The Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park stretches almost 45 miles between the Potomac River in Alexandria and Purcellville. The park is approximately 100 feet wide, and of course, its primary feature is the rail trail, a paved path about 10 feet wide, that closely follows the original rail bed of, and derives its name from, the now defunct W&OD Railway/Railroad.
|We noticed a crushed bluestone trail that mostly paralleled the paved trail — this is a bridle
path that travels near the paved trail in the park’s most westerly 32 miles.
The W&OD was an intrastate short-line railroad located in Northern Virginia. Its oldest line extended from Alexandria on the Potomac River northwest to Bluemont at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Snickers Gap, not far from the boundary line between Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad’s route largely paralleled the routes of the Potomac River and the present Virginia State Route 7.
|Often the trail passes through portions with step slopes; with the mature trees reaching together overtop,
it feels like you’re biking through a leafy cathedral.
Our plan for our introduction to the W&OD was to start on the W&OD’s west end at Purcellville’s old train depot. We ended up parking at the Loudoun Valley High School, about a mile before the end at the old train depot. With time constraints, we wanted to limit our ride to a scant 2 hours, so our goal was Clarks Gap, just over 5 miles away from the high school, and an approximate 11 mile round-trip.
Getting there: Access to the trail can be had at any of the road crossings, as well as at the Purcellville’s old train depot, now restored and serving as the Loudoun County Visitor’s Center and at the Loundoun Valley High School (only on weekends).
|The W&OD’s highest elevation (610 feet) is at the bridge carrying VA Route 9 (Charles Town Pike) over
VA Route 7 near the saddle point of Clarks Gap in Catoctin Mountain.
Websites: http://purcellvilleva.com/194/WOD-Trail and https://www.novaparks.com/parks/washington-and-old-dominion-railroad-regional-park
W&OD elevation map based on information at http://www.wodfriends.org/elvations.html;
by –Reflex Reaction (talk)• – I created this image entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,
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