The Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park and Trail is furrifically long, just like its name. To avoid the mouthful, this trail is just the "W&OD" in local lingo. It follows the old route of its namesake rail line, disused since the late 1960s. Thanks to a prime location in Washington DC's densely packed suburbs, this may be the nation's most pawpular after-work adventure.
Because the park housing this hiking and biking trail is only 100 feet wide but almost 45 miles long, the W&OD Regional Park is often dubbed "the skinniest park in Virginia." Skinny indeed: if you make a habit of such long walks, you'll probably find it hard to keep the pounds on, too!
This 45-mile trek begins in Shirlington in Arlington County, a mere 7 miles from the US Capitol Building. This urban environment continues for several miles, and you'll find places to exit for a snack on the patio of a dog-friendly eatery or a pit stop at a park restroom. Interpretive panels help you bone up on local history.
Bluemont Park in Arlington has more parking; it's a great hop-on point with plenty of creature comforts. You can also access the trail on two Metrorail lines via the East Falls Church Station. You'll experience a slow, steady uphill grade heading west, manageable for even your short-legged buddies. As you pass through Reston and Herndon, the trail becomes increasingly leafy and suburban. The hills will also increase as you pass over I-495 and emerge from the metro area into rural Virginia.
Earlybirds and nightowls, take note! The 5 AM to 9 PM trail hours only apply east of Herndon in Fairfax County. In the more rural western half of the trail, hours are dawn to dusk. That rule is for your own protection, as the wooded surroundings are teeming with wildlife. Squirrel! Don't be surprised if deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and other woodland creatures make an appearance, so keep a firm grip on Fido's leash.