Biking Around Town Vol. 8 – The Anacostia Riverwalk Ride

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

Biking around Town is written by Josh Nadas (@dcliterate), a daily bike commuter & avid rider who works for the National Park Service, and lives in Mount Pleasant.

This week, I got a suggestion from my friend Greg to ride along the Anacostia river walk. He had run along the river and enjoyed it, so I decided to ride it. I managed to stay on bike trail for just about the entire ride, and for the parts that I wasn’t able to – I modified my GPS map for your benefit. I made a wrong turn and strayed into Virginia, which takes away from the directness of the route, despite the benefit of additional mileage.

I started the ride in Rock Creek Park, and followed the bike path all the way down to Haines Point. From there I did a hot lap around the point, and took my favorite path across to the Fish Market and Water Street. That’s more or less where the Anacostia river walk begins, and you are able to follow signs for the rest of the ride. The final river walk trail is still in development, so this path represents the current detour down by Buzzard point. I had never been there, and was surprised at how industrial that part of DC looks. It was kinda cool to see that part of town, and to ride by the Coast Guard Headquarters, but it’s not exactly picturesque.

Once you get to the Frederick Douglass Bridge, it’s smooth sailing across the bridge and onto the trail. Upon crossing the water, you can blast off up the trail. There were some folks playing and fishing, but it’s a lot less crowded than the trails that follow the Potomac river. The day I rode the weather was spectacular, and I was the only cyclist on the trail when I was out. I followed the trail as far as I could – there is a fantastic looking bridge over the train tracks that is blocked for the time being. The bridge looks really nice, and I am looking forward to it’s official opening. Using the magic of mapping, I went ahead and drew the path as it continues on for a while longer. I rode around to the end and found the paved path ending in a pile of trail work equipment.

Continues after the jump.

If you follow my route, you the only big hill is the bridge, so I would rate this as a relatively easy ride. In addition to the terrain, this route is mostly car free, though you will have to get to the start and leave the finish which almost certainly involves streets with traffic. You could ride here on any bike you like, which is nice and easy. Bikeshare might be a little bit uncomfortable, but after that guy did the DC triathlon on one, this route is easy by comparison. The whole ride one way took me about an hour and fifteen minutes, and was just over 16 miles.

This ride has a lot of potential to merge it with other activities. Because it’s all on bike path, two people with different skill levels could ride together easily. Once you cross the Anacostia river, there is a lot of park space, picnic benches, and places to sit and picnic if you want. There is also ample fishing, so you could ride and cast off from a favorite spot. Check the fishing law in DC – I don’t know if it’s catch and release here, or if you need a license, or what the deal is.

Enjoy the ride, and the spring weather.

13 Comment

  • Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy this series! 🙂

  • Is the bridge over the rail tracks just before mile 15 open now? Last time I went on it the bridge was still under construction. Thanks!

  • GiantSquid

    These are really great, thank you! Is there any way you could list turn-by-turn directions for the route?

  • This is my favorite place to bike and run in DC! If you go on the gravelly path by train tracks (avoiding the part of the trail under construction), you meet up with the paved part again in two-three minutes and can continue on. The gravelly part is not so bad that a road bike can’t handle it (mine does fine).

  • There’s no train track at around mile 15–as author notes, there is a newly placed bridge around Benning but it is not yet connected into the trails to the north. FYI–you can cross over at Benning and join the train on the other side to circle back along the river, passing RFK, the Navy Yard, etc, back to Nationals Park. Some of it goes away from river and onto streets so it’s not quite as nice.

  • I just moved close to this trail and I have been meaning to explore it. This will motivate me to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

  • wouldn’t the southern perimeter include Southern Avenue?

  • You can cross the tracks and connect with the trail on the other side – it’s all asphalt now. Ive been biking this for years, when it was just a dirt trail. The path continus through some woods to the park across from Kingman Island. Follow the trail to Benning, take a left (West) and follow to RFK and beyond, or stay on Benning and hit up H Street. If you’re lucky you’ll see deer.

  • Have you tried the Northern side yet? I want to but it’s not clear where the entry points are or where it’s not completed yet.

  • Construction starts this year on extending the Anacostia Riverwalk trail up past Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens — and linking up to 80+ miles of trails in Maryland!

    Fishing licenses for adults are $10, available online at

  • As for the north side of the Anacostia River, the trail is complete and still nice & new from the end of M St SE up to Benning Road. A small construction detour is in place near RFK, and the 11th St Bridges project keeps moving around stuff on their end (not that it matters, since you can’t bike on the Navy Yard stretch of the riverwalk anyways). The river’s often hidden from view from the north side trail, unlike the south side, but the trail passes a few marinas and the Anacostia Community Boathouse.

    • Oh, and you can also access the Anacostia north side trail via a little trail that heads downhill and east from Barney Circle, or from Kingman Island.

  • South side bridge over the CSX tracks is now open!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.