In Northern Virginia, a treasure of recreational and commuting cyclists is the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Park trail. A splendid example of a successful rails-to-trails project, the trail follows the path of the old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, also known as the W&OD (or "WOD" to cyclists). Construction on the WOD started in 1855 with the goal of connecting Alexandria to Harper's Ferry. Railroad companies rose and fell as they struggled to make a successful venture. One branch line took D.C. residents to far off destinations such as Great Falls. In 1968, bowing to economic realities, the railroad company collapsed and sold the land to Dominion Power (which runs high power lines along the right of way). Six years later, the City of Falls Church formed an agreement with Dominion Power and opened up the first portion of the W&OD trail. By 1982, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority had purchased the W&OD from the power company. The trail was completed in 1988, running from Shirlington in Arlington, out west through Falls Church, Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Ashburn, Leesburg, and finally to Purcellville, 45 miles away.
The WOD is a very popular path that offers broad trails, wonderful destinations, and scenic vistas. In Arlington, the WOD forms a bike beltway, connecting with the Custis Trail, and the Mount Vernon Trail, making it a tremendous resource for commuters. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time on the WOD walking dogs, geocaching, roller blading, and cycling. But I had never made it to Purcellville! Last Fall, my son's high school had a championship football game out in Ashburn and I grabbed my chance. After driving him to the game, a traversed over to the trail, venturing on the final leg of the WOD that I had not ridden. This was the end of the football season, which means it was late Fall. The colors were tremendous. In Ashburn along the WOD is one of cyclist's favorite destinations, the Carolina Brothers Pit Barbeque. Not far west of Ashburn you are treated with an amazing view of the Lucky Stone Quarry, and then cross the bridge at Goose Creek. The trail is largely straight and level as you head west, permitting you to glide through the country-side. I reached Leesburg in short order and recognized portions of the trail from my previous C&O trip. You continue past Leesburg, with the WOD following near the Harry Byrd Highway. I reached Purcellville, and acquired my trophy: a picture of my bicycle next to the Purcellville sign. Purcellville is a delightful town with, of course, an excellent bike shop at the end of the trail, great restaurants, and a number ofI returned down the WOD to Leesburg where I stopped in the historic district for the best cup of coffee I think I ever had. Then back to Ashburn and to the kid whose football game was just coming to a close.
Excellent information about the WOD can be found at the Friends of WOD website.