You will not believe how scenic some portions of this trail are. Whether you visit during spring, summer, winter, or fall, you'll see ... more »some gorgeous riverfront scenery and enjoy some unique and interesting stops along the way.
Fortunately this trail is fairly easy to do out and back in one day, especially if you spend some recuperation time at Mount Vernon. If you are combining this ride with a C & O Canal Towpath ride, you can easily cross the Frances Scott Key Bridge to start your ride on the Mount Vernon Trail.
While in the Washington D.C. area, be sure to take time to look at the monuments. You get a different perspective of the area from this trail. And speaking of monuments, be sure to look at the Navy and Marine Memorial located between D.C. & Alexandria. You will be one of the few people who get to see this artwork since it is not very well known and is in a fairly out-of-the-way area.
Even though this trail is heavily used, it is a fairly relaxing ride since it is well paved and spends very little time on roads. You will be on Union Street in Alexandria and then on a very sparsely used road a little further into Virginia. Other than that, there's only one other road crossing except when there are construction detours.
One of the many unique stopping spots along the way is at Reagan National Airport. It is a fun spot to watch the planes taking off and landing. You can almost touch the landing gear as the trail dives right under the flight path of two of the runways.
Next, you will explore some scenic wetlands as you ride over them on wide boardwalks. I have heard this area can have lots of insects, but in the numerous times I've ridden the trail, I've never had that problem.
Just before you get to Alexandria, the trail will fork and give you two options. If you are traveling from D.C. toward Mount Vernon, take the left (waterfront) fork. It is more scenic and offers more trail-time, although both routes involve time on roadways.
Old Town Alexandria and its waterfront area is a good place to spend some time, either on your way to or from Mount Vernon. You will enjoy the ice cream parlors, coffee shops, art galleries, and King Street shuttle. It's a good place for a meal, a snack, a drink, some shopping, or site-seeing.
Stay on Union Street as you go through Alexandria, then bear left when you get to the trail again. Look for signs to Jones Point Park. This will take you back down near the Potomac then under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
From there, you will leave the hustle and bustle of the cities behind and start enjoying a more placid pace and scenery. Although you will be following the course of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, it's easy to forget the fast pace of the highway and enjoy the tranquility of the river and forest. You will make your way through parks and wildlife preserves until you get to George Washington's home.
If you've never been to Mount Vernon or haven't been there recently, you should plan to spend some time touring the home and the grounds. It is beautiful and historic. And the sit-down restaurant will even serve you some colonial food befitting the first president of the United States of America. less «