Best Self-Guided Tour Through Industrial D.C.

Metropolitan Branch Trail
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
There are two good ways to get downtown from Maryland by bike. There’s the Capital Crescent trail, which arches through the leafy, moneyed neighborhoods of Potomac and Palisades. And then there’s Metropolitan Branch trail on the city’s eastern side—which is much more interesting.

The Met Branch mostly wends its way through that part of D.C. that still harbors light industry: the auto repair lots, taxi depots, and trash transfer stations that serve the city’s upscale core. You can also see those things from Metro’s Red line, which the trail hugs. But then you couldn’t stop and survey the Flower Market north of NoMa, the random sculptures that sprout up as the trail proceeds towards Catholic University, one of the District’s newest breweries, and the elaborate graffiti that adorns the backs of warehouses. It’s a cross-section of the city you’d never access in a car, and you don’t even need to bring a map.