ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For over a year, a broken sewer line closed portions of the Holmes Run Trail west of ParkLawn Swimming pool. There were warnings to stay away from the water and at times, the trail was completely fenced off.
Since mid-September though, the trail has been available if not officially reopened. New asphalt has been laid down between Columbia Pike and Parklawn make the ride much smoother too. Combined with the Eisenhower Ave. Trail, there is a continuous route from Lake Barcroft to the Carlye section of Alexandria, just west of Old Town.
West of Interstate 395 and of Beauregard Street in particular, Holmes Run carves its way out of rock as it descends toward Cameron Run and the tidal Potomac River. It’s beautiful all year long, but particularly as the autumnal color arrives.
The western terminus of the trail is at Columbia Pike near Lake Barcroft. Descending in a generally south-southeast direction through the woods, the trail has four water crossings. The second-most western one tends to be fairly deep, several inches. If you choose to ride through the at-grade water crossings YOU WILL GET WET. The alternative is to carry your bicycle as you walk across stepstones. As of October 25, the water wasn’t too cold yet.
After the fourth water crossing, the new pavement ends in the vicinity of Parklawn Swimming pool. The setting is more open and all there is a brief respite from the leaf covered trail. Near Chambliss Street there is a recently constructed concrete bridge over the Run and then it is back into forest. There is a fork in the trail, but keep right for the main trail. Dora Kelley Park abuts the trail here and there are a few other trails through their to the streets of western Alexandria. The trail surfaces changes along this stretch with old asphalt, concrete and even wooden viaducts to contend with along the way. Traffic also picks up, mostly walkers, many of them with dogs who may or may not be leashed. Give ample warning and be prepared to stop as the level of attentiveness cannot be relied upon. Climbing up to Beauregard Street is a wooden viaduct that can feel quite narrow with others on it. After crossing Beauregard, the trail winds through the woods with poor sightlines. Here it is especially important to be mindful of others and take a leisurely pace.
The trail travels through two tunnels, a long dark one at I-395 and another at Van Dorn Street. Expect to be splashed by the puddles along the way. The final crossing of Homles Run is atop a damn east of Van Dorn Street. From there, the trail footprint is within a long, narrow park, so watch out for families and small children. After the park, it’s back into the woods before an underpass at Duke Street. A sharp turn awaits near another playground and then the final stretch to Eisenhower Avenue under railroad and Metro viaducts — it’s a good spot for railfans. At Eisenhower Avenue, cyclists have the option of choosing the sidewalk on the northside of the roadway to Great Waves water park or continuing under the roadway to a merge onto the Eisenhower Avenue Trail that parallels Cameron Run.
Judging by the weather for this weekend and next week, this may be the last weekend with decent conditions for some time. It’s also a good park to hike through with some scrambling opportunities as well.