HEALTH • BY JAMIE LEE
Note: scroll to the bottom for maps and other biking resources
An old adage says that bikes run on fat and save you money, while cars run on money and make you fat. With the warm weather, don’t pass up the great chance to explore and expand your fitness regimen—dozens of trails wind around Takoma Park into D.C. and beyond.
For beginners, consider the Long Branch Trail. It measures 1.2 miles from start to finish and is composed mostly of paved neighborhood streets. Young children should be closely supervised at the beginning and end points, as there are busy roads bisecting the path, but its short distance makes it manageable even for first-time riders (and adult riders who had to dust their bikes before hopping on).
There’s also the Wheaton Regional Park Trails, which have both compacted and natural surfaces. These trails feature pathways that border water and picnic grounds and form a web-like presence throughout the Wheaton Regional Park.
For those with a little more experience, there’s the Sligo Creek Stream Valley Trail. It’s 10.2 miles long and has some hilly terrain. It also crosses some busy streets, but is entirely paved.
The Capital Crescent trail is similar in distance at 10 miles, and mostly paved (after four miles of crushed stone, between Silver Spring and Bethesda). It runs from Georgetown, D.C., to Silver Spring, Md. It’s often populated and serves as a commuter route during the week, so prepare for some tricky navigation at times.
Also check out the Rock Creek Trails, which span over 32 miles in total across Silver Spring. Bikes aren’t allowed on all surfaces, so bring hiking shoes along with you to enjoy the area entirely.
And for all ages and backgrounds, there’s the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, which is a whopping 184.5 miles in total—unless you plan on camping along the way, it’s best to do in sections. It spans three counties (Allegany, Frederick, and Montgomery) in addition to D.C. It isn’t paved, so non-road bikes are recommended. The terrain is varied. A more comprehensive map of difficulty levels for hikers and bikers can be found here: http://bikewashington.org/canal/
Takoma Bicycle owner Bruce Sawtelle sees a lot of customers who gladly partake in the wealth of bike trails nearby. Some, like the University of Maryland students who live in the area, use paths to commute to school. But many are “casual recreational riders,” Sawtelle said. “We have a lot of families with kids, so for them, living in this area and having the resources like Sligo Creek Trail is great. [They’re] safe places where they can go and ride without worrying about cars or traffic,” he said.
His favorite ride is a loop that combines the Capital Crescent Trail and the Rock Creek Trail, which totals roughly 20 miles. And he sells a lot of seats. “People are always looking for a more comfortable seat!” he said.
He also sells many helmets and for good reason: remember that all bikers, even passengers, must wear one if they’re under the age of 16 in the state of Maryland. And once you’re geared up safely, hit the road and begin to fearlessly traverse the world—or just find a new, eco-friendly route to your favorite hangout spot.
- Long Branch Trail (PDF, 605KB)
- Wheaton Regional Park Trails (PDF, 724KB)
- Sligo Creek Stream Valley Trail (PDF, 1.2MB)
- Capital Crescent Trail
- Rock Creek Trails
- C&O Canal
- Maryland bike laws
Featured photo by Jess J.