4/28/21 Canyon.com
4/28/21 Canyon.com

Top 3 Gravel Rides Near Washington, D.C.

Want to discover Washington, D.C. off the beaten track? We've tried and tested three of the best right here and we're stoked to share them with you.

Top 3 Gravel Rides Near Washington, D.C. Top 3 Gravel Rides in Washington, D.C.!

Stating the best gravel routes is as difficult as declaring the best beer or ice cream - everyone will have their favorite. Here are a few standout rides with different styles and distances to get you started. I’ve ranked them on a 1-to-5 scale of difficulty (🔋), accounting for distance plus climbing. I’ve also ranked their roughness with a spicy score (🌶) to help you select from the Exceed, Grail, or the Endurace with big tires. I’m including some must-hit food and drink recommendations because it’s well known that all this great riding will work up an appetite. So, if you call Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Reston, Springfield, or Tysons “home,” you can venture out for these great gravel rides.

Gravel Rides near Washington DC Visit the Blue Bottle Coffee in DC for post-ride refreshments

1. Washington D.C. AM/PM C&O Canal Route

Highlights: This 20-mile out-and-back route features a lot of Colonial-era historic sites on the mostly flat, light-gravel canal path. Start out with a killer espresso and Avocado Toast at Blue Bottle Coffee and finish with elderberry kombucha and braised mushroom enchiladas at Chia Tacos for a treat.

- Ride style: Beginner
- Bike type: Grail or Endurance
- Spicy Score: 🌶 🌶
- Difficulty: 🔋 🔋
- Equipment Needed: A bell, bottle, 2 tube, and a pump
- Navigation: Easy
- Where to Park: On street parking available
- Great Place to Eat: Chia Tacos
- Great Place for Coffee: Blue Bottle Coffee

2. The 76 Plains to Bluemont Graveler by Bluemont Connection Touring, Chris Tank

Highlights: This rowdy 79-mile ride features an uphill single track section to the top of the Blue Ridge and some rewarding high speed descents. Come prepared for a few long stretches between food and water on the far side of this wild ride. You will set out from The Plains, climb the singletrack in the GR Thompson Wildlife Area at mile 23, and descend the gravel of Mt Weather at mile 39. Visit the Bluemont General Store at mile 48.6 and discover the village of Middleburg at mile 65.5. Johnny’s Monarch’s is a great outdoor “bustaurant” - serving cuisine that is either “really, really great for you” or “really, really bad for you” in two double decker busses - three miles west of The Plains in Marshall, Virginia. The chef used to cook for the U.S. Olympic Team.

- Ride Style: Advanced
- Bike Type: Grail
- Spicy Score: 🌶 🌶 🌶 🌶
- Difficulty: 🔋 🔋 🔋 🔋
- Equipment Needed: Two tubes and a pump. Bring enough food for an all-day ride.
- Navigation: Intermediate
- Where to Park: Ample parking behind Haymarket Bicycle Studio.
- Great Place for Coffee: Start with an authentic Macchiato and a churro-flavored waffle at Haymarket Bicycle Studio Cafe ( Happy Creek Coffee Tea)
- Great places to Eat: If you’re on a date, go to Girasol for a swanky Italian experience or try a Chesapeake Bay crab pizza and pint of Hoptimization from Brothers Craft Brewing at The Front Porch Cafe.

Gravel Rides near Washington DC Gravel Rides near DC

3. Loudoun Graveler By Bluemont Connection Touring

Highlights: The Graveler puts riders on the best gravel roads that Virginia’s Loudoun and Fauquier counties have to offer. This route starts with the locals’ favorite stretch of gravel, descends Bull Run Mountain, and ends in a ripping descent back to Aldie. There's a water/coffee stop at Happy Creek at mile 26.4 and an awesome BBQ joint, Hammer Down BBQ, on Rt 50 as you head east back toward the D.C. area.

- Ride Style: Intermediate 60/40
- Bike Type: Endurance or Grail
- Spicy Score: 🌶 🌶 🌶
- Distance 🔋 🔋 🔋
- Equipment Needed: 2 tubes and a good pump
- Navigation: Intermediate
- Great places to eat: Hammer Down BBQ

Gravel Rides near Washington DC Post-ride refuelling is important! Photo: Bluemont Connection

Regardless of your gravel-riding experience and level of fitness, you are sure to be surprised by the treasure trove of historic gravel roads west of Washington D.C.!

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