Mount Vernon Trail

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Map of the Trail

The Mount Vernon Trail (MVT) is a 17 miles (27 km) long paved bicycle and pedestrian path in Northern Virginia between Rosslyn and George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. The trail connects the easternmost portions of Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, and Fairfax County, and travels mostly on dedicated trail with a small portion on city streets. As part of U.S. Bike Route 1, the MVT opened in April 1972 as a gravel path and was subsequently expanded and paved.[1][2]

The MVT is part of the much larger mid-Atlantic Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.


Prior to construction of the Mount Vernon Trail, many cyclists rode on the George Washington Parkway. On Sundays, one lane would be roped off for the exclusive use of cyclists. In fact in 1971, cyclists held a "bike-in" along the Parkway.[3] Because the route was so popular, and because the addition of concrete barriers in some places would create space, the National Park Service decided in 1971 to build a trail along the side of the parkway.[4]

The Mount Vernon Trail was originally built by the Park Service in two phases. The first section, a compacted gravel path from Memorial Bridge to Alexandria was opened on April 15, 1972. On April 21, 1973, it was extended 7.5 miles south to Mount Vernon with a surface of compacted fly ash from the PEPCO plant in Alexandria. The first section was 6 feet wide and cost only $27,000 to build due to the work of numerous volunteers. The second section was 8 feet wide, cost $135,000 to build and received help from the U.S. Army Engineer Center at Ft. Belvoir which helped to build the timber bridges and boardwalks.[2][5]

Since the Mount Vernon Trail opened it has been expanded, widened, connected to and improved many times.[5] Between 1973 and 1980, the trail was paved.[6] In 1978, the Park Service built a new, $305,000, 1.8 mile paved section of trail on the west side of the parkway from Alexandria Avenue to Waynewood Avenue, a controversial project that was held up by legal action over safety and environmental concerns by neighbors.[7] Prior to that the trail had been on-road.[8] In 1978, the Airport Authority built a connection from the trail to the airport's bicycle parking.[9] In 1980, as part of the construction of seven bridges across Four Mile Run, including bridges for Potomac Yard railroads, Route 1 and the George Washington Parkway, the Army Corps of Engineers built an extension of the Four Mile Run Trail that connected the trail to the Mount Vernon Trail.[10] On December 7, 1988, the Park Service expanded the trail north from Arlington Memorial Bridge to Roosevelt Island where a new bridge over the Parkway, which opened in February 1987, connected it to the Custis Trail.[11][12] Later that same year a new trail segment was built in Fort Hunt Park where the trail had been on road.[13] In March of 1992, work began on the Crystal City Connector Trail that connected the trail to Crystal City via a pedestrian tunnel that had been built when the railway was moved nearly a decade beforehand.[14] The Connector opened on August 22, 1992.[15] In 2006, a section After it was determined that the bridge over the north entrance to National Airport was deteriorating and that the Mount Vernon Trail was a safety concern because of its close proximity to the roadway, the bridge was rebuilt and the trail was realigned and widened in the area. That section opened in 2007.[16] In 2009, the trail on the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened with a connection to the Mount Vernon Trail and in 2013, the trail beneath the bridge and approaching it was rebuilt.[17] In 2011, the National Park Service rebuilt the Humpback Bridge, which involved changes to the roadway, widening the Mount Vernon Trail, adding a barrier to separate the trail users from the traffic, lowering the grade across the bridge to improve sight distance, and adding a pair of trail tunnels under the bridge for safer passage between the Columbia Island Marina, the Mount Vernon Trail and, in the future, Boundary Channel Drive.[18] In 2012, the Park Service realigned the trail at Memorial Circle, moving the crossing of Washington Boulevard a few hundred feet south and creating a crossing at a right angle to the road.[19] In 2016, the section of the trail next to the airport was realigned, widened and separated from the Parkway.[20] In 2017, the National Park Service rebuilt part of the Roosevelt Island parking lot to create a new route, with smoother curves for the Mount Vernon Trail, which was also widened.[21]

In 2002, the National Park Service performed a feasibility study on expanding the Mt Vernon Trail north to the American Legion Bridge. The design proposed was a mostly on-street route, with a pair of trail segments west of Glebe Road.[22]


The trail parallels the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the western bank of the Potomac River. Most of the northern half of the trail is open with views of the river and of Washington, D.C. The southern 8 miles (13 km) below Alexandria is largely wooded with limited river views.

From its northern trailhead at a parking lot near Theodore Roosevelt Island, the MVT travels south near the Potomac River until it turns inland to pass between the Parkway and the west side of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Before reaching the airport, the trail passes through Gravelly Point, where there are often views of arriving and departing airplane. A connecting trail travels through the airport and provides access to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metro Station and the Abingdon Plantation historic site.

The Mount Vernon Trail at Belle Haven

After passing the airport, the trail crosses Four Mile Run and continues south on city streets into Old Town Alexandria. After crossing under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and over Hunting Creek, the trail continues south along the Potomac River, traveling near Belle Haven, the west side of Dyke Marsh and the east side of Fort Hunt Park. The last mile before reaching Mount Vernon is a curving uphill inland climb.

Connecting trails[edit]

The Mount Vernon Trail connects to other area hiker/biker routes including:


Scenes along the Mount Vernon Trail, from south to north:


  1. ^ Eisner, Mary (13 July 1972). "She's Winning Bike Battle". Washington Star. Washington, DC. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  2. ^ a b Hodge, Paul (2 September 1972). "Bike Path With a 150-Year-Old View". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ "Break For Cyclists". The Washington Post. 21 June 1971.
  4. ^ Siegel, Barry (26 August 1971). "Drivers Choose Speed, Not View". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b Matthews, Jay (22 April 1973). "It's 'The Year of the Bike,' and a Trail Grows Longer". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ MacNamara, James (12 September 1980). "Pedal Power: Many Paths To Pleasure". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "Bike Trail Halt Reinstated". The Washington Post. 18 March 1978.
  8. ^ Hodge, Paul (19 May 1977). "Controversial bicycle trail will be moved from public roads". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ "Getting to the Station: Biking It". The Washington Evening Star. 26 June 1977.
  10. ^ Hodge, Paul (24 January 1980). "Seven Bridges Span Four Mile Run Flood-Control Project and Bicycle Trail". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Brooks, Dudley (12 June 1988). "Bikers' Bridge". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ "Opening New Frontiers". The Washington Post. 8 December 1988.
  13. ^ Mansfield, Virginia (2 July 1987). "Three Heavily Used Bicycle Trails To Be Linked, Raising Safety Issue". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ Kaplow, Bobby (19 March 1992). "New Path for Bicyclists". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ "Crystal City Trail Connector To Bow Saturday With Pomp". 20 August 1992.
  16. ^ U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, et. al. (March 2008). GWMP North Section Rehabilitation Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect (Report). National Park Service. p. 72-73. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  17. ^ Lazo, Luz (13 May 2013). "Wilson Bridge trail encourages bike commuting between Pr. George's and Northern Virginia". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  19. ^ ": New GW ParHighway Path Marked". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  20. ^ Russell, Edward. "Near National airport, the Mount Vernon Trail is new again". GreaterGreaterWashington. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  21. ^ Russell, Edward. "The Mount Vernon Trail is now a little safer by Roosevelt Island". GreaterGreaterWashington. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  22. ^ LDR International (2002). Mount Vernon Multi-Use Trail Extension Feasibility Study (Report). Retrieved 25 September 2018.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°42′36″N 77°03′41″W / 38.710008°N 77.061351°W / 38.710008; -77.061351