GEORGETOWN BRANCH TRAIL:

BETHESDA-SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:      May 16, 2019

Length:                 Georgetown Branch Trail; 3 miles

                               Capitol Crescent Trail; 7.8 miles

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

Difficulty:            Easy. Relatively flat stone dust rail trail.

Directions:

Starting from Bethesda (Western 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 access the Georgetown Branch Trail across Bethesda Ave..

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 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 runs 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. 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.  For more information on this ride See; Rock Creek Park . For more information on biking the area check out CAPITOL CRESCENT TRAILBIKE 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. 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 the DC section then continues. For more information on the Maryland section See; ROCK CREEK-MD . See also; Capitol Crescent Trail and C & O Canal Trail .

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. 

Following the green Georgetown Branch Trail signs across Bethesda Ave, the trail takes you through the Wisconsin Ave Tunnel. This was the old railroad right-of-way, but only became a tunnel after the railroad stopped operations and two office buildings were built overhead. The tunnel is 1200 feet long and a bit eerie. It takes you underneath busy Wisconsin Ave.

Note; Just before you exit the tunnel, a path on your right will take you up to Elm Street Park where you can then access downtown Bethesda if you wish.

After emerging from the tunnel, the trail, which consists of stone dust, travels slightly downhill between the backyards of residential houses with a tree lined buffer. Future plans call for paving this trail as an extension of the Capitol Crescent Trail. After a mile, you pass through a golf course that is part of the Columbia Country Club with a high steel fence on either side of the trail. You then come to busy Connecticut Ave, where you turn right to find a cross light. As you reenter the trail on the opposite side, note the bike shop on your right. You'll cross over an old trestle bridge at 1 miles and then a short berm. Another road crossing comes at 2.1 miles, again, there is a cross light. A sign board is also located here. You cross another berm, with split rail fencing on both sides, as you head up to the trail highlight, Rock Creek Trestle, at the 2.3 mile mark. The trestle, which was originally built in 1892 out of wood and spanned 1400 feet, is today a rebuilt steel trestle spanning 281 feet across and 69 feet above Rock Creek. Built in platforms afford you great views of the creek below, as well as the Rock Creek Trail that passes beneath it. Continuing onward, the trail travels slightly uphill and is rougher in spots. You'll come to a spur trail at 2.6 miles on the right side of the trail.

Note; This Spur Trail takes you to some residential roads (with sidewalks) that you can use to access the Rock Creek Trail. See; Rock Creek Park for more information.

Continuing, the trail currently ends at 3.1 miles, next to a sign board by Stewart St. Future plans call for extending the trail into Silver Spring. 

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