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45 Bikes & Hikes: Capital Crescent Trail/Rock Creek Park

DC and Maryland Loop Through DC Capital Crescent Trail/Rock Creek Park

Distance: Distance: 22-mile loop.Suggested route: Through Georgetown, Bethesda, and Rock Creek Park.

You can start this moderately difficult loop at any point—on the Capital Crescent, in Bethesda, in Rock Creek Park—but we suggest going clockwise to glide down some of the hilliest portions of the park. You’ll have a slight uphill on the paved Capital Crescent Trail starting in Georgetown, but you can’t beat the views of the Potomac and the C&O Canal. (The Capital Crescent tends to be busy just about all the time, but on weekends you can beat some of the rush by riding early in the morning.) The Capital Crescent ends in Bethesda; the crushed-gravel Georgetown Branch Trail connects to the Rock Creek Trail. Plan your trip for when the DC portion of Beach Drive is closed to cars on weekends so you can ride on the wide road without traffic—and really hear the water babbling through the creek. Top off the ride by popping into the National Zoo.
Make it harder: From Rock Creek Trail, detour to National Park Seminary, the former campus of a girls’ school that features an odd array of buildings, including a Japanese pagoda. Map it out beforehand; one route—a hilly dirt path—has no signs. Make it easier: If you’re just looking for a leisurely ride, stick to Rock Creek Park—sure, it can get crowded with rollerbladers, walkers, joggers, and bikers, but there’s still room to maneuver when Beach Drive is closed to cars on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. For more, see or

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