CAPITOL CRESCENT TRAIL LETTERBOX:

BETHESDA, MARYLAND-WASHINGTON, DC

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Planted:                 June 5, 2002

Last Updated:       May 16, 2019

Length:                  Capitol Crescent Trail; 7.8 miles

                                Georgetown Branch Trail; 3 miles

                                Rock Creek Park Trail (Georgetown Branch Trail south to the Potomac River); 10 miles

Difficulty:             Easy. Paved rail trail with a downhill grade from Bethesda to Georgetown.

                                Moderate. Paved rail trail with an uphill grade from Georgetown to Bethesda.

Directions:

Starting from Bethesda (Northern End); Wisconsin Ave runs from I-495 in the north, all the way to the Potomac River south in Georgetown. In Bethesda, at the junction of Wisconsin and Bethesda Avenues travel west along Bethesda Ave, cross Woodmont Ave and the Capitol Crescent Trail will be on your left. Just past the trailhead will be parking ($). You can also access the Georgetown Branch Trail from here.

Starting from Georgetown (Southern End); Wisconsin Ave runs from I-495 in the north, all the way to the Potomac River south in Georgetown. In Georgetown, from the southern end of Wisconsin Ave turn right (west) along Water St. There is some metered parking here. The Georgetown Waterfront Park is on your left.

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. Head left for the trailhead. Its only a little over a ¼ mile from the Metro to the trail. For other 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 travels north 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 is named the Georgetown Branch Trail. 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 Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that will bring you back to the Capitol Crescent Trail if you wish to do a loop ride.  For more information on this ride See; Rock Creek Park. For more information check out; CAPITOL CRESCENT TRAIL , BIKE WASHINGTON or WASHINGTON BIKE ASSOC. . 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. 

Note: The MTA has presented plans to convert the old Georgetown Branch rail bed into a transit line running from Bethesda through Silver Spring. This would require the re-routing of the current Georgetown Branch Trail.

Detour notice: As of Sept. 5, 2017, a 3.5-mile section of the Georgetown Branch Trail between Woodmont Ave in Bethesda and Talbot Ave in Silver Spring will be closed for an estimated four to five years due to the construction of MTA's Purple Line. An on-road detour has been designated around the closure; a map of the route is available; Purple Line Project Team. As the route involves riding on busy Jones Bridge Road, which doesn't have a shoulder or marked bike lane, less confident riders can find low-stress alternatives to the official detour; Washington Area Bicyclist Association .

Starting from Bethesda Ave in Bethesda; The Capitol Crescent Trail heads southwest, away from downtown, while the Georgetown Branch Trail heads northeast across Bethesda Ave through the Wisconsin Ave Tunnel. There are mileage markers along the trail, but they start from Silver Spring. 

The urban, paved Capitol Crescent Trail, has a slight downhill gradient all the way. Cross a bridge over Bradley Blvd followed by a crosswalk over Little Falls Pkwy after 0.6 miles. A long bridge takes you over River Rd at 1.3 miles. After 1.8 miles you cross a bridge over Mass Ave and come to a spur trail on your left.

Note; This spur trail brings you down to Mass Ave and the start of the Little Falls Stream Valley Trail which follows the Little Falls Branch from Massachusetts Ave down through the east side of Westmoreland Park to MacArthur Blvd, paralleling the Capitol Crescent Trail.

Continuing south through the west side of Westmoreland Park, the Little Falls Branch follows along your left. Pass by a spur trail on your left at 2.7 miles to the Little Falls Stream Valley Trail. You then cross a bridge over the Little Falls Stream Valley Trail, followed by another bridge overlooking the Dalecarlia Reservoir before you pass through the Dalecarlia Tunnel, a Roman Arch brick tunnel, 18 feet wide by 340 feet long, built in 1910. As you go through the tunnel you’ll see "step backs", recessed areas that allowed people to avoid being hit by a train if they were caught in the tunnel. A ¼ mile after passing through the tunnel you come to another bench area with a water fountain and map. You then cross over an iron bridge at the Washington Aqueduct. The downhill gradient becomes a bit steeper at this point. Soon you will start to parallel the C&O Canal to your right. After 4.3 miles you cross over Canal Rd and the C & O Canal via an old railroad trestle. After crossing over, a dirt trail on the right goes down to the canal trail. For the Letterbox, take this trail part way down, but do not cross under the bridge. Instead, turn left at the bottom of the stairs and spot two trees growing from one, just off the path. In the hollow base, under a rock and board is the Capitol Crescent Trail Letterbox. Continuing along the trail another ½ mile brings you to Fletcher’s Boathouse. Here, you can access the C&O Canal Towpath, rent bikes, canoes or boats and get refreshments. The trail parallels the C&O Canal on its left and the Potomac River on its right, for about a mile. It then pulls away from the canal and heads down along the river. Just past the Washington Canoe Club (map board) you'll travel underneath the remains of the old Alexandria Aqueduct at 7 miles. The paved trail stops here at Water St. Travel on-road along Water St underneath the Whitehurst Freeway and underneath Key Bridge. You'll then pick up the paved trail on your right as it travels through Georgetown Waterfront Park alongside the Potomac River. You then come to the intersection with the Rock Creek Park Trail after 7.8 miles next to Rock Creek & Potomac Pkwy in Georgetown.

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

FEBRUARY 23, 2013

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