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Rock Creek Trail forms a winding path, at times narrow, through the urban greenway of Rock Creek Regional Park. The trail extends between Needwood Lake northeast of Rockville, MD, and the Washington, D.C., border, 14 miles south. Although the area is urbanized, the trail route is through a mostly wooded corridor that encompasses Rock Creek, as it flows toward the Potomac River.
It's a popular trail despite that it's not always well marked, and you may find yourself taking unexpected side paths in different directions. In addition, the trail is often covered in branches and leaves, and the asphalt heaves in many places from tree roots. If you're on a bike, take it slowly and enjoy the green refuge, giving way to runners and walkers.
At the south end, along Beach Drive, the trail enters Washington, D.C., and continues as the Rock Creek Park Trail.
There are dozens of places to park all along the route within Rock Creek Regional Park. Consult the map for details.
Upfront: 14.1mi of 90% shade! 1/10th mile in is a decline if you start at MM0 at a Needwood Lake. Thus, you’ll have to climb this upon your return! 3-4 “steep” hills, are doable IF you are prepared for them. Though one (maybe2) are marked, the signs (w my level) are way too late-no chance to get a decent pedaling pace nor into the correct gear when you come upon the incline after coming round a curve Conversely, once you top it and are appreciative of the downward cruise, there are immediate curves and blind spots, so braking to adjust, you often lose this advantage Fairly new rider, so skill level is in development. Weekends I try to do 25-35mi stretches of challenging courses, weekday one or two flat 10milers just to prep for weekend This one is mid level for me, mainly because This was my first go at it and wasn’t sure if what to expect
This trail is challenging but not too challenging. There is a bit of wildlife, and there are a lot of playgrounds along the way (at least in the first five miles). The only bad part is that there are two dark underpasses, one of which is shared with cars.
Excellent place to road your bike and get In touch with nature
Parts of this trail are a bit steep, but that's OK since you're expected to use your muscles when you bicycle. I like the parts of the trail that are closer to quiet parks and go through forests. When you're closer to places like Randolph Rd., Capital Beltway, Norbeck, or Viers Mill, it's very loud.
Date: August, 2017. Riders 63 year old man and women. So that you know our skill level, my wife and I usually ride 15 – 20 miles without any problem. Often we ride the W&OD from route 28 north, the Custis trail, the Mount Vernon trail (both upper and lower), Four Mile Run…..
This trail is not what I expected after reading the description and reviews.
The Good: The trail is mostly covered with trees so the ride – even on a sunny day – is cool. There are many brooks and foliage as well as deer to see. It was not crowded on the Sunday afternoon when we went. There are many cross trails you can take and many parks along the way. The trail is very well marked and easy to follow. Steep grades are marked so rides riders can prepare. A great cardio workout.
The Bad: This trail is covered in asphalt, but it is not the smooth asphalt. The asphalt has tiny rocks in it providing a very bumpy ride. The trail has many parts where tree roots have broken the asphalt and the soil below is showing through – it has not been maintained. It has many hills and dales with some hills make “steep grade” – which was absolutely true – some were very difficult to get up. There are many blind curves.
Rode from Lake Needwood south to Garrett Park and back,about 14 miles. Trail is paved the whole way and only 4 places where we had to cross streets. Mostly flat except for one short steep hill (50yds) south of Viers Mill road and in the woods the entire way along the side of Rock Creek. Trail access at Lake Needwood is well marked as is the trail (even distance signage!). There is evidence of recent construction projects on the trail, but they are all completed.
Will do this ride again, and will try the Matthew Henson Trail that feeds this trail from another trail head.
In response to a previous reviewer's comments and the trail description, this trail isn't hard to navigate. I believe the reviewer meant to leave comments on the DC section of the trail, which can be difficult to navigate in places and does lack helpful signage. However, the Montgomery County, MD, section of trail is well marked and easy to follow. Yes, there are several side paths offering access from surrounding neighborhoods, but if you go down one of them (more likely to accidentally happen if you're riding from north to south), you will soon realize your mistake and can easily retrace your steps.
As you approach Needwood Lake on the northern end, there is a massive sewerage redevelopment project, which amounts to a large section of trail replaced with old railroad ties. Not so good for road bikes but okay, if not bumpy, for hybrids and the like. The project is expected to take a while, so check the county's website for updates (http://www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkTrails/trails_MAPS/rock_creek.shtm).
Per the description, the southern section of trail suffers from flooding and debris (mostly sand and mud) in places, as well as tree roots...this isn't a road biking trail. But most of the mid to northern section is quite debris-free in summer.
So enjoy the twisting, hilly ride through the woods. You won't be disappointed!
Most sections of Beach Drive within the DC city limits are closed on weekends and holidays. Beach drive becomes a two lane bike and pedestrian path with plenty of room for all.
Would not want (and haven't tried) the Beach Drive ride during weekdays with cars.
Follows path of Rock Creek from mouth of creek at Potomac River all the way up to Rockville, MD suburbs.
The trail is mostly shaded and will be nice to visit during the summer months. It is very winding - which was a bit overwhelming at times on a road bike. The path was not crowded, which was very nice - especially since the path is rather narrow at some points (you can always fit traffic going both ways, but I was a little too close for comfort at times).
The signage can be confusing at times - particularly when you are riding northbound toward Lake Needwood. We actually turned around and started heading south without even realizing it (luckily we found our way back to the path without even knowing we had gotten lost!).
Though the whole trail is paved, it can be bumpy for bikers - most of the more serious bikers were riding on the road just next to the path. There are a lot of tree roots that cause the pavement to rise slightly.
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