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The 11-mile Capital Crescent Trail follows the former route of the Georgetown Branch rail line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It begins in Silver Spring, Maryland, east of the Rock Creek Trestle, and curves west and south through Maryland into Washington, D.C., to end in the heart of historic Georgetown. For the 7 miles between Georgetown and Bethesda, the trail is paved. Between Bethesda and Silver Spring, a 4-mile section is surfaced with crushed stone; this segment is called the Georgetown Branch Trail.
Future plans call for creating a hard surface alongside the proposed Purple Line light rail between Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, where the Capital Crescent will connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The asphalt section of the trail connects Georgetown to Bethesda. In Georgetown, the trail travels with the Potomac River on one side and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park towpath on the other side.
From the trail, you can watch the rowing crews of Georgetown University at practice or possibly jog past a senator. Deer, foxes, rabbits, many species of birds and the three different color phases of ubiquitous local squirrels—white, grey and black—also share the trail. In Georgetown near Thompsons Boat Center and in west Silver Spring at Jones Mill Road, the trail connects to Rock Creek Park, a densely forested area that closes its roads to car traffic on weekends and becomes a playground for non-motorized uses. The park's popular Rock Creek Trail and Rock Creek Park Trails provide everyday access to the park.
The loop of the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Park totals 22 miles and takes you past the National Zoological Park and the Kennedy Center. In Silver Spring, Bethesda and Georgetown, there are a number of places immediately off the trail to have a meal or a cup of coffee, as well as a large number of retail shops.
This trail is a gateway to the Great American Rail-Trail, a nearly 4,000 mile developing trail that will connect the country from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. Gateway trails represent those iconic trails that make possible the Great American Rail-Trail in each of the states it connects. Learn more at www.greatamericanrailtrail.org
Detour notice: As of Sept. 5, 2017, a 3.5-mile section between Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda and Talbot Avenue in Silver Spring at the northeastern tip of the Capital Crescent Trail (also known as the Georgetown Branch Trail) will be closed for an estimated four to five years due to the construction of Metrorail's Purple Line. An on-road detour has been designated around the closure; a map of the route is available on the website for the 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 on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association website.
To start in Bethesda, take the Capital Beltway to the MD Route 355 (Wisconsin Ave.) exit and head south toward Bethesda. In downtown Bethesda, turn right onto Bethesda Ave. The trail crosses Bethesda Ave. at Woodmont Ave., just one block west of Wisconsin Ave.
To begin in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., go south on Wisconsin Ave. to its end under the Whitehurst Freeway and turn right onto Water Street. The trail begins at the end of Water Street. Street parking is usually available along Water Street on weekends.
To access the on-road bike route that connects downtown Silver Spring to the Georgetown Branch, from the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495), take the Georgia Ave. exit south toward Silver Spring. After 1.5 miles, turn right on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring toward the Metro station. At the first light, turn right onto Second Ave. The Georgetown Branch Trail starts at this intersection.
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