It’s something that folks who live in Columbia and surrounding Howard County know about, but few others do. Columbia MD has bike paths, almost 100 miles worth, that run between the 10 “villages” that make up the 56-year old planned community as well as other major points, including its rather lovely parks and lakes.
In fact, the bike paths add to Columbia’s charm and yes, are a worthy daytrip destination in their own right.
And of course, Columbia would have bike paths, right? Columbia began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents’ quality of life. Creator and developer James W. Rouse envisioned a community that catered to human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious and class segregation.
I’m not sure Columbia has lived up to Rouse’s vision, but its bike paths still offer a fun day of riding. We spent a day not too long ago riding the Elkhorn Branch Trail — we live near Howard High School, off of Route 108 but we LOVE LOVE LOVE the cookies from ToucheTouchet Bakery in Kings Contrivance. Our excuse to get some cookies is to ride the bike paths over to get them, and for that, we pretty much stay on the Elkhorn Branch Trail.
The bike paths are pretty well signed, but the variety of choices can be confusing. We detoured briefly in our confusion, and ended up in one of the neighborhoods, startling a young family (of humans) as well as a raucous family of geese (who threatened to nip us as we pedaled past them). Our journey took us through several underpasses, over foot bridges and around some ponds, as well as the more recognizable Lake Elkhorn.
Lots of Choices
In addition to the Elkhorn Branch Trail, other trails form the bike path system as well:
- Kendall Ridge Loop
- Savage Mill Trail
- Wilde Lake Loop
- Patuxent Branch Trail
- Kings Contrivance Loop
There are a lot of bicyclists, joggers and walkers on the bike paths — branch paths lead from almost every neighborhood to one of the main branches. The trails are usually highly shaded — a bonus in Maryland’s summers.
For our ride, there were water and restroom stops at Lake Elkhorn, and you can find restrooms, at least porta-potties, at other areas. It can become more crowded as you get closer to one of Columbia’s popular parks.
Our next Columbia bike path adventure is to explore the Patuxent Branch Trail and the Savage Mill Loop. Stay tuned!
Getting there: Depends on where you wish to start. You can park in one of the neighborhood streets and would be pretty much assured you can access the bike paths.
Website: A trail map can be downloaded from the Columbia Association website.