Biking with kids along the Anacostia River Trail is not a new recommendation from me. Spanning the river from Southeast DC to College Park, MD, it’s one of our favorite trails to ride, plus the paved path with just a few gentle hills is a great one for families and kids of all ages to cruise together.
Tackling the whole trail at once would be a bit much for little riders, so biking shorter portions is the way to go with them. And there is one stretch that is perfect for it, that includes recreation opportunities — hiking, exploring, playgrounding, paddling — beyond two wheels: From Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to Bladensburg Waterfront Park (or vice versa).
It’s the locations themselves that help make this bike ride so great; both make for fantastic visits on their own, so even better when you can incorporate them into one outing. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens — boasting lily pad filled ponds, gorgeous lotus flowers and water lilies (in summer), and acres of wetlands — is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the area. You can hike around, explore the different areas, and look for creatures like frogs, fish, turtles, and all kinds of birds.
Bladensburg Waterfront Park offers different kinds of activities. There are kayak and canoe rentals (weekends through Nov. 1), a riverside playground, a pedestrian bridge, gazebos to relax in, plus a train caboose and pontoon boat tours (though both are inaccessible during Covid).
The parks are just over two miles from each other on the Anacostia River Trail, a nice, easy distance for small pedalers to ride each way. You will have to put your bikes on a rack and drive to whichever park you make your starting point (or you can bike, of course, but then it’s not a short ride anymore) — there are free parking lots at both places.
You can visit one park first, ride to the other, visit the second one, then ride back. Or you can start off your adventure with the bike ride, visit one park, ride back, then visit the second. You could also just visit one park, or even just do the bike ride.
The route is scenic, flanked by expanses of wetlands, leafy trees and flowering plants, and lovely river views. You’ll ride mostly along a paved path, but occasionally over boardwalks that wind through wooded areas and also right along the river. It’s especially lovely right now brightened by brilliant fall colors.
However you plan your outing, I recommend bringing along lunch or snacks and drinks. There are picnic areas at both parks, but concessions are not available. Other good things to know: Bike racks are located next to the entrance at Kenilworth and on the sidewalk by the river at Bladensburg. There are portable restrooms at both. And as noted above, there are free parking lots at both.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are located at 1550 Anacostia Avenue NE in DC. Hours are 8am – 4pm daily. Bladensburg Waterfront Park is located at 4601 Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, MD. Hours are sunrise to sunset daily. Admission is free to both.