Top Ten U.S. Road Biking Routes

Sugarloaf, Maryland
  |  Gorp.com
The C & O Canal
Along the C & O Canal (NPS)

One problem with living in big cities is the distance you sometimes have to travel to get to good green countryside and fine rides along gentle county roads. For cities caught in the riptide development of the east coast megalopolis sweep, this distance is getting greater and greater. Fortunately, this is not necessarily the case for those trapped in the loose nets of the Washington, D.C., beltway.

If you have the time, a great place to start is right in Georgetown on a path running for 184.5 miles along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and through the C and O Canal National Historic Park. For those with less time, Poolsville is a favorite starting point for many area riders and is less than an hour's drive from the Capitol—an easy scoot up the Potomac. (This is about 35 miles up the canal across from Leesburg, Virginia.) You could of course stay along the canal for as long as your time and legs hold out. There is plenty here for any weekend overnighter. However, you might also consider slipping inland and trying your thighs on something a little tougher: a "mountain." Sugarloaf rises dramatically from the rather flat Monacay Valley to 1,280 feet. The tallest thing around, it was used as a watchtower and signal station by Union troops monitoring Lee's progress toward Antietam.

After playing along whatever length of the C AND O you desire, or first setting wheel to pavement in Poolesville, head north. The whole area is a maze of quiet country roads flanked by century-old, stone, property-line walls and hundred-year-old homes. Concerned about traffic? Don't worry. During the weekend, you may actually see more cyclists than you will cars. Imagine a world like that! Sugarloaf Mountain is just on the Frederick side of the county line and can be accessed from the town of Stronghold. FDR once coveted this land so much that he petitioned its owner to have it turned into a summer White House. The owner declined and suggested another spot further north, known today as Camp David.

A full exploration of this area is the makings for a very pleasant weekend. For more about rides in the area, check out the resources of the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club, Inc. as well as other cycling options in neighboring historical areas.


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