Road Trip

Hiking and Biking by the Bay

Sunday, October 14, 2007

WHERE: Kent Island in Queen Anne's County.

WHY: Rollin' by the river, bay watch and chowing down on crabs.

HOW FAR: Six miles from start to finish.

On the Cross Island Trail, you can ride many ways -- except in a car.

Just across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on seven-mile-long Kent Island, the paved pathway offers bikers, in-line skaters and pedestrians six miles of smooth moves through natural lands that are free of cars and full of creature comforts.

Completed in 2001, the handicapped-accessible trail is rut- and brush-free, with no overgrowth or stray branches to trip up recreational users. With its pancake-flat grade and proximity to restaurants, shops and scenic overlooks, it's suitable for a wide range of outdoorsy types who want to experience the bay without roughing it. As a safety precaution, bike patrols keep an eye on the trail year-round, while a 15 mph speed limit slows any Lance Armstrong hopefuls.

The trail can be accessed at several positions along the track and at both ends, where plentiful parking makes for good starting points. The eastern extreme sits in Kent Narrows, a series of fishing and yachting docks that jut out like crab legs. Bounded by the Eastern Bay on the south and the Chester River on the north, this is the skinniest part of the isthmus, just a few hundred yards across. Eateries and shops by the path ply seafood, brews and an endless-summer vibe.

Riding west, the trail runs over tidal salt marshes and alongside native loblolly pines. Viewing wildlife is as easy as looking down -- turtles soak up rays trailside, rat snakes skate across the water, cottontails hop along -- or up, where bald eagles circle overhead.

Terrapin Park, a 275-acre parcel of sand and marsh, marks the western terminus. Here, a short loop of crushed oyster shells leads to the Chesapeake Bay. When the conditions are right, fishermen angle for a big catch from the shore and kite surfers fill their sails with sea breezes. Biking, however, is an all-season affair.

-- Ben Chapman

© 2007 The Washington Post Company