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Winding along its eponymous river, the Anacostia River Trail (also known as the Anacostia Riverwalk) is a gem of a trail in southeast Washington, D.C.—a vital recreation and active-transportation amenity for residents and tourists alike. Providing a paved surface across its entirety, the trail occupies riverside, wooded natural areas, marshland, urban development, parks, and sports fields. To date, 12 of what will ultimately be 20 miles of trail are open.
Not a rail-trail, the Anacostia River Trail follows the topography of the land, resulting in gentle hills and graceful turns as it weaves alongside what was once a polluted and impaired river (remediation efforts are underway). Visitors will now find a well-designed and scenic trail that intersects the urban and natural landscapes.
The Anacostia River Trail provides a standout trail experience in the region as part of a trail and bikeway system with access to Washington, D.C., and connections to the Northwest Branch Trail and the Northeast Branch Trail in Maryland. The three trails also comprise a key section of the developing 800-mile Capital Trails Coalition network, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project that aims to connect the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region by multiuse trail.
At the southern end, trail users can begin on the east or west side of the river. On the east bank, the trail begins at South Capitol Street Southeast. Expect an immersive nature experience, including access points to tidal marsh, great wildlife-viewing opportunities, and a boardwalk built over the river as you pass under US 50/New York Avenue Northeast.
Heading north along the Anacostia Park waterfront, you’ll pass amenities such as two recreation centers; multiple playgrounds, including a pirate ship–themed playground with an adult fitness station; a roll-er-skating pavilion; and numerous sports fields.
If beginning on the west bank, start at Nationals Park on South Capitol Street Southwest. From here, head north along the river through D.C.’s historic Navy Yard and past Evans Point and RFK Stadium, once a major sports venue that, at press time, was scheduled to be demolished in 2022.
At The Fields at RFK Campus, you can also access the Kingman and Heritage Island State Conservation Area to the east by way of a connecting spur. Upon crossing the river at Benning Road, the Anacostia River Trail reunites with itself at the northern end of Anacostia Park.
The trail’s most recently constructed section, through the beautiful Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, managed by the National Park Service, was completed in 2016 and abuts the border between Maryland and Washington, D.C. From the gardens, you’ll cross eastward on a segment paralleling Benning Road and then loop northward on a twisting path to Bladensburg, Maryland.
Note: There is a 0.2-mile section in Brentwood, Maryland, that departs Colmar Manor Community Park to meet the main trail on the west side of the Anacostia River. This section leaving the park is on a steep incline.
Detailed signage helps trail users orient themselves at trail and street intersections throughout. While the route largely consists of dedicated trail, short sections merge with multiuse sidewalks across roadway bridges and along marina frontage. Additionally, a short section of the west-bank segment just east of I-695 places trail users along Water Street—a wide, low-speed, low-use side street in front of a row of small marinas—for just under 0.3 mile.
There are also two short, incomplete sections of trail along the Washington Channel, the first between P Street and Water Street and the second along the east side of the Tidal Basin between Maine Avenue Southwest and Independence Avenue Southwest. When fully built out, the Anacostia River Trail will connect to the Tidal Basin (famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring), the National Arboretum, and the National Mall.
The region’s Metro rail service provides convenient access the trail; if taking your bike aboard a train, please observe the transit system’s rules. Several train stops are relatively close to the trail, including: the Navy Yard-Ballpark (200 M St. SE) and Anacostia (1101 Howard Road SE) stations on the Green Line, and the Potomac Avenue (700 14th St. SE) and Stadium-Armory (192 19th St. SE) stations on the Orange, Blue and Silver Lines. Near the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the D.C./Maryland border, the Minnesota Avenue (4000 Minnesota Ave. NE) and Deanwood (4720 Minnesota Ave. NE) stations on the Orange Line are the closet Metro stops to the northern end of the trail.
For those who are arriving by car in Washington, D.C., paid parking lots can be found near the southern end of the trail around Yards Park (10 Water St. SE) and Nationals Park (1500 South Capitol St. SE). Public parking is also available in Anacostia Park (1900 Anacostia Dr. SE) and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (1550 Anacostia Ave NE).
On the northern end of the trail in Maryland, parking can be found at Colmar Manor Community Park (3510 37th Ave., Colmar Manor) and Bladensburg Waterfront Park (4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg). There are other access points and parking areas along the route; refer to the map for more details.
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