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The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail is one of the Washington, D.C., metro area’s most popular trails, passing through park sites, yacht clubs, wet-lands, neighborhoods, towns, and wooded acres. Just across the Potomac River from D.C. in Virginia, the trail links Theodore Roosevelt Island Park with George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon. The trail follows the course of the Potomac, linking Fairfax County and Alexandria to Arlington County and major Potomac River bridge crossings into the District of Columbia. The Mount Vernon Trail, along with the Four Mile Run Trail, the W&OD Trail, and the Custis Trail, make up the Arlington Loop.
The trail is also part of the Capital Trails Coalition, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project that aims to develop an 800-mile trail network connecting the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan region.
The winding trail is mostly paved, but some sections are boardwalk. In many places the trail is narrow, and because it is heavily used (especially on weekends), all recreationists—whether on foot or wheels—must use caution when passing others and when entering the trail from any of its many access points. Cyclists must dismount at some of the bridge crossings (there are 38 in total). There are also steep grades in places, as well as areas with sharp turns, and several of the 18 at-grade road crossings have no detectable warnings for visually impaired and blind users.
At the midpoint of the Mount Vernon Trail, navigating Old Town Alexandria can be tricky. You have several all-street routes to choose from. From north to south, one route follows East Abingdon Drive to Bashford Lane to Royal Street. Or you can simply ride along George Washington Memorial Parkway/Washington Street and pick up the trail again south of I-95/I-495 (on the river side of the road). The other route veers to the left (coming from the north) and continues on Union Street. From here, you have easy access to Alexandria’s waterfront parks, restaurants, and shops. The marina boardwalk area is lively, with all kinds of entertainment year-round but mainly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You can return to the trail at the end of Union Street near the townhomes along the river.
Approaching the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95/I-495), you can detour east across the Potomac River on the wide, paved Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail, which flanks the northern side of the bridge, to reach National Harbor in Maryland. There, you’ll find dozens of shops and restaurants, not to mention the occasional waterside entertainment, such as water-ski shows and boating events. Otherwise, continue under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to take the trail through more parks, marshlands, and neighborhoods.
As you near the Mount Vernon estate, the trail begins a steep climb through the forest, where it ends in the parking lot for the estate grounds. On a hot day, you can slake your thirst at the visitor center and rest in the shade of the trees.
At the northern end of the trail, at the parking lot for Theodore Roosevelt Island Park, you can explore the island park’s loop trail via a footbridge over the river or take a pedestrian bridge over the road and pick up the Custis Trail, which leads to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
You can access the Mount Vernon Trail from numerous places along its route, including Theodore Roosevelt Island Park, Old Town Alexandria, the Mount Vernon estate, and more. The trail is also accessible from Washington’s Metro system on the Blue and Orange Lines. The website below has more information, or you can visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s website.
You can access the Mount Vernon Trail from numerous places along its route. There is at least one accessible parking space at Bell Haven Park (Alexandria) and Riverside Park (Fox Hunt).
Theodore Roosevelt Island: Access via the northbound lane only of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Parking can be limited on weekends.
Old Town Alexandria: Access from I-495; take the Patrick Street/US 1 Exit north and follow the signs to downtown. Or take I-395 to the King Street/State Route 7 Exit and head east (south), following the signs into town.
Alexandria: Daingerfield Island on Marina Dr (east of George Washington Memorial Pkwy), on Jones Point Dr (east of S Royal St), and at Bell Haven Park (driveway east of George Washington Memorial Pkwy).
Arlington: Parking is available at Gravelly Point off George Washington Memorial Pkwy (north of Airport Access Road). This lot is accessible only via northbound GW Pkwy.
Fox Hunt: Mount Vernon Trail Potomac Overlook (George Washington Memorial Pkwy & River Farm Dr). The lot is safely accessible only via northbound GW Pkwy. Parking is also available at Riverside Park (on Stratford Lane south of George Washington Memorial Pkwy).
Mount Vernon Estate (146 George Washington Memorial Pkwy): Access at the southern terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. For information on more access points, visit the National Park Service website.
The Mountain Vernon Trail is also accessible from Washington, D.C. Metro stations on the Blue and Orange Lines. The Park Service website has more information, or you can visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
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