Now that the winter weather has subsided, it’s the perfect opportunity to get your bicycle out of the garage, give it a quick tune-up and go take a ride. Whether you’re someone who just likes to enjoy leisurely rides with the family, a hard-core mountain biker who prefers some challenging terrain or just someone looking for a little exercise, there’s someplace for everyone to ride in our area.
Fairfax County offers over 500 miles of trail for bike enthusiasts, ranging in width from six feet to the newer 10-feet standard. The majority of trails are asphalt paved but some are stone dust or natural surface. Keep in mind that while the stone dust and natural surface trails are suitable for mountain or hybrid bicyclists, they could present problems to the road bicyclist.
While there are plenty of places for mountain bikers to take to the trails in the Washington, D.C. area, one of the most popular destinations for bike enthusiasts is Fountainhead Park, 10875 Hampton Rd, Fairfax Station, where on any given weekend you can find hundreds of bikers taking a turn on the challenging course.
“It’s the only mountain biking trail in the area where hikers and horseback riders aren’t allowed, so it’s the ultimate destination if you live in our area,” says Mark Harris, an adventure racer from Centreville, who has been riding the trail since 2006. “It’s very technical and constantly changing up and down over short distances, so it really challenges even the best of the riders.”
The trails open at 6 a.m. each day and the park allows riders to begin hitting the tracks as late as 7:15 p.m. All bikers must wear a helmet.
As owner of The Bike Lane, with shops in Reston and Springfield, Anne Mader is well integrated in the mountain biking world, and has been riding for 16 years.
“Fountainhead was one of the first trails I rode when I first got into mountain biking and I think it had just opened,” she says. “It’s a very unique trail system because it’s for mountain biking only, so when you go, it’s a one-directional route system and it’s very technical for a trail in such an urban area. It’s the only one available near here without having to drive more than an hour.”
The course is fairly long at almost eight miles, so it’s a good looped system where mountain bikers can feel like they will get a good workout and get a challenging experience at the same time.
For more leisurely riders, Burke Lake Park, 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, is a relatively flat 4.7-mile loop gravel trail that circles Burke Lake and the bays jutting out from it. The American Hiking Society’s trail specialists rated it one of the 10 best metropolitan area fitness trails in the nation. Meanwhile, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, 5040 Walney Road, Chantilly, is an approximate four-mile bike trail through an upland and bottomland forest and along meadows, offering extensive views of wildlife.
If you’re looking for a longer biking experience, Fairfax’s Cross-County Trail is a 40-mile-long trail that connects the entire county from one end to the other, beginning at Great Falls Park and extending south to the Occoquan River. The trail provides an organic experience in that it’s maintained but not groomed, so bikers can expect to find snow, mud and stone dust in places.
A challenging course is the Difficult Run Trail, a flat but lengthy trail, which runs 12 miles from Glade Drive in Reston to Great Falls National Park. This trail is perfect for beginners as it offers a mix of single-track and dirt path that requires several crossings.
Other great trails are Copper Creek in Herndon and 495 Jumps Trail in Annandale. The latter offers two courses for mountain bikers, both with small jumps perfect for the beginner. The bikes one can use on this trail can be anything with 26 to 27.5.
For a complete map of trails in Fairfax, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/trails/maps.htm.