Biking Around Town – National Arboretum

Photo by PoPville flickr user caroline.angelo

Biking around Town is written by Josh Nadas (@dcliterate), a daily bike commuter & avid rider who lives in Mount Pleasant. Josh previously wrote about Teddy Roosevelt Island.

Ed. Note: The National Arboretum: “is now CLOSED every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday because of the sequester cuts. We are open Friday through Monday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.”

Located relatively close to the New Columbia Distillers, is the National Arboretum. It’s one of my favorite places to ride because there is an epic collection of flora and fauna, courtesy of the United States Forest Service. The arboretum is set up such that once you enter the grounds, there are very few cars, and most of them are moving fairly slowly. It makes for a really pleasant place to ride your bike.

I started this route on the east side of Union Station, on Union Station Drive. You’ll head up that street for a block, and make your first left onto K street, then you will make your next left turn, which is onto North Capital, and then one more immediate left turn onto H street. I know that’s a bit round-about, but it’s not super easy to cross the train tracks. Depending on your approach, you may not need to mess around with multiple left turns, but I wanted to start the route from Union Station, because it is such a central location.

You’ll travel down H street until you have the opportunity to make a slight left turn onto Maryland Avenue. You’ll take Maryland ave until you reach 17th street, where you will make a left onto 17th street. Eventually 17th merges into Bladensburg road, which is probably the least-pleasant part of this ride. I deliberately kept you off this road for as long as possible, because traffic moves pretty fast. Unfortunately, the Arboretum entrance is off of Bladensburg, so you have to use it at some point. However, if you use this route it’s only a short distance on Bladensburg road, and you’ll shortly make a right onto R street. Ride down R until it ends, and you will reach the entrance to the arboretum. So you know, there is a wide sidewalk on Bladensburg that you can use if you are not comfortable riding on that part of the road. I think it’s fine to ride on the road as long as you are careful, but this information maximizes your options.

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The map continues on with a quick lap around the arboretum – I could not help myself. Once you are there, it’s actually really fun to just ride around without worrying about getting lost. The facility is fairly self-contained, and the signage is excellent. It’s also not that large, so you should be able to ride around all you like, and then soft-pedal back to the entrance when you are done. Don’t forget to instagram the columns, they are way cool.

Another thing that makes this a great riding destination is that there are lots of water fountains, bathrooms, and snacks. You’re all set if you need to pit stop, the only thing missing is a bike shop.

The route I took is 5.47 miles, but that includes a lap of distance after arriving at the destination. I would estimate that it takes about 30 minutes of pedaling from Union Station. Have fun out there!

10 Comment

  • Another route, if you’re coming from NW: take Florida Ave to the Union Market. Grab a picnic lunch at A. Litteri’s. Head north on 6th NE, right on Mt. Olivet, then left onto Bladensburg. Then eat your delicious lunch on the hill at the Columns. Great view! 🙂

  • Please, please, please do not recommend people ride on H St here. The streetcar tracks are extremely hazardous to cyclists (I’ve personally witnessed two accidents here where the front wheel becomes lodged in the track, throwing the rider off the front of their bike). The better alternative is to ride on I St going eastbound, G St going westbound. These are one way streets that are far safer (and more pleasant) to ride on.

    • Lol yea, for people who dont know how to ride a bike
      i ride H st almost weekly & have had no problems with the track

      you just have to know how to navigate them. simple as that

      but i as well have seen numerous people go down due to them

      • “but i as well have seen numerous people go down due to them”

        Ok, so then you agree that we shouldn’t be recommending people to go down H Street, especially newbies? Glad we cleared that up.

      • yes, you’re better than the rest of us. congrats.

  • Note that the first step to get onto H Street could be a LOT simpler! Why would you cross under the tracks at K, and then over them again at H (going up a steep bridge no less!)?

    If you would have just continued on F, it would have been a nice ride to get to Maryland Avenue. Alternatively, you could have simply turned from 2nd onto Eye, which is low speed and 1-way East. I certainly would recommend avoiding H Street on a bicycle, both for the heavy traffic and tracks. (Also, for those not familiar with the area, H is above both 1st & 2nd NE, although a public staircase from 2nd to H will be built as part of the apartment building under construction at the SE corner.)

    Hopefully someday there will be bike lanes (or better!) on more of the neighborhood roads, including Florida, New York, West Virginia & more. Bike lanes are coming soon to Maryland, G & I NE.

  • Okay, here’s a better route from someone who bikes these roads regularly. This one takes you on roads with less traffic, and avoids as many killer hills as possible (which the author’s route currently does not):

    – Starting from the same spot (the east side of Union Station), take F Street east.
    – Turn left at 6th Street, utilizing the bike lane up to K Street.
    – Turn right on K Street, and continue to West Virginia Avenue and bear left.
    – West Virginia Avenue is a former railroad grade, so it’s relatively flat. It’s also very wide. Follow it all the way to 17th Street NE and turn right.
    – Follow 17th Street to Montana Avenue, and turn right. You will encounter the only hill of the ride here.
    – When you get to Bladensburg Road, wait for a green light and cross onto S Street.
    – Go two blocks on S Street, turn right on 24th Street, then left on R Street. You’re at the Arboretum gates!

    • +1
      I take K or L st rather than H st. With the trolley tracks, buses, cars, doors of parking cars, and pedestrians walking out of bars, H st is rather hectic. Also, the MBT connect to K st. I generally do WV-Mt. Olivet-Bladensburg, but I’m gonna try your WV-17th-Montana route next time!

      Despite opinions about H st riding, this is a nice post, and the Arboretum is great for riding!

  • I think this is a great idea for a blog series, and appreciate the intent to highlight new bike routes and bikable destinations in the city. So I say this in all due respect, but this route is bordering on ridiculous in that it’s possibly the worst route you could take for distance, effort and safety. This would be vastly improved if you researched the route for ideal streets to take and provided tips for less experienced cyclists (which should be a target demo here). If you’ve ridden the route, it’s worth pointing out helpful things to watch out for like construction work, road hazards (streetcar tracks!) and street direction changes – all of which are an issue in this corridor right now.

  • Great place to bike when you’re training for a race and need to get some climbing experience.

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