Biking, Exercise, Review, Triathlon, Weight loss, Women

Biking the BWI Trail Loop

Sunday was a beautiful spring day. Probably the most perfect day you could ask for when going out for a ride. The trees were a bright green from the budding new leaves, it was in the low-mid 60s, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I’ve been researching trails and parks within the Baltimore-Washington corridor for going on Sunday rides and the BWI trail loop stood out to me as one worth trying. It’s a good distance at 10.5-11 miles and I didn’t even know this trail existed until a few weeks ago.

Parking for the BWI trail

Getting there was slightly more complicated because I initially thought that 176 intersected with 195 but I didn’t realize until a little too late so we ended up driving around almost the entire airport before finding the parking lot we were aiming for. We arrived around 12:30 pm and the parking lot was crowded. All the spots were filled and there were at least a 1/2 dozen cars waiting for spots to open up. We 3-point turned out of there and went in search of another place to park.

Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Aircraft Observation Area Sign

We drove a less than half a mile down the road towards I-97 before noticing a dirt-patch parking area. This wasn’t a place listed on the websites I had read about but there were no signs prohibiting parking anywhere around the parking lot. It was obvious that at least 2-3 other cars had done the same thing because they had bike racks hanging off the back of the car. Another 1-2 cars were there from people parking to fish in the pond adjacent. So it turned out to be the most convenient alternative parking for the BWI Trail Loop.

BWI trail loop alternative parking

Yellow arrow points to the recommended parking at Thomas A. Dixon Observation Area. Pink arrow points to the dirt lot where we parked.

Directions and Views of BWI

We started our ride following the trail in the clockwise direction. I was expecting the loop to be more attached and in view of the airport and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really at all. You have a few great spots to observe airport goings-on but the rest of the trail is along other roads and through some wooded areas.


BWI Entrance from BWI Trail overpass

You don’t have to worry about riding along the shoulder of any road at all while on this trail (except for the 1/2 mile if you parked where we parked). It is fully independent from the highway system unless you count the handful of road crossings which are all equipped with signals to help you cross safely. I was also a little nervous that we might take a wrong turn but there were signs at all intersections. There were 2 types of trail markers: the typical green sign post with a bike image as well as the branded BWI Trail Sign.

BWI Trail loop sign

Source >>> Renee Beck

Outlook over BWI from Trail loop path


This is on the north side of the loop just after a hill climb. It’s a nice spot to sit, have a rest, eat a snack, and watch some planes.

Baltimore horse farm on the BWI Trai Loop

No joke, this horse farm is just down the hill from that last photo of the sprawling airport.

BWI Trail Loop

BWI Trail Loop

BWI Trail Loop

Thomas A. Dixon Observation Area

If you want to do the trail with younger children, I recommend going counter-clockwise leaving from the Observation Area. It’s 1.3 miles to I-97 and mostly flat through a wooded area without any road crossings.

BWI Trail Loop Map

Purply-blue arrow points to the worst hill (if going clockwise)

So I did not burn 1,422 calories on this ride, it initially imported as a run and it didn’t self-adjust when I updated it. As you can see, this is about an 10.5 mile loop, not 12.5+ as some websites claim. I wouldn’t say it’s hilly but there are a few good hills. I still compare everything to the Iron Girl course and this 287 ft gain has nothing on 1000+ ft gain.


iron girl elevation

Iron Girl Columbia Course Elevation


There were many people out on the trail on Sunday including bikers (like us -on run-of-the-mill bikes), cyclists (fancy people on fancy bikes), roller-bladers, runners, walkers, and I think we even passed some serious looking hikers… It’s a great distance for a loop and it didn’t feel like there were too many people on the trail. We saw a lot of people but they were pretty space out.

One last thing. The BWI loop doesn’t have a lot of shade so don’t forget to wear sunscreen. If it takes you at least an hour to complete, that’s plenty of time to get a good burn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ride and I’m really looking forward to doing it again soon. I think it’s going to become a staple in my fitness plans as long as we live close enough.

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  • Reply elbowglitter April 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I have never actually biked this route! I’ve run it many, many times though.

    • Reply meaganleanne April 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      If I ever decide to train for a long distance race, I would really enjoy running this loop.

  • Reply Beth April 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    The loop is my favorite place to run and I’m there most Sundays. You can always park at the school on the opposite side (near the horse farm).

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