National Scenic Trails

Mt. Vernon Trail
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With the Potomac River as your companion, you can ride your bike, jog, or walk the 18.5-mile trail from Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, to Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way enjoy a view of the Potomac at Riverside Park, visit the fortifications at Fort Hunt Park, and take a side trip to the Dyke Marsh wildlife habitat or to Jones Point Park, which features a 19th-century lighthouse. You can then lunch on the wharf in Alexandria amid the 18th-century homes and shops occupied ever since the city was a tobacco and shipping port.

Next, you can rest in the greenery of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove in Lady Bird Johnson Park where you can view the Washington monuments from a distance.

The trail passes Memorial Bridge that symbolizes the union of the North and South after the Civil War. Just past Theodore Roosevelt Island is the connection to the Arlington County trail system.

In 1973 the National Park Service constructed the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River, paralleling the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Here's a blow by blow list of the sights along the way. . .

Beyond Alexandria, you can see the sailboats off Daingerfield Island, and view the Washington skyline from Gravelly Point, where you can also watch jet planes land and take off from Washington National Airport. Once over the Columbia Island Bridge, you pass the Navy-Marine Memorial of gulls in flight above a wave.

Theodore Roosevelt Island: Leave your bicycles at the racks and explore the 2-1/2 miles of trails and the memorial plaza.

Arlington Memorial Bridge: This bridge was dedicated in 1932 to symbolize the union of the North and South following the Civil War.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove: From this living memorial to the 36th President in Lady Bird Johnson Park, you have an unobstructed view of the Washington skyline.

Navy-Marine Memorial: This statute by Ernest Begni del Piatta, dedicated in 1934, honors Americans who served at sea.

Gravelly Point: A fine panorama of Washington, the Potomac River, and Washington National Airport can be seen from this recreation area on the river. It is a perfect place to launch your boat, begin a bike trip, or watch the planes landing and taking off from the airport.

Daingerfield Island: No longer geographically an island, this 107 acre area at the junction of the Potomac River and Four Mile Run has sailing, fishing, and field sports facilities. The restaurant here has a fine view of Washington.

Alexandria: The bike trail follows the city streets through Alexandria. The town, historically a center for tobacco trading and shipbuilding, was frequented by George Washington, George Mason, and Robert E. Lee. Christ Church, Lee's boyhood home, Gadsby's Tavern, and the George Washington Bicentennial Center are well worth visiting.

Jones Point Lighthouse: This inland lighthouse with its small beacon warned of nearby sandbars from 1836-1925. The point was named after a beaver trader, Cadwalader Jones, who built his cabin here in 1692. Jones Point was once the southernmost corner of the District of Columbia. A cornerstone commemorating this fact can be seen in an alcove along the seawall. This area is popular for fishing and picnicking.

Belle Haven: Once the name of a settlement of Scottish merchants, Belle Haven grew up around a tobacco warehouse in the 1730's. This is now a popular picnic area adjacent to Dyke marsh on the Potomac River. A perfect place to begin a ride along the trail.

Dyke Marsh: Over 250 species of birds have been sighted in this lush 240 acre wetland, typical of the Potomac estuary shoreline.

Fort Washington: An early 19th Century coastal defense fortification.

Fort Hunt Park: 156 acres for picnicking, hiking, and ball playing. A good place to start a bike trip.

Riverside Park: Enjoy fishing, picnicking, and looking at the river.

Mount Vernon: George Washington's home on the Potomac River.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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