General Information: WO&D Trail is one of the DC area’s most popular trails. During the weekends it’s popular with leisure bikers, joggers, families and rollerbladers. During the week, the eastern portion of the trail from Reston to Shirlington is popular with commuters as well. The trail is 45 miles long and 100 feet wide and is managed by the Northern Virginia Park Authority. The entire trail is paved and relatively flat. There is a 32 mile-long gravel trails that runs parallel to the paved trail west of the Reston area. You can see an interactive map of the trail by clicking here.. The WO&D starts in Shirlington about five or six miles outside D.C and ends in the small town of Purcellville in western Loudoun County. The trail is urban and not particularly scenic through Shirlington and South Arlington, but becomes more picturesque when you hit the Glencarlyn area. You’ll pass through three great parks, Bluemont Park, Glencarlyn Park and Bon Air Park, before hitting the Custis Trail (keep straight to stay on the WO&D). I haven’t done miles 8 through 16, but I’ve heard this section of the trail goes through mostly wooded areas and suburban developments. If I remember correctly, miles 17 to 33.5 aren’t particularly memorable (mostly woods) but you do run through Reston Town Center, which makes a good spot to have lunch or do a little shopping. I’ve done miles 0 through 8 and miles 16 through 45, but I will be focusing on the Leesburg to Purcellville portion (miles 33.5 to 45) of the trail today.
Trail: As mentioned above, the entirety of the trail is paved and relatively flat. That said, I did feel that the first six miles going from Leesburg to Purcellville were a little bit tough – there is a mild but perceptible incline; you’ll feel it if you’re on bike. The nice thing about this section of the trail is that there are less joggers and walkers than on the eastern portion, so there’s less maneuvering required. If you are a slow biker (like me) or are walking or jogging, make sure to stick to the right because you will be passed by bikers on fancy looking road bikes.
This is actually a great trail for kids. Although there are some slight uphills, there are no major steep inclines that kids over 10 wouldn’t be able to do. Just keep in mind that many people come here with race bikes and go at pretty high speeds, so make sure your kids are familiar with trail etiquette. Also, kids will need to share a pretty narrow trail with joggers, rollerbladers and walkers.
The trail is appropriate for mountain, hybrid and road bikes.
Lunch: You have several lunch options: Historic Leesburg, the town of Purcellville or bringing a picnic lunch and eating on the trail. Leesburg has more dining options than Purcellville. My dad and I were starving by the time we got to Purcellville though, so we decided to eat at Jose’s Grill and Pub, which despite looking like a simple, all-American diner on the inside, is actually a Mexican- inspired place whose owners appear to be Nicaraguan (we saw the Nicaraguan flag) and serves everything from Greek salads to Burgers. You wouldn’t think a place like this plays Paco de Lucia, but it does. I ordered the Greek salad (not impressed) and my dad ordered the avocado salad (not bad). In Jose’s Pub and Grill’s defense, however, this probably isn’t the type of place you order salad at, but having already biked 12 mile I didn’t want to ruin my workout with a greasy burger and fries. Keep in mind you’ll have more dining options in Leesburg, as Purcellville is a pretty small town. A list of Leesburg restaurants can be found here and a list of Purcellville restaurants can be found here.
Parking and Access Points: There are multiple access points and parking lots along the WO&D Trail. For a full list of access points, click here.
Scenery: The first few miles before you leave the town of Leesburg are mostly suburban. You’ll pass historic Leesburg shortly after leaving the Douglass Community Center, where you may want to stop to check out the sites or have lunch (or do so on your way back). When you leave historic Leesburg, the trail becomes more rural and scenic. You’ll pass woods, horse farms, impressive country houses, cow pastures and the town of Paeonian Springs, an adorable if tiny town (population 582) with an old-timey Americana feel. The trail is dotted with upscale suburban developments throughout and there are intermittent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It doesn’t offer the most spectacular of views, but it’s not bad considering it’s so close to D.C and you don’t have to share the road with cars.
Time required: I’ve never done the full trail in one day, but I imagine it takes about three hours if you are a fast, consistent biker. However, keep in mind you may want to stop and take some pictures, enjoy the sights and have lunch. The Leesburg to Purcellville portion of the trail, including riding back, took my dad and me about 3.5 hours, but this included plenty of stops for pictures and a 45 minute break for lunch. I’m a pretty slow biker though, and I’d assume most people can finish this portion of the trail in two hours or so.