Bike Day Trip: Capital Crescent and Rock Creek trails

Spring is finally with us, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy nature and do some exercise.

Some may say that summer is just as good – those that don’t know what DC summer is like, or are really into sweating.

There are two cycling trails that will take you closer to the woods, but not too much into the wild. These are the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) and the Rock Creek Trail (RCT). Both connect downtown DC with Bethesda’s city center. You can go both ways on one trail, but what I like the most is to start the day cycling the CCT, and after a restoring lunch in Bethesda, come back to DC on the RCT. Both trails are perfectly achievable to someone that doesn’t exercise regularly/is a coach potato (like me).

Capital Crescent Trail

Start: Georgetown Waterfront Park. From the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, go down Wisconsin Avenue to its end under the Whitehurst Freeway at the bottom of the hill, and turn right onto Water Street. The CCT begins (and the car traffic ends!) at the end of Water Street.

At the beginning you see the river on your left, but soon (as you start a slow ascent way from the river’s valley) there are trees on both sides and you have that nice feeling of leaving the city. It’s about 7 miles on a paved, slightly uphill trail – with two steep inclines that may feel a bit unforgiving and will make your thighs burn.


Bethesda offers plenty of restaurants where to grab something to eat. I, for one, like a very low key place called Lilit Cafe. They have the most amazing sandwiches, with or without gluten. To soak in the spring weather, put your sandwiches in a bag and bring them to Elm Street Park. It’s a nice square with a suburban feel, with nice wooden tables under the trees. As important, the cycling path right next to the park will take you to the RCT.

Back from Bethesda through RCT


This part in between Bethesda and the RCT is perhaps the most enjoyable: it is a lot less transited (you’re unlikely to hear someone shouting “on your left!”), and runs under very high and old trees. For those curious souls, here you can also peek into the gardens of some of the not-so-modest Bethesda dwellings.


Like a hard-won sweet dessert, the best part though comes last. Going down the Rock Creek Park on your bike is the prize for all those miles of cycling behind you – riding effortlessly on the long and winding road I often forget I’m near (or rather in the middle of) the city. Before arriving back in Georgetown, it’s nice to stop to enjoy the view and the sound of the creek. I have a favorite spot, on a fallen tree, where to sit and relax, and perhaps (if there are some hours of light ahead of me) even read a book.

What’s your favorite DC bike trail?


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