads, and biking is encouraged. In fact, they even have bike racks in every parking lot! Pack a lunch and make this a day trip. (Find out more about the arboretum here.)
Looking for something a bit more challenging? Try biking to George Washington’s old crib in Mount Vernon. It’s really great if you have a road bike. The paved trail is varied with mix of flat areas and a few hills. Parts run through Gravelly Point (where you can watch planes take off and land from National Airport) and Old Town, Alexandria. You get lots of picturesque views of the Potomac River along the way. The most difficult part of the trail is the steep hill leading up to Mount Vernon. Don’t feel ashamed if you have to walk the bike.
Granted, they’re not made to compete in the Tour de France, but they’ll get you where you want to go. Hey, are you still reading this? Get biking!