(A) Capital Crescent Trail
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This 11.5-mile trail begins at the west end of K Street, beneath the Whitehurst Freeway, near the Potomac Boat Club and Washington Canoe Club boathouses. It follows the former Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which was an active railroad until 1985. For seven miles, it is a paved path (good for bicycles and skaters) along the Potomac River to the Maryland border, veering north to the Bethesda Metro station (allowing you to return to the Foggy Bottom Metro station). The trail extends another four miles on gravel to Silver Spring.
Several blocks before the start of the trial, you can go up 34th Street to M Street, and cross the Key Bridge to access trails on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Beginning at Georgetown, the trail runs between the C&O Canal Tow Path (trail B) and the Potomac River. About one-half mile from Georgetown, a stone-lined pedestrian tunnel under the C&O Canal and Canal Road provides a connection to the Glover Archbold Trail (trail F), and a ramp at this point connects to the C&O Canal Tow Path.
At Fletcher's Boat House, two miles from Georgetown, you can switch to the C&O Canal Tow Path (trail B) and return to Georgetown, or use it to continue north along the river. Here, you can also cross over, or under, the C&O Canal, then cross Canal Road and scramble up the Battery Kemble Trail (trail C) on the left (north side) of Battery Kemble run (stream). This will allow you to return in a 5.5-mile loop using trails E, G and F, or in a 9.5-mile loop using trails E, G, I (or H), J and B.
From Fletcher's Boathouse, it's five miles to Bethesda. At Arizona Avenue and Canal Road, the Capital Crescent Trail crosses the C&O Canal and Canal Road on an old railroad truss bridge and follows the palisades above the Potomac River. Just beyond, there is an alternate route (see map, below) between the Capital Crescent and Battery Kemble trails that allows you to avoid crossing Canal Road at Fletcher's Boathouse - which can be dangerous because there is no pedestrian crossing and traffic moves fast there. About 3/4-mile north of the bridge, a dirt path climbs up to Potomac Avenue. Follow Potomac Avenue south, past intersections with Manning Place, Macomb Street and Cathedral Avenue, then go up Galena Place for four blocks, south on Sherrier Place one block, down Arizona Avenue and up a pedestrian ramp to a pedestrian bridge over Arizona Avenue that connects to the trail on a former trolley right of way (trail D).
At the District line, the Capital Crescent Trail turns north away from the river, going under MacArthur Boulevard in the Dalecarlia Tunnel (an interesting feature!), built in 1910 for the railroad. The trail continues north through Little Falls Park (where you can detour to a more scenic path running parallel to the trail along Little Falls Run, just to the east). North of a pedestrian bridge crossing River Road, the trail passes the Kenwood neighborhood (to the west), where old cherry trees line the streets, providing a springtime blossom display that rivals the Tidal Basin - but without the crush of tourists. In Bethesda, you can leave the trail at Woodmont Avenue to access the Metro station on Wisconsin Avenue, or continue through a tunnel beneath Wisconsin Avenue to Rock Creek.
By following Rock Creek south to the District line, you can return to Georgetown (about a 17-mile loop), traversing the length of Rock Creek Park, using either the Western Ridge Trail (Trail L) or the Valley Trail (Trail N), and then the Rock Creek Trail (Trail J). The Capital Crescent Trail ends about 1.5 miles from the Silver Spring Metro station (see map below, and second Metro Access map, below).
Metro Access: Follow the directions to the C&O Canal Tow Path (trail B) from the Foggy Bottom Metro station, and get on the Capital Crescent Trail at the Glover Archbold Trail intersection. Or, from the Foggy Bottom Metro station (as illustrated below), walk south toward the Watergate on New Hampshire Avenue, and turn right (toward the river) on Virginia Avenue. At the intersection with Rock Creek Parkway go straight to Thompson's Boat Center, and turn right on the Potomac River walkway. Follow the riverside walkway to K Street, and continue under the Whitehurst Freeway to the end of K Street.
From the Bethesda Metro station, walk south on Wisconsin Avenue and turn left (east) after two blocks on Elm Street, or right (west) after three blocks on Bethesda Avenue.
From the Silver Spring Metro station, go south one block on Colesville Road, turn right (west) on East-West Highway for about six blocks, turn right (north) on Sundale for about four blocks, at the end of the street turn left (west) onto Porter Road, which becomes Pennsylvania Ave. Go three blocks, and at the end of the street bear left, but continue straight through a gap in a wall to a parking lot on the west side of a commercial building. Go across the parking lot to the Steward Ave. cul-de-sac, and look for the trailhead at the bottom of the hill on the left. The distance is just over 1.5 miles (see map, below).
If you are bicycling, you may be better-off taking the two-mile, on-street route marked by "Georgetown Branch Trail" signs. It follows Second Street, beginning one-half block north of the Metro station (go across Colesville Rd.). Go about 12 blocks north to Seminary Road. From Seminary, turn left immediately onto Brookville Road and take the second left after crossing a railroad bridge, onto Stewart Ave. The trail starts at the bottom of the hill on the right.
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