Tag Archives: Owen Stamper

MTB in the DMV: Six Spots to Mountain Bike Around the DC Area (Suggested by Owen!)

[Note: This is another post written by Owen!  His first KFDC contribution about activities with teens in DC got such a great response, we thought it would be fun for him to do more.  Also, while I do a little mountain biking, I’m not nearly as good as he is and haven’t ridden as wide a variety of trails in as many places. He has way more insight to offer on MTB in the DMV.]

 

I started mountain biking about four years ago, shortly before Covid began. While I had done a lot of biking around DC, I didn’t have much experience with all-terrain riding. But when I was about 13, I started joining my dad, who has been mountain biking since he was in college. He was a great teacher, and in a few years, I’ve gone from relatively no mountain biking experience to riding difficult trails with all sorts of challenges (both locally and in other parts of the country) and can now confidently recommend some great places to ride in the DC area. So, whether you already have a genuine interest in mountain biking, are thinking about getting into it (with or without kids), or you’re into the outdoors and looking for more ways to enjoy it, this round-up of places to MTB will help get you going.

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Schaeffer Farms
Schaeffer Farms was the first place I ever mountain biked in the DC area. Although I was initially a bit nervous being new to it all, it ended up being an awesome experience because the location is perfect for someone who is a beginner and new to mountain biking. There are easy trails to ride on along with options for something more difficult if you’re up to the challenge. Additionally, the area is beautiful with a ton of diversity in terms of trails to explore. Some are in the woods, and there is great single track through farm fields. It’s just under an hour from DC and worth the drive. I’ve been there plenty of times with my dad and have always enjoyed it, no matter my skill level, from those early days when I was just starting to having several years of mountain biking experience. Out of all locations in the DC area, Schaeffer Farms is the most accessible for all skill levels, which is why it is a must-go MTB spot.

More Insight: There is one parking lot right next to the trailhead. All rides begin on the same trail, but there will be some options for different routes. The shortest one is about seven miles. View the trail map.

Schaeffer Farms
Where: 14920 Schaeffer Road | Germantown, MD
When: Open daily, no set hours
Admission: Free

 

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Fountainhead Regional Park
Fountainhead is the top of my list for a fun, challenging ride. I don’t recommend it for beginner skill levels; you should have a reasonable amount of experience before biking here. But once you feel comfortable enough to give Fountainhead a try, you definitely won’t be disappointed. With a ton of jumps, drops, and a variety of technical trails, Fountainhead has it all. There is also a good amount of smooth downhill which is hard to come by on the east coast, so it’s a great spot to go. Out of all the local MTB places I’ve been to, this is probably the best location I’ve biked so far, and I always try to join my dad there when I have the chance.

More Insight: The parking lot is a short drive from the entrance, and the trailhead to start all rides is right off it. We usually do the green and blue trails, sometimes part of the black. I think the green here is harder than most at other places. Parts of the green have a lot of roots, which is fun for experienced riders, but might be intimidating to newer riders.  View a trail map.

Fountainhead Regional Park
Where: 10875 Hampton Road| Fairfax Station, VA
When: Daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free
Read more about Fountainhead in this KFDC post

 

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A peak at the boardwalk through the trees at Meadowood

Meadowood Mountain Bike Trail
Meadowood is right outside Lorton, VA, about 45 minutes from DC, and it’s a great MTB option in the area. It is much like Fountainhead in that it has a lot of jumps and drops for more experienced riders to try, but Meadowood is still good for many levels of riders, maybe just not complete beginners. One great aspect of Meadowood that I really like is its BOSS Trail, a short, purely downhill ride that has super fun wooden features like a staggering boardwalk, a wall  (or “a sideways” section), and a long stretch that dips up and down. It’s a technical trail best for more advanced riders, and it took me a few tries to get it down, but it was definitely worth working at it. Overall, Meadowood is a great MTB option, and if you’re looking for something in the same domain as Fountainhead, but with some extra features, it’s a perfect spot to explore.

More Insight: There are a couple of parking lots, and we always park at Gunston Road, and there is a trailhead right there that will lead to the BOSS  Trail. View the trail map.

Meadowood Trail
Where: 10100 Gunston Rd | Lorton, VA
When: Year-round, 6am – 7pm
Admission: Free

 

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Patapsco Valley State Park
Patapsco Valley State Park stands out from the rest of the places included here for the wide range of activities that are in the area. Not only does it offer great mountain biking, Patapsco also has an abundance of beautiful trails for hiking, historic sites, small waterfalls and swimming areas, playgrounds, and more features all across the park. And yet with all of these other features, the mountain biking in Patapsco never fails to disappoint. The park offers the most trails out of all the spots on this list [nearly 150 miles of them!] and the area is so big that it feels like you can bike forever. The scenery is beautiful, and many of the biking trails wind through woods, cross pretty creeks, and even lead to waterfalls, making the experience even better. Patapsco is like Schaeffer Farm in that there’s something for a wide range of skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders. You just need to find a suitable trail. There are a lot of blues [moderate difficulty], but also plenty of greens [easy] to choose from, as well as black [most difficult] if you’re up for the challenge.

More Insight: As mentioned, there are a lot of trail options at Patapsco. We usually start with Morning Chase, then connect to other trails. There is a parking lot on Landing Road to access it. However, Patapsco is huge, so take a look at the trail map to help you figure out where to ride and park.

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: Howard & Baltimore Counties, Maryland
When: Open daily year-round, 9am – sunset
Admission: April- October: Weekdays: $2/vehicle MD residents, $4/vehicle non-residents
Weekends/holidays: $3/residents, $5/non-residents
November – March: $2/resident vehicle, $4/non-resident vehicle
Read more about Patapsco in this KFDC post

 

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Cosca Regional Park
Cosca Regional Park is a place I highly recommend for someone who’s more of a beginner, as the trails are pretty mellow and better for a casual ride. Located in Clinton, MD, it’s densely wooded, so the scenery is really nice, especially in the fall. There are about nine miles of trails total, but you can do short sections, and they’re pretty easy to ride (much easier than places like Fountainhead or Meadowood).

More Insight: The trailhead is right across from the Park Office. There is one main loop to ride that is a mix of green and blue, but you can make it longer or shorter depending on what you’re up for. You can probably do all of the short, easy parts even if you’re just starting out. View the trail map here.

Cosco Regional Park
Where: 11000 Thrift Road | Clinton, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 7pm
Admission: Free

 

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Fort Dupont Park
Fort Dupont Park in Anacostia may not be the typical place you’d think of when you’re looking for a spot to mountain bike, but it’s one to be aware of. Since it’s right in DC, it’s much more accessible than the other locations on this list [if you live in the city]. Additionally, the trails in the park are easy to ride if you just want to get some practice riding in the woods. Although you’re right in the city, it still feels as if you could be miles out because the park is so wooded. This is the best place on this list for a quick ride without having to drive outside of DC. The trails are generally welcoming for riders of all skill levels, so there’s no worry if you’re a beginner.

More Insight: We bike to Fort Dupont Park right from our house and start the trail by the amphitheater [3600 F Street, SE — there is a parking lot nearby, too].  It starts as a paved path, then a dirt trail in the woods that will cross a road after a bit and continue into more woods.

Fort Dupont Park
Where: 3600 F Street SE | Anacostia, DC
When: Daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

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More MTB Tips (added by Linda):
* Trailforks and Traillinks are great sites for more details on local mountain biking trails.
* If you want to try mountain biking, but don’t own a mountain bike, rent one from one of these local shops: Conte’s, Big Wheel Bikes, REI, and The Bike Lane.
* REI offers an Introduction to Mountain Biking class for ages 14+. They tend to fill up fast, so reserve spots while you can!
* Some recommended gear: Gloves, helmet, mtb shorts/pants, water bottle or hydration pack.

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Activities with Teens Around DC (Recommended by a DC Teen!)

[Note: Aside from the intro, this post was written by Owen, a key member of the KFDC team since day one.]

 

I’m so excited and proud to present the first-ever KFDC post written by one of my kids!  That cute, smiley toddler you see in the masthead at the top of the blog? He’s a teenager now — has been for a few years — and he’s here to recommend local activities for teens.  I get asked from time to time about the best things to do with teenage kids in DC, by both visiting parents and even locals.  And I totally get it.  I know from my own experiences traveling with teens and, really, just having and wanting to hang out with them, that it can be tricky to find activities to do together that they’ll truly enjoy.

So, who better to discuss the DC teen scene than an actual DC teen, especially one who has done a lot around the area?  While Owen and I talked about some of these ideas, he had carte blanche to write about whatever he wanted.  And I love his recommendations.  They were originally intended for visiting teens, but locals obviously can enjoy them, too, and some may actually be more convenient for those who live here (ie, you might need a mountain bike and car with a bike rack). But they’re all fantastic suggestions, and they all come from real DC teen experience.   [Note: I added links and side notes, but the ideas and write-ups are all his.]   Thanks, O!

 

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A top museum for teens to see

Museums
A DC activity that is pretty much essential for teens and adults (and younger kids) alike is visiting the museums across the city. This is an obvious one to mention here and such a common thing to do in DC, but for good reason. From the many museums on the National Mall to others in different areas, DC has an amazing range of museums to explore. What is best really depends on personal interest, and I could go on and on about what’s good about each one. But the museum I think should be a priority is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum encompasses the long history of African Americans in a very engaging way, from the start of slavery to Civil Rights to Black cultural icons to Black Lives Matter. With a creatively formatted floor plan, the museum begins with the oldest subject matter on the bottom floor and, as you work your way up, you move forward through time, eventually to our present day. The exhibits are really interesting, there are interactive parts, the architecture of the building is incredible, and the whole experience is thought-provoking and significant. A few other museums that I think are great for teens are the National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History (I loved these when I was younger and still think they are interesting), Planet WordNational Geographic Museum, National Gallery of Art, and the Hirshhorn has had some of the coolest exhibits [see a few of them here, here, and here].

 

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A walk on the C&O

Georgetown
If you’re looking for a nice area to explore with a wide range of activities, Georgetown is just the place. I’ve always liked it there, because there’s a lot to do. The neighborhood has a mix of city and nature if you know where to go. With tons of stores along M Street, it’s a good shopping area for teens. There is also the C&O Canal, where you can take a nice walk while avoiding the congestion on the main streets above. Further back from M Street, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is cool to walk through, and there are hiking trails behind it in Dumbarton Oaks Park [similar names, but two different places]. Finally, if you’re looking to get out on the water and see famous monuments from an angle many don’t experience, kayaking is a great option in Georgetown. One location that offers this is Boating in DC at Key Bridge, which is a short walk from the center of Georgetown. Not only is the service great (full disclosure: as an employee, I may be biased), but you can get amazing views of DC from the Potomac while you paddle. [Find more Boating in DC locations and other places to paddle around the area here.]

 

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National Arboretum
The Arboretum is one of my favorite places in the city to hang out. Our family has been going there for as long as I can remember. If you’re looking for somewhere beautiful to hike around, take photos, or just relax, this is a great place to go. You’ll immediately be impressed by the unique sight of the tall marble columns that used to be part of the Capitol in the middle of the main field. There are a lot of trails winding through the different areas of plants, and it’s all super scenic and a great way to spend a day. There’s a whole area dedicated to Bonsai trees and a separate section at the back with all Asian plants. The best time to go, in my opinion, is in the fall when the leaves change and everything is colorful, but it’s nice to visit all year.

 

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Take in the scenery at Roosevelt Island

Hiking
There are a lot more places to go for nature and something different than the urban environment of museums and memorials, and hiking is a great way to enjoy these options. If you want to hike right in the city, Rock Creek Park is legit with lots of trails in the woods that feels like a different world from what we typically think of DC. If you don’t mind driving a bit outside the city, Great Falls is the best place to go. The views are outstanding with a whole section of rushing falls that you can see from overlooks, and the Billy Goat Trail [on the Maryland side] is more fun and challenging than other hikes in the area. Roosevelt Island is also a nice place to go that’s close.  You have to cross the river to get there, and you can easily bike.

 

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Riding by Constitution Gardens on the National Mall

City Biking
Biking is one of the best ways to get around the city while enjoying the scenery along the way. I’ve biked with my family and on my own (or with friends) for many years, and in DC, it’s never hard to find a good ride. One great area to bike is along the National Mall then to Georgetown. You pass by or stop at all the monuments and ride along the water, then you can stop and grab some food and and hang out when you get there (see the Georgetown section above). I also like riding the Anacostia River Trail from the Navy Yard to Anacostia Park, then northeast DC into Maryland. It’s a great option if you’d like to see a different part of DC. But if you want to stay closer in, riding from Yards Park to The Wharf (and vice vera) is fun because there is a lot going on at both places. [It’s easy to get a bike through Capital BikeShare. There are stations all over the city, and you can pick up a bike at one and leave it at another.]

 

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Cheer on the United at Audi Field

DC Sports
Even if you’re not a fan of one of our sports teams, going to a game is a great way to experience a major piece of DC culture. We have teams in all of the major sports leagues. If you’re into baseball, go to a Nats game at Nationals Park in the Navy Yard. If you like soccer, DC United and Washington Spirit matches at Audi Field are awesome. If you’re looking for basketball or hockey, the Capitals and Wizards play at the Capitol One Arena in Penn Quarter. For football fans, the Commanders play in Maryland. If you’re not into any of the sports, it’s still fun to be in the exciting atmosphere of the stadium or arena.  [What you see obviously depends on the time of year, but at least one of the teams is always in their season. And a couple more to check out are the DC Breeze Ultimate Frisbee team and Washington Mystics women’s basketball.]

 

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Single track through the field at Schaffer Farm

Mountain Biking
Mountain biking has become one of my favorite activities over the last few years. I’ve ridden in a few places around the area, and I’m never disappointed. The mountain biking options in DC are very limited, but there are plenty of great ones within an hour of the city, and some are only 20-30 minutes away. If you don’t have much experience, Schaeffer Farms in Maryland is good for beginners. With flatter trails and a range of easy options, it’s good if you want to get a ride in without the intensity that other areas require. Another location that I’ve gone to plenty of times is Fountainhead Regional Park in Northern Virginia. It’s one of the best spots in the area with super fun trails with lots of drops and jumps and fast turns. Patapsco Valley State Park in Maryland also has a lot of really good riding options. For a little mountain biking in DC, Fort Dupont Park in Anacostia has some trails. They are short and easy, and you can bike there from Capitol Hill in about 15 minutes.  [If you’re visiting and/or need a mountain bike, rentals are available through Conte’s Bike Shop and Big Wheel Bikes.]

 

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Up close to see Kishi Bashi at the 9:30 Club

Concerts
If you’re looking for a fun venue to see your favorite artists, DC is not lacking when it comes to the music scene. The Anthem is a great place to see a show. It’s right on the waterfront at the Wharf, and a lot of big artists play there, so it’s easy to find an act you’d like to see, and there are also really good places to eat near the venue. The 9:30 Club is awesome and legendary in DC. It’s not too big, so you get a more intimate music experience. There are sometimes big concerts at Capitol One Arena and Nationals Park, so it’s worth checking to see if anyone is playing. [Some other smaller venues to check for all-ages concerts are Lincoln Theatre, The Hamilton, DC9, and Black Cat.]

 

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Show time at Arena Stage

Theatre
You might not think of theatre when you think of DC, but it’s actually really good here, and I’ve been lucky to see some great shows over the years. One of the most memorable was Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage. It debuted there and went on to become a Broadway hit. (I might have been a little young when my mom took me to see it, but I still loved it.)  [You can read all about that here!]  The Kennedy Center, of course, always has a lot of big shows, and we’ve also seen some really good ones at more places around the city [National Theatre, Warner Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Synetic Theater, and Sidney Harman Hall].

 

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The Split Rocker sculpture at Glenstone

Glenstone
Even though Glenstone is not right in DC, it’s definitely worth the drive. Not only does the museum have a whole beautiful outdoor part with big sculptures to see as you walk through, but it also has indoor galleries with a ton of interesting artwork. The balance of nature and modern art offers a unique experience, very different from the museums in DC, and probably hard to find anywhere else. You have to be at least 12 years old to go, so teens should should take advantage! [Glenstone offers Guaranteed Admission for students age 12+, and one guest can join them, which means you don’t need to reserve tickets in advance.]

 

If you have a DC teen, what are some of their favorite local activities? Let us know in the comments!

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Filed under DC, Teens