Cycling In Prince William Forest National Park

When Conte’s Hill Ride was canceled, we decided to venture south and take our bikes to Prince William Forest National Park. Although I’ve lived here all my life, I’ve never been to this park, even though it’s less than an hour away–probably 30 minutes if you can make it down 95S without traffic. Is that even possible?

Cycling In Prince William Forest
It’s a favorite place to ride for women in my Moms Run This Town Multisport group, and the park website itself highlights cycling options. 

Cycling In Prince William Forest

The main place to ride is on Scenic Drive, which is a 7 mile loop of shared road. That said, about half the loop has broad bike lanes and traffic on the other half was light and respectful of bikes. After all, they were driving in the heart of a national park with a 25 or 35 mph speed limit. 

We rode the loop twice in each direction. The hills were harder in the clockwise direction, but the counterclockwise direction seemed to have longer steady climbs, so both directions were challenging in their own way.  

Prince William Forest Cycling Scenic Drive Loops

Nothing compared to the hardest hills on the Conte’s route!

The shady scenery and quiet surroundings made for a lovely ride on a hot summer day, but that 95S traffic will keep this from becoming a regular ride for us.

My husband didn’t care that our ride was 27.7 miles but I wanted that 0.3!

Cycling To Lake Needwood

Since I chose our ride Saturday, I let my husband decide where to ride on Sunday. He opted for Rock Creek Park–a national park in the heart of Washington, D.C.–where Beach Drive is closed to cars on weekends. I don’t like this ride because the section on the path is narrow and bumpy (darn tree roots!), but the promise of shade won me over. 

The route from my office (where we parked) to the north end of Rock Creek Park is about 10 miles, but when we got to the end, I spotted a sign for Rock Creek Trail that kept going and promised “Lake Needwood” in only 14 more miles. 

Cycling to Lake Neeedwood

Since I had lost my freaking mind it was such a nice day, I asked my husband if we could keep going. 

We continued on Rock Creek Trail, which was a paved path similar to the path at the south end of Rock Creek Park. At one point, we saw cyclists on the adjacent road, and cut over to join them. At a stop light I asked a cyclist if there really was a lake a few more miles on. He said yes, but noted that road would end before then. We cut back over to the trail, and encountered the most challenging part of the ride–although the one hard hill was only hard on the way back. 

This compact elevation profile makes it look much harder than it was.
I didn’t notice the steady climb on the way out–
although I did notice the downhill on the way home.

Finally, we got to Lake Needwood!

The major fail of this trip is that we hadn’t planned to ride this far, and so hadn’t brought enough snacks to properly refuel. I had one package of peanut butter crackers I shared with my husband, but those 100 calories were not enough!

Another fail of this trip is that I had not charged my Garmin after Saturday’s ride, so it died a mile in. Luckily I noticed almost right away, and turned on the Strava app which amazingly was able to track this long ride without completely draining my phone’s battery. 

This is another ride that we are not likely to repeat because the path is so bumpy! Despite wearing padded shorts and using chamois cream, my lady parts were hating me for days! 

Do you live near any national parks?

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20 Responses to Cycling In Prince William Forest National Park

  1. I was just going to ask about the nether regions! That’s a lot of time in the saddle. Looks wonderful! After RnR Chicago, I’m going to get some bike time in.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Sweet Redemption: Stampede 10k Race RecapMy Profile

  2. Wish PW forest wasn’t so far or hard to get to. We need a ride together soon let’s go out to Leesburg soon

  3. Kimberly G says:

    Holy elevation! That was definitely a long time to spend on the bike, sorry that the padded shorts didn’t help more! I would love to buy a bike and do some exploring this summer/Fall.
    Kimberly G recently posted…Chicago Marathon Training Recap – Week 6My Profile

  4. Carla says:

    you almost almost have me ready kinda sorta to BUY ME SOME PADDED SHORTS and a GEL SEAT and try cycling.

    Almost 🙂

  5. Karen Bayne says:

    I have to drive my bike at least an hour to get to a park to ride. We do have bike trail access now about 35 minutes away but the parking is microscopic…I end up having to drive an hour out to the next lot last time I tried.
    Your rides looked really challenging!! I think I would have pushed myself to 50 though since you were so close!
    Karen Bayne recently posted…Glacier Half Marathon ~ MontanaMy Profile

  6. This looks like a major challenge! I have only been on my bike a couple times this year, and none of those rides were farther than 6-7 miles. And, most likely, I will not be back in the saddle for awhile now ;-( All I got to say about all those bumps….OUCH!
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…Find a Way, Make it HappenMy Profile

  7. No one likes angry lady parts! Looks like a beautiful rife though- even if it was bumpy! I think it is nice when we can discover something new in our own neck of the woods!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…It is time to get a summer challenge ON!My Profile

  8. That’s some elevation!!!! I have done any cycling since May! Gotta get outside now and get some miles in!
    Anna @ Pipers Run recently posted…June Mileage & July’s GoalsMy Profile

  9. Rachel says:

    Beach Drive is closed to cars on weekends? That’s fascinating. It’s so beautiful there.

    Prince William Forest also looks amazing! You live in such a pretty area of the country.
    Rachel recently posted…5 Ways to Have a Stress-Free SummerMy Profile

  10. Jenn says:

    How fun! I wish we could get out for some long rides like that.

    We don’t live near any National Parks, but definitely some State Parks. There are a few where we can ride, but we just don’t get to it. I need to make it priority.
    Jenn recently posted…race report: first coast kids triathlon {6.4.2017}My Profile

  11. What a beautiful park, but I completely understand the hesitation of dealing with traffic on 95. It doesn’t seem to matter the time of day, both 95 and 66 are always horrible when it comes to traffic. Ugh!
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…Friday Five – Potpourri v. 20My Profile

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