Taking a family bike ride is a great way to stay healthy and explore more of your hometown all at once. The real challenge is finding a bike trail that’s right for everyone in your crew. Whether you’ve got a few trikes and balance bikes in your group or are ready to hit the bigger trails on two wheels, keep reading to discover our favorite bike trails for families.
If your little ones have just started to pedal on their own, head out to one of these easy, kid-friendly loops. It’s never too early to start your family bike riding tradition.
Rock Creek Park
Head to Beach Dr. on a weekend or holiday when the road is closed, and your little one can ride their bikes in a city street! If you're going to take to a trail, hit a path during workday hours to avoid other cyclists. If you start on the north end of the park and head south, your kiddos can coast mostly downhill (of course, that requires some pre-planning for when you reach the bottom).
Metropolitan Branch Trail
This rail-to-trail will eventually run 8 miles from Silver Spring, MD to Union Station, but for now you can hop on between NoMa and upper Northeast for an easy, 4 mile ride. There is a steep section in the Fort Trotten area, so little peddlers will want to skip this section or walk their bikes up the steep hill. While this trail lacks the views and greenery of some of the other trails featured on this list, it does boast a number of murals and public art works. This trail is used frequently by commuters, so weekend rides are best for those looking to avoid heavy cycle traffic.
Families love this 20-mile path that circles the Anacostia River. Since it isn’t a commuter trail, it tends to be less crowded and intense than some of the other paths in and around the city. The full trail runs from the Tidal Basin in DC to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, but you can hop on and off wherever you like. Views you don’t normally see of the city plus fun ponds make stopping for a break even more enjoyable.
Enjoy a family bike tour of the National Mall with Bike & Roll (or simply rent a cycle from their fleet for a no hassle day out). Or BYOB (bring your own bike), and enjoy the flat, easy-to-navigate trails and paths around the Smithsonian museums and national monuments. If you plan on visiting a Smithsonian during your day out, be sure to reserve your timed entry ticket ahead of time.
Glencarlyn Park Learning Loop
This short loop just off the W&OD trail in Glencarlyn Park is paved, striped and the perfect place for beginners. Kids and other learners can get used to riding on a trail while also picking up important trail etiquette before moving onto bigger paths. A water bottle filler station will keep everyone happy and refreshed.
Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail
Save for a half-mile uphill section between Oxon Hill Road and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, this roughly 3.5-mile trail is flat and easy.
Ready to Roll
When your crew is comfortable on their wheels and ready for a longer trek, try one of these paths for a bit more challenge and a lot of fun.
U.S. National Arboretum
There is so much to see and so much land to cover, consider checking out the U.S. National Arboretum by bike! Sections of the trails and paths are hilly, so it is best for older kiddos who are steady on their bikes and have stamina (or for younger kids willing to hop off and walk their bikes up steeper sections).
While this roughly 4-mile loop can see some car traffic, it’s rather limited, especially on weekends when part of Ohio Drive is closed to cars. The perks of taking on this path are the views of the city’s best memorials.
Hop on and off this 45-mile path that runs between Shirlington and Purceville, through Falls Church, Arlington, Reston and more. It is paved the entire way, making it a favorite route for serious cyclists and commuters. But don’t let that scare you off. As long as your crew is steady on their bikes and aware of proper biking etiquette, the trail is a great place to get a ride in.
Capital Crescent Trail
The 11-mile Capital Crescent Trail runs from Georgetown to Silver Spring and offers lovely Potomac River views. Go Southbound for a mostly downhill ride or travel North for a bit more of a challenge. Note that the path is paved between Georgetown and Bethesda but turns to gravel as you continue North. There are also no public restrooms along the trail.
Sligo Creek Trail
Starting in Hyattsville, the 10.6-mile path runs through Takoma Park and ends at Wheaton Regional Park. Other sections of the trail can be hilly with busy street crossings, so pick the section that’s right for you and your family and get out there!
Mount Vernon Trail
Winding from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon, this 18-mile trail is largely flat and mostly car free, making it the perfect path to hop on and off of with little ones. You’ll share the trail, and its panoramic views of DC’s monuments and wetlands, with bikers, joggers, dog walkers and other families. The trail is dotted with plenty of water fountains and picnic tables for when everyone needs a break.
—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Tricia Mirchandani