I rode 48 miles on this trail as an out and back from Herndon to Purcellville and back. It took about 8 or so miles until the trail got really pretty, but I enjoyed every bit of it. As noted, it is well-marked with markers every .5 miles, signs for water, restrooms, food, air pumps, bike shops, and other attractions such as breweries, chocolate shops, wine shops and BBQ! The trail is in superb shape, and lots of people using it even on a Monday! The only downside is that you have to stop quite often to cross streets, but alas, that is just part of the deal... At each crossing there are crosswalks, and many times the cars stop to let you go through. Thank you Virginia for such a great place to ride!!!
(Smittyboy, you promised, your review says you'll never ride it again, so we're holding you to that! One less grumpy guy is OK by me. Especially one with such dubious judgement, it's like you went out of your way to invent complaints. You have to go uphill sometimes, you don't say! You only want downhill trails, huh? Both ways?)
For normal people, any serious person who rides the W&OD trail loves it! I ride the trail several times per week, various distances between Purcellville and Reston, generally 30miles at a time. For the most part, people are courteous and observe passing decorum ("on your left") and it's the most pleasant part of my day. Anyone remotely familiar with the NoVA area would recognize in advance that the more eastward you go, the more urban, and the more westward you go the more rural. So you have a little bit of everything for everyone. The grades are gradual and manageable by all activity levels. It's never too far to a place to fill that water bottle.
We picked up W&OD from Custis in Alexandria, and rode tandem (first time!) to Leesburg for an overnight stay, returning next day. Very few steep hills, though there were some long, steady climbs. Nothing too arduous. Saw a deer trailside, and stopped to photograph the huge quarry on our return. The water fountain in Vienna was shut off by this time of year, so we got a little desperate at points for water bottle refills. Unfortunately, we had a 20 mph headwind with 30 mph gust on day 1. It was a tailwind going home, though somewhat diminished. Better this than the other way round! Oh, and they were repaving a section north of Reston. They let folks through, nonetheless.
Did not like this trail at all!
Actually, I hated riding this trail, and I can honestly say I'll never ride it again. I rode this at the end of summer. I started off at the trail end in Purcellville (cute little town). Nicely enough they had a bike shop there, appropriately entitled, Trails End. I stopped in to ask where I could find a bathroom, and was scolded for carrying a coffee, and told I could not use the facilities if I was not buying anything. I left the store abruptly and found a restroom across the street.
As far as the trail goes, it lacked all the things I look for in a ride - namely scenery. I'm not a sport rider. I ride for fun and leisure. If you like scenic rides, like I do, then skip this trail. This ride was all about riding through the edges of backyards; mainly house farms and McMansions with the occasional pretty wooded area. Everywhere I looked were houses - huge, brand new, and expensive. Every cool view had a house sitting in it. I am one of those bikers that loves to take photos on my rides...on this ride, I really had to look very hard for anything photo worthy. The path was littered with Olympic cycling wannabes, people walking their dogs, teenagers up to no good, etc, etc....it was just not a pretty ride.
One nice thing about this trail though was that it was all asphalt, and it's laid out like a little road for cars, with the dashed line going down the middle. There were some scary intersections at the trail heads on this ride. In fact, too many of them. This is urban biking folks, and I was missing the call of the wild (namely the C&O Towpath, which I really love to ride). Out from Purcelville, I went beyond Leesburg, and decided to turn around at 15 miles. The scenery was getting less and less attractive (okay, that is being nice…it was ugly). At one point I had driven around/under a power station. Power lines were everywhere. In fact, I was so close to them I could hear them "crackling", and could actually feel the static electricity hitting my body. Also, saw lots of dirty factories off in the distance from the trail….ugly!
WARNING: The ride back from Leesburg is all uphill. Although it's slight, it seemed relentlessly forever. This took alot of fun out of the ride. I like hills, but not when they are constant for miles and miles. I guess I'm use to more remote, or just plain scenic rides, and this trail had little to offer IMHO. It was a ride through suburbia. So, in a nutshell, this ride was NOT scenic at all, and the ride back from Leesburg was all uphill. My first and last ride on this trail.
Falls Church to Leesburg Section
I agree with other reviewers that it's not very a very scenic trail, but it’s very well maintained. I've also seen plenty of wild life and it has a few nice creeks. I’ve done the section between Falls Church to right before Leesburg. So I can only write as to that particular section. It is all paved. There are plenty of places to rest along the way. The rest spots have benches and some have water. Although this section of the trail is flat, there’s a pretty steep hill pass Hunter Rd. going towards Leesburg.
There are stretches beyond Herdon where there is barely any shade. Bring plenty of water. Falls Church and Vienna offer plenty of choices for places to eat. Right on the trail near Ashburn, there’s a BBQ place. Saw it didn’t stop this time, but plan to next time. It’s very convenient right there on the trail.
There are two bicycles shops along this stretch. One in Vienna, off the main street. They repair and are a great bunch of people. They carry all sorts of specialty bicycles. Bought my recumbent there. There’s another place in Herdon, visible from the trail. This one has a coffee shop with real good Starbucks like coffee and it has a clean bathroom. The shop seems to be well stocked with bicycle gear. All the places I've mention have bicycle racks.
On the subject of bathrooms, Vienna and a park beyond Herdon have real bathrooms (sometimes they are closed on Sunday) all others along this stretch are portable potties, and there you take your chances in cleanness, and a variety of odors depending on the day of the week (LOL)
This section of trail has good traffic. Not crowded but you always have company. It feels safe. I encountered cyclist, runners, skaters, walkers, dog walkers and parents with children.
People along this section were very friendly. Riders were generally courteous warning while passing.
All and all it is a very nice ride, just be prepared for the sun. Bring lots of water. Keep in mind that although going toward Leesburg is a smooth ride, you need your energy to come back because, although it is subtle, it’s uphill. Not steep, but you will feel it coming back. Enjoy your ride. I did.
On 9/14 I rode this great trail. It is not as scenic as some I have done but it is a great trail. I started in Vienna and went to Purcellville and back about sixty six miles. On the trip I found only one street crossing that I felt was very bad and that was Wiehle Ave in Reston and this is a bad one. Most of the tough crossing have cross walk lights that the trail user activates.
Now for the good stuff, it has it all Mile Marker every half mile, each cross road is marked with its name and the City name, Park Benches, Picnic Tables, Kiosks all along the route with trail maps and information, Restrooms, it even has a couple of Air pumps along the way, a great surface, very good signage, and lots of Historical Markers. If you are a History buff or a Rail Road buff you need to do this trail.
I would highly suggest that you have a mirror as some of the Road Bikers really hall the mail. Only the last ten or twelve miles has a canopy so you will need sunscreen. I would say that this is a family friendly trail as there are just a few tough hills.
The two high lights for me where the number of old RR Stations and the over look at Luck Stone Quarry.
The elevation at Leesburg is 305 and at Purcellville it is 605 a nice climb up but a great ride back. this is one of the best Maintained trails that I have done. Hats off to the Friends of WO&D and the Northern Virgina Parks Authority. If you live in the D.C, Northern Va. or Baltimore area this is a must do trail.
Great bike trail - except for many inconsiderate, and dangerous bikers
Rode the trail from Herndon to the east end of the trail and back Saturday, and the western section between Purcellville and Herndon on Sunday. Magnolias at the Mill restaurant at the Purcellville end is GREAT! There is also a very good, and helpful bike shop right across the street. The only complaint I have is the indifferent, "it's all about me" attitude of some of the weekend Lance Armstrong wannabe's I experienced on the eastern part, as you get closer to D.C. This is a WONDERFUL multi-use trail that goes through lots of residential areas, so there are lots of families with small kids learning to ride their bikes, young couples with babies in strollers out enjoying the outdoors and elderly people out for a brisk walk. Everybody has as much right as the next person to be on this trail, and for the most part everyone is respectful of the different speeds and capabilities of the different users....except for those bikers who think this is their personal high-speed track. Seriously...some of the riders I witnessed need to confine their activities to the streets, where if they lose control or miscalculate the small spaces between the "obstacles" they try to zoom through at full speed, they will hit a car....not someone's child. Someone is really going to get seriously injured soon if these people don't exercise some common sense and self control!
This trail is great!
This entire trail is paved, relatively flat, and in excellent condition. The only problems would require expensive fixes, like reducing the number of road crossings. The crossings at Walter Reed Drive, George Mason Drive, Columbia Pike, Lee Highway, Gallows Road, Maple Ave, Hunter Mill Road, Wiehle Ave., Sterling Parkway, and Belmont Ridge Road should all eventually be eliminated as they are particularly dangerous and inconvenient. However, those are the ONLY problems with this trail! Many of the major crossings have already been dealt with.
Since that post in 2005, the Section between Bluemont Park and Carling Springs Road have been realigned, dodging the Four Mile Run trail that was in poor repair. This is one of the best, if not THE best, urban trails in the country! There are numerous services available along the way, such as water, food, and bike shops. At the southern terminus, there is a new connector under I-395 which will take you right to the Mount Vernon Trail, crossing NO roads past Shirlington Road.
The section in Arlington is heavily used, but there are few road crossing and, except where it parallels I66, very pleasant. The Falls Church stretch has many small road crossings: be careful! From Rt. 7, the trail climbs slowly where it crosses I66, then I495. The Dunn Loring area is a long, straight stretch, but with a few crossings, the worst at Gallows Road. Vienna makes a good stopping point. The trail runs 3 miles non-stop, and downhill through the Hunter Valley, then climbs into Reston, where there are a number of minor and major road crossings. Many of the biggest roads in Reston have happily been bypassed using under and overpasses, although this creates a few 'artificial" hills. The trail passes right through downtown old town Herdon, where there is a pleasant park and an interesting museum about the railroad. Past this lies Sterling, where there are few roads, lots of trees, but two big "dips". (If you've ridden this part, you know what I mean!) The trail passes over busy Route 28, and into "the straightaway": a long, straight, flat stretch with almost no road crossings. Stop at Smith's Switch Station for water and gatorade. At Ashburn Road, you come to a b-b-q resturant and furniture store alongside the trail. The "straighaway" continues until the trail curves toward Belmont Ridge Road: be VERY careful at this intersection! The trail passes a quarry, over Goose Creek, and through a meadow as it approaches Leesburg. Leesburg itself has a number of road crossings, but also some nice parks. Past Leesburg, one has a beautiful, wooded trail where you can find some peace and seclusion as you climb towards Clarks Gap, then wander past Paenonian Springs to Purcellville. Finally, the trail comes to an end at 44.77 miles.
"I have seen a wide variety of wildlife from the trail, including deer, fox, squirrel, ground hog, snakes, songbirds, king fisher, hawks, vultures, barred owl, common bat, etc. In the spring, the noise of peepers in the wetlands is simply overwhelming."
Best paved/flat trail in the east
"I suppose you can say that I am partial to this trail, especially since I live just down the street from the many access points (Crestview & Herndon Pkwy). The W&OD Trail is a good trail for beginners as well as pros. It's good for beginners because the trail is mostly level with only a few grades, it's good for pros because end to end, it offers a good, long ride, interrupted only by a few areas where the trail crosses some major intersections.
There are some really nice areas along the trail. My favorite is Glen Carlin Park – a beautiful, shady Park, located on the East End near Ballston. Also, the area of Clarks Gap (after Leesburg) continuing through Loudon Cty to Purciville is also very scenic and secluded. There are many rest stops along the W&OD Trail, places to eat and things to do along the way, including the Antique Shopping District in Leesburg, VA, just a few blocks North of the Trail and Glen Carlin Park near Wilson Blvd.
My usual ride is from Herndon to Ballston and back, or from Herndon to Purciville and back. I have also ridden all the way to Georgetown and to National Airport & then back to Herndon, all in one easy day. There are some great little ""cycle-friendly"" places for lunch not too far from the trail, as well as some great places to stop for a picnic lunch.
E-mail me for details if you like. Have fun!"
W & O D TRAIL IN ARLINGTON
"AFTER BIKING THE WESTERN HALF OF THIS
TRAIL MORE TIMES THAN I CAN COUNT, I
TRIED THE EASTERN HALF LAST SATURDAY
(9-9-00)FOR THE FIRST TIME. THE TRAIL
WAS MOST ENJOYABLE AND I PLAN TO RIDE
IT MANY MORE TIMES. ONE PROBLEM I
ENCOUNTERED, THOUGH, WAS POOR SIGNING
THROUGH ARLINGTON COUNTY AFTER LEAVING
THE PORTION IN THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH.
NUMEROUS PLACES IN ARLINGTON HAVE JUNCTIONS WITH OTHER TRAILS, WHICH IS
GREAT, BUT UNFORTUNATELY, DUE TO A LACK
OF SIGNS, IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO
DETERMINE WHICH DIRECTION TO GO AT A
JUNCTION IF YOU WISH TO STAY ON THE
W & O D. AT THE END OF THE W & O D, THE
SIGNS IN ARLINGTON COUNTY AND THE CITY
OF ALEXANDRIA THAT DIRECT YOU TO THE
FOUR MILE RUN TRAIL ARE POOR. IT TOOK
ME SEVERAL WRONG TURNS BEFORE I FOUND
THE FOUR MILE RUN TRAIL SO I COULD GET
TO MY CAR PARKED AT NATIONAL AIRPORT. IT
WOULD BE NICE IF SOMEONE WITH AUTHORITY
TO DO SOMETHING WOULD ACTUALLY USE THESE
TRAILS. AT EVERY - REPEAT, EVERY! -
POINT WHERE YOU CAN GO MORE THAN ONE
DIRECTION, THERE SHOULD BE A SIGN
INDICATING WHICH DIRECTION WILL KEEP YOU
ON THE W & O D OR THE CONNECTION BETWEEN
IT AND THE FOUR MILE RUN TRAIL. THANKS!!"