Anacostia River Trail

District of Columbia, Maryland

12 Reviews

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Anacostia River Trail Facts

States: District of Columbia, Maryland
Counties: Prince Georges, Washington
Length: 21.5 miles
Trail end points: The Wharf DC at 760 Maine Ave. SW (Washington, D.C.). and Bladensburg Waterfront Park at Charles Armentrout Dr & 42nd Pl (Hyattsville)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk, Brick, Concrete
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6825131

Anacostia River Trail Description


Winding along its namesake river, from Maryland into southeast D.C., the Anacostia River Trail (also known as the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail) provides an outstanding recreation and active-transportation amenity for residents and tourists alike. On a fully paved surface (in addition to some short segments of boardwalk), the trail roves the area’s natural exurban riverside for 21.5 miles, along wooded areas and marshlands, on its way into the rapidly developing southeastern waterfront of the nation’s capital, providing access to parks, sports fields, and landmarks throughout the route.

About the Route

Roughly two miles north of the DC-Maryland line, the trail leaves off from Bladensburg, Maryland at Charles Armentrout Dr. and Baltimore Avenue (US-1), and heads south from here.

Just south of the northern endpoint, at Colmar Manor Community Park, the trail offers access to several sporting facilities (Note: access between the main trail and Colmar Manor Community Park involves a steep incline.) Here, a bridge takes the trail to the eastern bank of the Anacostia, where it continues south through Anacostia River Park and into the District of Columbia.

Passing under US Route 50 and the Northeast Rail Corridor, the trail reaches the beautiful Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. Operated by the National Park Service, this outdoor gem is free and open year-round, and the trail links directly to the park’s winding boardwalks.

Beginning at Benning Road NE, the trail spans both sides of the Anacostia.

On the western bank, the trail skirts the abandoned RFK Stadium, a longtime DC sporting landmark until 2019, when it was slated to be demolished. Here, trail users can also access the Kingman and Heritage Island State Conservation Area, a man-made, forested island within the river, on connecting spur trails.

On the eastern bank, the trail continues south through a forested segment, crosses a CSX railyard, and proceeds through the Anacostia Park waterfront, passing several amenities including two recreation centers; multiple playgrounds, including a pirate ship–themed playground with an adult fitness station; a roller-skating pavilion; and numerous sports fields.

Two more intermediary river crossings connect the eastward Anacostia Park with the parallel trail on the western bank of the river: John Phillip Sousa Bridge at Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and the 11th Street Bridge.

The southern end of the western bank of the trail passes along the Navy Yard waterfront in Southeast DC, along several marinas, U.S. Naval monuments, and new riverfront developments with several dining and entertainment options surrounding Nationals Park.

At South Capitol Street Southeast, the trail makes its southernmost crossing between the riverbanks over Frederick Douglass Bridge.

Six blocks west of Nationals Park, at P Street SW and 4th Street SW, the trail resumes and offers a westbound spur that takes trail users to the Wharf, a marina and entertainment district, along the pedestrian-only Wharf Street SW.


At the northern trail-end in Bladensburg, the trail connects to the Northwest Branch Trail and the Northeast Branch Trail.

The Kingman Island and Heritage Island Trails can be accessed from Benning Road NE and from The Fields at RFK.

The Anacostia River Trail is part of the Capital Trails Coalition, a series of interconnected trails in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Region.

Trail History

Prior to European colonization, the Anacostia River was a thriving natural ecosystem. Resident Nacotchtank people relied on the river as a fishing and drinking source. From 1749 through the early 1800s, Bladensburg was a thriving colonial port, fostering transatlantic trade of goods (especially tobacco) and enslaved people. By 1840, however, runoff accumulation had made the river too shallow for ships and the port was closed.

In 1799, the Washington Navy Yard was established to bolster the nascent U.S.’s shipbuilding capability. It was purposefully burned down by American soldiers during the war of 1812 to prevent seizure by the British, before being later rebuilt.

In the start of the 1900s, at the urging of Congress, the lands along the Anacostia began to be developed into gardens and public recreation space. In the 1920s and 30s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the riverbed, constructed seawalls, and turned marshy banks into dry land. This move, based on an antiquated understanding of land stewardship, set the ecosystem into decline, a course worsened by pollution and development throughout the 20th century.

In recent years, efforts have been underway to improve the environmental quality of the Anacostia and its surrounding public spaces.

Parking and Trail Access

The Anacostia River Trail runs between the trailhead for the Northwest Branch Trail and Northeast Branch Trail (Hyattsville, MD) and The Wharf DC, 760 Maine Ave. SW (Washington, D.C.).

Nearby Public Transit

The region’s Metro provides convenient rapid transit service to the trail. If taking your bike aboard a train, please observe the transit system’s rules. Several train stops are close to the trail:

  • Deanwood (4720 Minnesota Ave. NE)
  • Minnesota Avenue (4000 Minnesota Ave. NE)
  • Stadium-Armory (192 19th St. SE)
  • Potomac Avenue (700 14th St. SE)
  • Anacostia (1101 Howard Road SE)
  • Navy Yard-Ballpark (200 M St. SE)

The trail can also be accessed via the DC Streetcar, at the Benning Rd & Oklahoma Ave NE stop.


Parking is available:

  • 4601 Annapolis Rd (Bladensburg, MD)
  • 1800 Anacostia Dr (Washington, D.C.)
  • 425 Tingey St SE (Washington, D.C.)

There are numerous parking options along this route, see TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Anacostia River Trail Reviews

Beautiful Trail

Nice trail with a variety of parks and rivers and bridges and lakes. Visiting the Aquatic Park and Gardens was a real treat. It's right off the trail. Weekends can be a bit crowded and the trail is narrow but it a must do. Markers guide you along the way, there's lots of separate intersecting trails.

Tranquilo y sencillo para caminar. El estar junto al río hace muy grata la caminata o paseo en bici.

Tranquilo y sencillo para caminar. El estar junto al río hace muy grata la caminata o paseo en bici.

A surprising riverside gem

Starting at Nats Park (home of the Washington Nationals), we crossed the South Capitol Street bridge via a single-lane sidewalk with high railings on both sides. (This has now been replaced by a brand spanking new bridge with white arches that can be seen throughout the city.) On the southwest side of the Anacostia River, we encountered a surprisingly pastoral riverside trail that winds past playgrounds, basketball courts and a large outdoor roller-skating pavilion on the right. On the left, we could see boats motoring past the Navy Yard high rises and riverfront cafes, then further down, small marinas tucked into the wooded shoreline. Traffic on the trail was (and is always) very light with a few walkers, a few bikers and occasionally, a few fishermen hauling their tackleboxes, fishing rods and folding chairs to the water’s edge.
The trail meanders for about five miles before the exit to Benning Road which leads back to the Navy Yard on the opposite side of the river. But we recommend continuing on the trail for another five miles through lush forests and open marshlands, along quiet “country” roads (which are surprising in Washington, DC), past neighborhoods and athletic fields, and over wooden pathways that hug the shoreline. Our turnaround point was at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park, maybe two miles over the Maryland state line. There is a water bottle filling station and restroom there – along with a Dinosaur Walk. (Who knew?)
We returned to Benning Road to cross over the river and to pick up the trail, now on the northeast side of the Anacostia River. The return ride is visually interesting, but confusing. Rule of thumb: bear left whenever presented with a choice.
Navigating the Navy Yard area can be a bit challenging as residents and tourists crowd the outdoor cafes and spill out onto the expansive promenade. This wide swath of concrete and wood extends from the base of the Naval facility to Nats Park, an approximately half-mile stroll or slow, careful bike ride, past a very popular brewery.

Pleasant and Interesting Ride

I rode the Paint Branch Trail starting at Cherry Hill Park, connected to the Northeast Branch Trail and then to the Anacostia Trail to arrive at Anacostia River Park and then returned.

From the end of the Northeast Branch Trail I proceeded south on the Anacostia River Trail to Anacostia River Park. As was the case for the Paint Branch and Northeast Branch Trails, the Anacostia River Trail was paved (mostly asphalt) all the way and relatively smooth. There are a couple of wooden bridges including a large one over the river that descends into Bladensburg Waterfront Park. There are restrooms and water there. The trail continues into DC and becomes more urban including a section (very comfortable) that runs through a residential area. There are a couple of hills and then a climb to a bridge over the railroad yard that descends into Anacostia River Park.


Beautiful Sunset Views

Rode about 7 miles of this trail with my son along the Anacostia River at sunset. The trail is wide and well maintained. Picked up the trail just south of Benning road and crossed the river at the Frederick Douglass bridge. It was a great ride and we are looking forward to coming back to ride the full length of the trail.

Trail goes way past Bladensburg! :-)

A lot of people think this trail ends at Bladensburg. In fact you can continue on beautiful bike paths all the way to Wheaton or almost to Greenbelt.

Technically, the "Riverwalk" trail ends at Bladensburg, but then the "River" trails take over.

Lots of water views, not too many hills... lots little bridges. parked at Anacostia River Park, rode to Bladensburg Md.

Lots of water views, not too many hills... lots little bridges. parked at Anacostia River Park, rode to Bladensburg Md.

anacostia river trail not up to date oct 2017

This trail was expanded last year and i ride it but you end way before the end. Want to support but payment of fee demands currency on your end. The trail ends in bladensberg now. Please update.

What we were looking for

My wife and I wanted to find a fairly easy, scenic ride and that's what this was. We used public parking near the stadium, went to the water and headed North. It's easy to find the trail from there, but it's kind of weird riding on the sidewalks initially. After the first section you have a long, "walk the bike" section in front of Navy Yard.

After that the original trail is closed so you have to go left at ML King Ave, up to Water Street and the right to follow Water. The trail shares the road for a bit, but it has very little traffic.

We then rode up just past the DC United stadium. This has some nice shady areas and places to pull off. You can go up farther and cross the river, but we turned back and crossed at the Sousa bridge and went South on the other side. There are restrooms available in the Anacostia Fields section of the park. This part of the ride is very sunny.

We continued to the Frederick Douglas Bridge and crossed back over the the stadium. The trail maps don't show a connection, but if you come off the bridge and go right on Potomac Ave, you will be right back where we started.

warm day in February

We walked 3/4 of the trail with our dog and got a good workout. The bike/ped bridges are really nice with great views. Needs mile markers.

Inconsistent paved sections

Today, 5 of us rode our Trikkes on this trail.

This trail has a variety of surfaces, terrain and views. Parts of this trail are lovely... others, not so much.

We parked at the Anacostia Recreation Center parking lot (38°52'24.3"N 76°58'54.3"W) where there were open port-a-potties. This was good, because after that we encountered no restroom facilities (except a set of port-a-potties that were locked).

Along the river, on the eastern edge, the trail has nice views of the river, the marina, and the path is smooth and of decent width.

Near the northeast side, the trail gets rough, with broken patches and grass growing in the cracks and in large patches in the center of the path as it passes through a park.

Heading south on the west side, we had to ride on the street, because the trail is narrow and over grown.

The riverwalk in front of the naval yard is absolutely beautiful, although no wheeled transportation may be used/ridden in that section. (I am really glad we didn't have any roller-bladers with us. They would have had to take them off and walk barefoot, or turned around and not completed the loop.)

The pedestrian sidewalk crossing the Frederick Douglas Bridge (South Capitol Street SW) is very narrow. If 2 people, walking their bikes encountered each other, they might not be able to pass.

If the path were consistently maintained, and if there was another place on the western side with bathrooms, this could be a 5-star trail.

Will be really great--someday--but be careful of construction now

I rode a loop from first and Q southeast, over the South Capitol Street Bridge, past the East Capitol Street Bridge on the east side, then back over the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge to the west side.

The ride is interesting, and will get better as the various parks are completed. And the bridge over the railroad tracks near East Capitol is both beautiful and interesting. But beware of the construction!!!

Right now (11/30/14), you cannot get to or past Benning Road going north on the east side. Moreover, while part of the barrier is marked, another branch is not. And as far as I can tell, once you go over the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge going west, there's no way to get back on the west side path until 11th Street. Riding through the neighborhood is fine--you just need to be prepared to do it.

On the other hand, previous bike bans at the Navy Yard and Yards Park have apparently been lifted. Do be aware at Yards Park, however, that some of the paths lead to stairs (down), and there's no warning. So go slow.

Another 2 or 3 years and this will be a fun way to see a part of the District most miss. But for now, it's
a tease for what will come--and a construction site.

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