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The Capitol Crescent Trail

The Capitol Crescent Trail is a great example of a rails-to-trails project. Originally this trail was an active railroad line run by the B&O Railroad. The Capitol Crescent web site has a detailed rundown on the history of the railroad and a history of the trail. This trail is at great risk (in my humble opinion) by the so-called "Purple Line" that will run from Silver Spring to Bethesda. The pols say that the trail will be preserved, but given that there is heavy development along both sides of the trail, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that the trail will lose. For once in my life, I would love to be proved wrong by a politician, but I am not staying up at night waiting for that event!

The trail runs from Stewart Street (off of Brookeville Road) to Georgetown. There is plenty of parking along Stewart on the weekends, but it is very limited during the week. I am not sure about the parking in Georgetown - but it probably exists. Most of my rides on the CCT either start in Silver Spring or connect to the trail in Georgetown as a way back home. Here is my take on this trail, starting at the Silver Spring terminus:

  • Starting at Steward Street (milestone 0.3) the trail starts a down hill run on a crushed gravel surface to the trestle over Rock Creek Park.
  • After the trestle there is a rather dangerous crossing at Jones Mill Road - There is traffic coming up the hill from East West Highway, and form two different roads above the intersection - USE Caution.
  • From Jones Mill Road to Connecticut Ave, the trail is essentially flat. At Connecticut Ave., the trail veers to the left to use a signaled crossing. This is a DANGEROUS intersection! Use the light - you need the rest.
  • Past Connecticut , the trail starts a very gentle climb to Bethesda. The trail enters a tunnel under the AirRights building and empties out at the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. Just past the intersection - caution is needed here - there is a nice rest area.
  • After the rest area the trail is relatively flat as it crosses two intersections - Little Falls Parkway and Dorset Ave.
  • After Dorset, the trail starts a down hill run to the footbridge over River Road
  • From River Road to the C&O Canal (about 4 miles) the trail is a great down-hill run - but remember the thrill if you decide to ride the trail back UP the trail!! Along the way, you will see the "Bridge over Nothing" and go through the Delecarlia Tunnel under MacArthur Blvd.
  • There is a rest area at mile 6.5. Past the rest area the trail really drops as it goes down to the canal, passing over the bridges over Canal Road near Arizona Ave.
  • After the trail crosses the bridge, the gradient levels out and is level or very slightly down hill to the end of the trail under Key Bridge in Georgetown.
  • Once in Georgetown, there are a multitude of options. Be advised that if you decide to follow the trails along the river, you will be forced to walk your bike when you get to the Georgetown Harbor area.

All things considered this is a wonderful trail, and the multitudes of people which use it attest to that fact. Be forewarned that the stretch from Bethesda to River Road is heavily used by walkers-bikers-rollerbladers-strollers of all sorts - especially on the weekend. The section from River Road to Georgetown is used primarily by bikers, but walkers are there as well. The trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring is more lightly traveled.

Remember all the fun you had flying down the trail? Well, it can be a bit of a climb, especially from Canal Road to the rest area in Dalecarlia, but I can do it, so you can too.

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