Hiking Near Alexandria VA: Trails for Jogging, Walking & Biking
Alexandria is a city filled with American history and natural beauty. One of the best ways to get out and view that history is on foot (or bicycle) on the numerous jogging trails and hiking areas in the city of Alexandria. The city and the State of Virginia maintain many great trails for residents to get out and walk the same paths as America's Founders — but with modern activities and amenities along the way! Looking for fun outdoor activities in Alexandria? Keep reading to learn about some of the best hiking spots and running trails in Alexandria, VA.
Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is 18 miles long and parallels the route of the George Washington Parkway from Theodore Roosevelt Island Park in the north to the Mount Vernon community in the south. The popular trail winds its way through several parks, wetlands, towns, and wooded areas. The trail is mostly paved, although some parts are covered with a boardwalk. It's suitable for walking, jogging or biking. Traversing this trail offers excellent views of Virginia's natural settings along the Potomac River.
This popular trail gets very busy on the weekends, so bikers should be courteous in passing others. When traveling south on the trail, it ends with a steep climb that culminates in the parking area at Mount Vernon. Otherwise, the trail is pretty flat for most of its route.
Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail starts at the intersection of the Richmond Highway and Fort Hunt Road in Alexandria and ends at National Harbor Boulevard in Oxon Hill, MD. It's 4.5 miles long, paved, and rated as a "Moderate" difficulty trail. It's suitable for biking or walking, and many people like to cross country ski on this trail in the wintertime. There are several stations along the route where people can peer through viewing scopes to better look at the Potomac River.
As its name implies, the trail crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge at one point. The metal and steel joints can damage bike tires, so cyclists are restricted to 10 MPH here. Also, note that this is a working drawbridge that opens and occasionally closes, so watch for the warning lights. This trail connects to the Mount Vernon Trail at the George Washington Parkway and Route 400.
Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve Trail
The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is in the southeast part of Alexandria, near the Belle View area. There are so many trees in the area to the west of the preserve that it's hard to believe there are dozens of beautiful Alexandria townhomes such a short distance away. Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is 485 acres in size, and it is one of the last remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the DC/Alexandria area.
There is a flat out-and-back trail through the marsh about 1.8 miles in length. It's rated an "Easy" hike, and bicycles are not allowed in the preserve. The trail begins at Belle Haven Park near the Mount Vernon Trail. The Dyke Marsh trail mainly follows the river and offers excellent bird watching and wildlife viewing (Bring a camera!). There are public restrooms and trash cans near the beginning of the trail at Belle Haven Park.
Winkler Botanical Preserve Trail
The Winkler Botanical Preserve is tucked away in a secluded area in northwest Alexandria. The preserve has an easy 1-mile looped trail that takes visitors past streams, a lake, and a waterfall. It is a private preserve that is open to the public. Bicycles, pets, and picnicking are prohibited on the preserve's grounds.
It is free to hike the trail, although the Mark Center (which operates the preserve) charges for some weekend programs along the route. This is a very "kid-friendly" and easy hike for a short trip through a heavily wooded and beautiful preserve. There is a limited parking space available at the end of Roanoke Avenue to access the trail. The preserve is only open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and it closes on all major holidays. The Winkler Botanical Preserve is almost entirely "undisturbed," so no public facilities are available on the grounds. (Be sure to use the restroom before heading out to hike this short trail.)
Potomac Yard Trail
The Potomac Yard Trail is fun for a rewarding hike between Alexandria and the city of Arlington. The trail begins at Braddock Road and Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria. The trail is rated "Easy." It's flat and paved and about 4.4 miles round trip. The trail parallels the train tracks the whole way, and there are exercise stations along the way.
This trail is suitable for walking, hiking, jogging, or biking, and leashed dogs are welcome. The trail heads into Potomac Yard Park, where kids can enjoy a playground and "sprayground." There is metered parking available at the south end of the trail in Alexandria or a limited number of free parking spots at the north end of the trail near Potomac Yard Park. There are also benches and picnic tables available along the length of the trail for anyone who needs to stop and rest along the way.
Martha Washington Library Trail
The Martha Washington Library Trail takes off from the south end of the parking lot at the library and loops through Mt. Vernon District Park in Belle View. The 1.5-mile trail is primarily flat. It is partially paved and partially dirt, so be advised that it can get quite muddy after it rains or as the snow is melting off. The easy-rated trail is suitable for hiking, walking, and mountain biking, and leashed dogs are welcome to accompany their owners.
The Library Trail is wooded and offers excellent opportunities to view local wildflowers in the spring and early summer months. Fall is a great time of year to visit this trail once the leaves begin changing color. This is a lovely secluded walk through a forest area, and the further one gets into the park, the quieter it gets.
Experience Alexandria's Fantastic Trails
Alexandria is a great city to live in because it offers many wooded adventures on trails and a host of fantastic local parks. This partial list only scratches the surface of the many great trails in and around Alexandria. It is well worth the time and effort to get out and explore the various corners of Alexandria to uncover the natural beauty and history of the area.