ROCK CREEK PARK:

MARYLAND/WASHINGTON DC

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:        April 20, 2006

Length:                  Rock Creek Park Trail (from the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Potomac River/C & O Canal); 10 miles

                                Georgetown Branch Trail; 3 miles

                                Capitol Crescent Trail; 8 miles    

                                All 3 trails combined into a Loop; 20 miles                                        

Difficulty:             Easy. Paved trail and road sections with a downhill grade from the Georgetown Branch Trail to DC.

                                Moderate. Paved trail and road sections with an uphill grade from DC to the Georgetown Branch Trail.

Directions:

Wisconsin Ave runs from I-495 in the north, all the way to the Potomac River south in Georgetown. To start from Bethesda; At the junction of Wisconsin and Bethesda Avenues is a metered parking lot where you can access both the Capitol Crescent Trail and the Georgetown Branch Trail. The Georgetown Branch Trail heads northeast across Bethesda Ave through the Wisconsin Ave Tunnel towards Silver Spring. You can then access the Rock Creek Trail via a spur after crossing over the Rock Creek Trestle. See; Georgetown Branch Trail  for directions. To start from Rays Meadow Park; Take the East West Highway (Route 410) that runs between Silver Spring and Chevy Chase to where Rock Creek Park intersects it. The trail crosses the highway here and Rays Meadow Park is located on the northern side of the road. Take Meadowbrook Lane, then a left onto Freyman Drive. Entrance will be on your left. To start in DC; Start from the Thompson Boat Center which is located on the Potomac River near Virginia Ave and Rock Creek Parkway. 

To access the Trail via the Metro; Take the Red Line up to Bethesda Station. Take the elevator up to street level (bikes must use the elevators) and take a right down Montgomery Lane. Turn left on Woodmont Ave which will bring you to the junction of Bethesda Ave. The metered parking lot is across the street, while the trail through the tunnel is too your left. Look for the green trail signs. Its only a little over a mile from the Metro to the trail. For Metro information visit;  METRO  . 

The Capitol Crescent Trail runs along the route of the old Georgetown Spur, a B & O Railroad Line completed in 1910, from Georgetown to Silver Spring. Service was discontinued in 1985. The trail is paved from Georgetown, where it runs parallel to the Potomac River and C & O Canal Towpath, then curves inland to Bethesda. From Bethesda towards Silver Spring the trail consists of stone dust and is named the Georgetown Branch Trail. Only 3 miles of this trail has been completed. In between, the Wisconsin Ave Tunnel connects the two trails. The Rock Creek Park Trail runs from Maryland down through DC and is accessible from the Georgetown Branch Trail. This is a paved trail with some on-road sections in DC (that are closed to traffic on weekends). You can ride this trail from the Georgetown Branch Trail all the way to the Potomac River for a distance of 10 miles. You also pass the start of the C & O Canal Trail that will bring you back to the Capitol Crescent Trail if you wish to do a loop ride. If you want to do these trails without any hills, you can start up in Bethesda. Then simply take the metro, along with your bike, back to Bethesda. Or, take the Metro up to Bethesda and leave your car in DC. For more information about biking the Metro, check out the links above. Maryland's 14 mile long Rock Creek Trail is a collection of paved multi-use paths through southern Montgomery County. Although this area is mostly urbanized, the trail follows a mainly wooded route along the Rock Creek Stream Valley. The northern trail head is located in Lake Needwood Regional Park, just a few miles east of downtown Rockville. The trail ends at the Washington DC border, where this trail picks up. For more information on the Maryland section visit; ROCK CREEK-MD. For other information check out; CAPITOL CRESCENT TRAIL  , WASHINGTON BIKE ASSOC. or  ROCK CREEK PARK-NPS . 

Starting from the Georgetown Branch Trail; After crossing over the Rock Creek trestle, you'll come to a side trail on your right after just a mile. Head up the short hill to Grubb Rd and take a right. This residential road, which has a sidewalk, heads downhill. Just follow the green signs. When you come to Freyman Drive, take a right. This takes you past Rays Meadow Park on your right. You can enter here to access the Rock Creek Park Trail which passes through the park after 0.4 miles.

Note; Heading right on the paved trail takes you north where you'll pass underneath Rock Creek trestle as you follow the Maryland section of the trail.

Starting from Rays Meadow Park; Travel south to the East-West Highway. You cross over the East-West Highway at the cross-light. The trail then takes you past the Meadowbrook Stables and around Meadowbrook Park, where restrooms are available. You cross over Rock Creek at 0.6 miles and twice more at 0.9 miles. After crossing over Boundary Bridge (where Maryland meets DC) you come to a parking lot at 1.2 miles. Here the paved trail ends. To the left is the Valley Trail, which is restricted to hiking and horses only and to the right is the entrance to Rock Creek Park via Beach Drive. You must take Beach Drive, which is a narrow road with no shoulder or bike path.

Note; The northern section of Beach Drive is closed to traffic from 7am Saturdays to 7pm Sundays and all federal holidays. I would caution against biking this section at any other times.

Head past the gates onto Beach Drive, which is downhill all the way to DC. Rock Creek is too your left and woodlands surround you on rocky slopes. Very peaceful and scenic. At 1.8 miles you come to the intersection of West Beach Drive, which is not closed to traffic. USE CAUTION as you head right for a short 0.1 mile on-road detour uphill. You then access Beach Drive again by passing through the closed gates. After 2.5 miles you'll come to a picnic area on your left. All picnic areas are numbered, so if you have the NPS map (see below), you can easily determine your location. This is Area #10.

Note; Traffic is allowed to access this area from the south so USE CAUTION and keep to the right side of the road.

You'll pass by Rolling Meadow Bridge on your left as it crosses over the creek at 3 miles. You then come to Bingham Drive on your right, which is also closed to traffic. Here, a paved trail now parallels Beach Drive although its a bit narrow. You cross over Rock Creek at a place called Milkhouse Ford at 3 miles and come to picnic Area #6, where an outhouse is available. After crossing underneath Military Road, you come to an intersection at 3.9 miles.

Note; Right will take you towards the Nature Center and Planetarium on the paved trail if you wish a side trip.

Otherwise, you need to continue straight along Beach Drive, which is still closed to traffic, as the paved trail does not. The Park Police Station is located here. This next section is what I consider the most scenic, as the road follows alongside the creek on your right. You'll pass by the Rapids Bridge at 4 miles and cross over the beautifully built Boulder Bridge at 5 miles. As the name suggests, it's built out of boulders. At 5 miles you come to the intersection of Broad Branch Road. Cross over the road to the parking lot on the right. Here, the paved trail begins again at the back of the lot, as Beach Drive is now open to traffic. You come to the Peirce Mill site at 5 miles. There are several buildings here, including  a visitor contact station and restroom facilities. The trail then passes below a bridge next to the creek and takes you past the Peirce Mill parking lot, where you cross a bridge over Rock Creek. After crossing over Bluff Bridge at 6 miles the trail narrows a bit. You then come to a large road intersection and the southern entrance to Rock Creek Park. The trail continues underneath the overpass to your left, where you'll cross over a most interesting pedestrian arch bridge. The trail now closely parallels Beach Drive to your left and the creek on your right, separated by a metal fence. This is the National Zoo boundary line. You come to the Zoo's entrance at 7.1 miles, where you can take a visit. See; NATIONAL ZOO. The trail then detours around Beach Drive Tunnel to its opposite end at 7.8 miles. USE CAUTION crossing the auto bridge as there is only a narrow sidewalk. You then pass below a very high bridge which I believe to be Calvert St. You'll be passing under many more of these high bridges on your way to DC, all with different looks. After passing underneath the Connecticut Ave Bridge, you'll have to cross over an access ramp. There is a crosswalk here, but no cross-light, so USE CAUTION. The trail improves and follows along an exercise course. Pass over a bridge at 8 miles and then under the Mass Ave Bridge. At 9 miles you cross a cement bridge with the Mount Zion Cemetery up along the hillside. You must cross another access ramp at 9.8 miles for Pennsylvania Ave, so again, USE CAUTION. Just before crossing over the next bridge, look to your right. There will be a brick lined path connecting into your trail. This is the C & O Canal Trail.

Note; Just a short side trip down this trail will take you to the C & O Canal Georgetown Visitor Center. See; C & O CANAL .

After traveling underneath the Route 29 Bridge you'll come to the start of the Capitol Crescent Trail on your right. Here you may elect to loop back to the Georgetown Branch Trail via the Capitol Crescent Trail.

Next you pass by the Thompson Boat Center on your right at 10 miles. Bike rentals are available here. As the trail brings you alongside the Potomac River, look left across Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway where you'll spot the Watergate Complex. Looking across the Potomac River, you can also spot Roosevelt Island NP. At 10.3 miles, the trail surface turns to brick briefly as you pass by the Kennedy Center. The trail is now right alongside the Potomac River. Next you pass underneath the Roosevelt Bridge at 10.6 miles and come to an overlook. Across the Potomac River, up on the hill, you can spot an American flag flying over the Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery. Finally you come to the Arlington Memorial Bridge after 11 miles. The first set of statutes is the "Arts of Peace", while the statutes across the road are the "Arts of War". You may cross over the road to visit the Lincoln Memorial and all the other nearby memorials. 

Every time we visit DC, we bring our bikes. It's the best way to see all the memorials without trying to find a parking space or wearing out your legs. The Mall is very bike friendly.

HH 

  

CLICK HERE FOR ROCK CREEK PARK (DC SECTION) MAP

CLICK HERE FOR ROCK CREEK PARK (MD SECTION) MAP

 

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