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The Northwest Branch Trail—an integral part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System—runs between the Maryland towns of Hyattsville and Silver Spring, linking two bustling suburbs of Washington, D.C. The trail is so named because it follows the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River for its entire route.
The trail starts in the south in Prince George's County, just north of where the river splits into its northeast and northwest branches. Appropriately, direct connections to the Northeast Branch Trail and Anacostia River Trail can be found here. North of this trail hub, the Northwest Branch Trail runs past a succession of parks, including Melrose Park, Magruder Park and 38th Avenue Park. The trail quickly crosses the waterway, rounds a bend, and then crosses the river once more. Shortly after the West Hyattsville Metro Station, the winding Sligo Creek Trail forks off to the northwest.
After crossing under East-West Highway/State Route 410, the trail runs through dense woodlands that will make you forget you are in a major population center. The large Lane Manor Park next appears immediately to the east. At Adelphi Mill Park (near the trail's midpoint), visit Adelphi Mill. Built in 1796, it is the only surviving historic mill in Prince George's County. Past the mill, the pathway reenters a wooded environment. A steep gravel connection at the trail's end climbs up to Oakview Drive, which leads to busy New Hampshire Avenue/SR 650.
If you are on foot or horse, you can choose to continue on the trail several miles farther north to Wheaton Regional Park—just don't take the gravel spur to Oakview Drive. This section is unpaved and is closed to bicyclists.
Parking for the Northwest Branch Trail can be found at the trail's northern endpoint at Roscoe Nix Elementary School on Hedin Drive in Silver Spring. Most of the parks along the trail's route have their own parking lots; for the exact locations of these parks, refer to the TrailLink map.
Miles 0 - 4.5 are meh in my opinion. You pass some neighborhoods along the way and a few small parks and have to cross a couple of busy roads. Personally, I really enjoyed the ride through the woods along the NW Branch Anacostia River starting at about mile 4.5 (Adelphi Manor Park) which made the ride worth it for me. The paved trail kind of abruptly ends at mile 7.
I would recommend not going past mile 6 as the trail conditions deteriorate pretty badly after that. You aren't really missing anything between miles 6 and 7 besides a really bumpy ride. I can see how another reviewer thought the woods were a bit eerie, but I thought it was a nice surprise when I reached that point particularly enjoying the river view.
On a side note, around the start of the trail there is a bakery right when you cross Rhode Island Avenue that's pretty highly rated if you want a quick pitstop.
I rode this on a sunny day in October. The trail is pretty well maintained, but some tree roots in a few areas. It was kind of eerie that I had to ride through wooded areas and never saw another biker. Didn't feel safe riding the trail alone.
I rode the NW Branch Trail along with the Sligo Creek Trail. What is lacking is a safe connector between the two. Piney Branch Road has an alleged bike lane full of debris and cars are oblivious to bikes. The steep grade is almost unrideable. Tehre is a solution, a trail is needed between the Piney Branch underpass and the Montgomery Knolls Elementary School. Streets over the ridge to Sligo Creek would complete the loop. Uphill on one leg, downhill on the other. Add in a section to Lake Artemesia (parking and rest rooms) along the Northeast Branch Trail makes for a very pleasant outing.
A nice 22 mile loop. Starting from Magruder Park in Hyattsville (3911 Hamilton Street for you Wazers) ride out the end of the park to the NW Branch Trail and turn right, heading along the canal portion. Pay attention to signage and folllow the main asphalt path, not much traffic at all down here, but you have to pay attention, trail crosses canal and changes direction a couple times, easy to follow mostly. When you reach a road, stop and look for the continuation of the trail to the right left, or straight across. Trail does cross several roads, and even dumps you on to to a sidestreet once but the sign tells you to bear left and continue.
Eventually you will see a MARKER FOR SLIGO CREEK TRAIL on the left, across a bridge. Cross this bridge and follow Sligo Creek Trail for 8 miles or so, crossing bridges, roads, and passing more peds than anywhere else on the loop. Many cool neighborhoods in this area of the ride, great architecture and mild climbing along the stream. Best pic taking here.
We continued past Piney Branch Road and kept going but that will be important soon. Follow Sligo Creek Trail under 495 and continue. Finished up on the boardwalk section, continuing until trail T's/ends. We turned around at this point, around 10.5 miles done so far from Magruder Park. Rode back to Piney Branch Rd., crossed and then left ON Piney Branch Rd. up the big hill. We rode on the sidewalk because of speeding cars, not much pedestrian traffic at all. Continue on Piney Branch Rd. for maybe five minutes, up and down some hills, in a built-up area.
Cross University Blvd. go down a steep hill and as you come back up, you will cross the stream on a bridge. Look down and the NW Branch Trail is below you. Cross the street to the left at the bridge (before the light at NH Ave). to access the steep asphalt connector trail down to the NW Branch Trail, turn LEFT, and head back thru a beautiful wooded section of the trail with the stream on the right. The least travelled and most beautiful section.
Continue on the NW Branch Trail, crossing tributary drainage culverts (wet!) This part of the trail is really nice, eventually passing Adelphi Mill and some open parks. Eventually you will reach the Sligo Creek intersection/sign/bridge you took earlier but stay straight on the NW Branch Trail back to Magruder Park. Note-easy to miss the marker for Magruder-marker on right, connector trail goes left back to park.
If you reach the skate park, turn around and go back to the marker on the left, turn right on the connector trail back to the park. We did this anyway to gain another mile or so, reaping 22 miles total, took about 1:50 at a 12.2 mph avg. on mtn. bikes. A very nice ride, especially early on a weekend morning. Enjoy and Happy Trails!
This trail can be roughly divided into three major sections: from just north of Rt. 1 to Queens Chapel Rd., from Queens Chapel Rd. to University Blvd., and from University Blvd. to the end of the trail. From Rt. 1 to Queens Chapel Rd. foot traffic is fairly considerable. Past Queens Chapel Rd. and especially past the West Hyattsville Metro station, the trail becomes increasingly wooded with less foot traffic. The last part of this section, getting closer to University Blvd., is again more crowded. Past University Blvd. you follow the stream in an increasingly wooded terrain. This is by far the most beautiful section of the trail. It is rather secluded. The last marker is just past Piney Branch Rd., but the trail continues for a bit more than a mile (perhaps the best part of the trail), turning eventually into a rough gravel path that is hardly suited for bikes. In the wooded sections and especially past University Blvd., the trail can be somewhat untidy: you may pass through running water, and the road may be covered with sand, mud, leaves, twigs, or small branches. Tree roots under the asphalt are quite common. Bottom line: especially past University Blvd. this is one of the nicest trails in the area and if your bike is up to it, it is definitely worth it.
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