By Visit Loudoun
When fitness instructor Deb Johnson is not teaching classes at Ida Lee in Leesburg, you can find her on her bike, specifically riding the back country roads and bucolic cycle paths of Loudoun County. Indeed, when Johnson moved to Leesburg in 2015, she made sure her new house was less than a mile from one such path: the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
Virginia’s skinniest park, the 45-mile-long cycling, walking and – in parts – equestrian trail is built on the bed of the former W&OD railway line. With 20 miles of the trail bisecting Loudoun between Purcellville and Sterling, there’s no shortage of places to stop along the way and support Loudoun’s local businesses.
“I love the gradual incline when you cycle west and the fact it’s a great departure point for so many towns, villages and gravel roads in the county,” said Johnson. “Also, that it’s shaded much of the way.”
So how best to experience the trail this fall when the leaves change and it’s at its most scenic?
Traveling west to east, begin near the restored, circa 1904 train station in Purcellville, snapping a selfie at the wine-themed LOVE art sculpture that pays tribute to the region’s rich wine country. (Grab a donut or homemade cookie from Sweet Rose Bakeshop to serve as fuel along the way.)
As you head east, take in the spectacular Piedmont scenery of vineyards, fields of grain and lush green pastures dotted with cows, horses and red barns. Enjoy the open views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as you near Hamilton Station Road, which marks the spot where the W&OD train once stopped. Once here, you could cycle south into Hamilton village, or north, one mile up the hill, for a cool glass of Viognier at The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards.
Continue east to Paeonian Springs where refreshments await at Vino 9 Market. The melted brie, apple and honey sandwich is a favorite or try the smoked mac and cheese. From here take the path across Harry Bird Highway and coast downhill alongside Dry Mill Road into gorgeous historic Leesburg.
Park your bike at Raflo Park and explore the sculpture garden, then download the Leesburg Walking Tour App, which features everything from guided public art tours to history tours. Shop trendy boutiques on King Street, visit the Loudoun Museum and cool off with an oversized ice cream cone from Mocatinas. Bike through town on September 18 to experience the Crossroads Music Festival, which will feature regional musicians and bands at various venues throughout Leesburg.
After exploring Leesburg, pedal to Marker 25 in Ashburn. Besides being home to local favorites like Carolina Brothers Pit BBQ and the Wine’ing Butcher Market, this mile marker is also just steps from Old Ox Brewery. Enjoy a Golden Ale, Pale Ale or Porter in the outdoor beer garden.
For people who prefer a bit more off-roading by bike, Loudoun is also home to more than 300 miles of unpaved, gravel roads. Dating back to the 1700’s, these roads take riders through Loudoun’s rich agricultural scene, past horse country, vineyards and farms. In early 2021, Loudoun County released a downloadable map of the rural roads to follow. Alternatively, take part in the annual 1725 Gravel Grinder scenic bike ride, which follows the historic gravel roads of Northern Virginia.