Bicycling Magazine Washington, D.C.: Rock Creek -- Capital Crescent Loop 

Ditch the Beltway grind on this 25.5-mile commuter-friendly tour of D.C.’s landmarks on the twisting Rock Creek and Capital Crescent Trails.

Our Apps

Map Tools

Share Trip
  • E-mail Trip
  • Embed Map
  • Social Bookmarks
    more bookmarks...

Download To

Create a Trip
* Requires a Trip Planner or Elite Membership
Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 23 Apr 2008 4:50:00 PM
Activity: Bicycling
State: District of Columbia (DC)
Distance: 25.42 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 1243 ft
Total Loss: 1245 ft
Net Change: -2 ft
Difficulty: 4 / 10
Tags: District of Columbia, Washington, Washington D.C.
Rating:   1 rating(s) Rate it

Starting at the Chinatown Arch, this ride loops north to the D.C. ‘burbs on a mix of bike routes, lanes, and paths perfect for commuters, fitness enthusiasts, and recreational cyclists. After escaping city congestion on bike lanes, the ride turns prime at Rock Creek Park, the District’s favorite urban escape. Rock Creek Trail’s short hills provide a solid fitness test, and the creek flowing parallel to the route cools off even the hottest summer rides. After skirting Bethesda, the ride spits out onto the Capital Crescent Trail for nine miles of downhill rollers through C&O National Historic Park. The return-trip through downtown affords fantastic views of D.C.'s landmarks in Lafayette Park.

TIP: This route is designed for roadies, but a whole other world of options is open to knobby tires. An off-road, hard-pack path runs parallel to the route in Rock Creek Park, and there’s also a section of crushed gravel on the Capital Crescent Trail that this ride avoids (both marked on the map).

-Mapped by Andrew Matranga

Position Format: Datum:

Washington, D.C.: Rock Creek to Capital Crescent Trail

Distance: 25.42 mi Points: 574
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
# Distance Instruction Distance to next
1 0.00 mi Start - 7th St. NW Then go 0.84 mi
2 0.84 mi Turn Left - R St. NW Then go 0.53 mi
3 1.37 mi Turn Right - 14th St. NW Then go 4.14 mi
4 5.51 mi Turn Left - Aspen St. NW Then go 0.47 mi
5 5.98 mi Turn Right - Beech Dr. NW Then go 2.62 mi
6 8.60 mi Straight - Jones Mill Road Then go 1.42 mi
7 10.02 mi Turn Left - Beach Dr. Then go 1.08 mi
8 11.10 mi Turn Left - Veer onto the bike path Then go 0.90 mi
9 12.00 mi Turn Left - Cedar Ln. Then go 1.28 mi
10 13.28 mi Turn Left - Old Georgetown Rd/Bethesda Trolley Trail -- sidewalk path Then go 0.47 mi
11 13.75 mi Bear Left - Path veers into the forest Then go 0.26 mi
12 14.01 mi Straight - Stay left on path Then go 0.16 mi
13 14.17 mi Bear Left - Stay left on the path Then go 0.11 mi
14 14.28 mi Bear Left - Stay left on the path Then go 0.16 mi
15 14.43 mi Turn Right - Bike path Then go 0.10 mi
16 14.53 mi Straight - Cross road, continue on bike path Then go 0.12 mi
17 14.65 mi Bear Left - End of Bethesda Trolley Trail; continue on Norfolk Ave. Then go 0.28 mi
18 14.94 mi Turn Right - Woodmont Ave. Then go 0.15 mi
19 15.09 mi Straight - Cross intersection, continue on Woodmont Then go 0.36 mi
20 15.44 mi Bear Right - Off Woodmont toward Capital Crescent Trail Then go 0.03 mi
21 15.47 mi Straight - Cross Bethesda Ave. and enter Capital Crescent Trail Then go 7.00 mi
22 22.47 mi Exit Capital Crescent to Water St. and continue straight under Whitehurst Freeway Then go 0.70 mi
23 23.17 mi Turn Left - 29th St. NW (watch for cars) Then go 0.18 mi
24 23.36 mi Turn Right - Pennsylvania Ave. NW Then go 0.42 mi
25 23.77 mi Straight - Continue through Washington Circle Park Then go 0.11 mi
26 23.89 mi Straight - Continue on Pennsylvania Ave. Then go 0.56 mi
27 24.45 mi Straight - Continue on Pennsylvania Ave. NW Then go 0.33 mi
28 24.78 mi Straight - New York Ave. NW Then go 0.21 mi
29 24.98 mi Turn Right - H St. NW

Points of Interest

Chinatown Arch

Location: 38.899809, -77.021917
Dedicated in 1986, this traditional Chinese gate was designed by local architect, Alfred H. Liu. This public art piece features 7 roofs up to 60 feet high, 7000 tiles, and 272 painted dragons in the style of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The gate celebrates DC's friendship with sister city Beijing.

R Street

Location: 38.912583, -77.022003
R Street can get tightly packed, even though there is a continuous bike lane. Watch for delivery trucks and randomly opening car doors.

14th Street

Location: 38.912616, -77.032040
Start the climb into northern DC's Columbia Heights neighborhood. Intermittent bike lanes make for relative ease of travel. There are a few lights, so try not to get caught over-geared at a stop light near the base of a hill.

Uphill with false flat

Location: 38.962028, -77.033354
Rock Creek Park is to the west, and the hills begin rolling here in subtle waves.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Location: 38.972214, -77.033419
There is a small hill on the quiet side of this now infamous hospital complex.

Head into Rock Creek Park

Location: 38.972155, -77.036691
Watch your line as you bomb down the first sharp downhill into Rock Creek; cars will make erratic turns. Tip: On the weekends, the northern section of the park is closed to vehicle traffic, so you can spin to your heart's content.

Beech Drive

Location: 38.972839, -77.040768
When you reach the bottom of the hill, you'll start climbing through the high, dense canopy of the Rock Creek forest. The soft-flowing waters of the creek parallel on your right.


Location: 38.983749, -77.042871
This can be a busy spot during the week: Keep an eye out for turning cars.

Welcome to Maryland..

Location: 38.986384, -77.052838
The DC-Maryland state line. If you're riding knobbies, you'll have an option to enter the Rock Creek off-road path here. Otherwise, continue on the street, a designated bike route in its own right.

East-West Highway

Location: 38.992772, -77.063567
This is a busy thoroughfare. Continue north on the signed Rock Creek Trail (this is the road portion of the trail; an entrace to the off-road path for hikers and fat-tire riders is just to the east at Meadowbrook Lane).

Capital Crescent Trail Junction

Location: 38.997841, -77.065744
'Cross/MTB option: To cut 4 miles off this ride, turn left on the Capital Crescent Trail and rejoing the return route just outside Bethesda. This section of the CCT is crushed gravel, a bit of an adventure for road bikes.

Left onto Beach Drive

Location: 39.012565, -77.063985
Here the Rock Creek Trail parallels Beach Drive, but the road is the best bet under most conditions, especially if you're looking to pick up speed.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Location: 39.012823, -77.067214
To the north, catch a glimpse of DC's Mormon temple.

Veer onto the path

Location: 39.008914, -77.078490
Avoid the light at Connecticut Avenue by cutting left onto the bike path and continuing to Cedar Lane.NOTE: If the creek is up, the path might be very muddy--not advisable for road bikes.

The Cedar Lane Junction

Location: 39.012073, -77.090710
Get ready for a short, punchy climb as you turn left on Cedar Lane: You'll be standing for sure.

Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue/MD-355

Location: 39.006538, -77.097416
This is a busy intersection. If you want to bail on the ride, there's a Red Line Metro Stop a few blocks south of here. A nice, sustained climb past the north boundary of the National Institutes of Health lies ahead.

Left onto Old Georgetown Pike/Bethesda Trolley Trail

Location: 39.004395, -77.110527
This section is signed as the Bethesda Trolley Trail, which is actually just the sidewalk here.

Veer left

Location: 38.997616, -77.109014
The Bethesda Trolley Trail leaves the sidewalk and becomes an asphalt path winding through the southern section of the National Institutes of Health. Watch for pedestrians and tight, blind curves.


Location: 38.993635, -77.099902
After turning right, you'll cross a bridge and pass through a vehicle barrier.

End of the Trolley Trail

Location: 38.990822, -77.100318
Enter downtown Bethesda and make your way to the Capital Crescent Trail via Norfolk Ave.

Bike lanes return

Location: 38.986259, -77.096804
Bike lanes return on this stretch of Woodmont. If you're ready for a quick snap or cup of java, there are a few spots along both Woodmont and Bethesda Avenue (ahead).

Capital Crescent Trailhead in Bethesda

Location: 38.980838, -77.095667
Enter the Capital Crescent Trail for nine miles of riding through a wooded watershed. This rail-trail is often crowded on weekends, but you can still get some speed and make some nice turns.

Griffin Cycle

Location: 38.980855, -77.100015
Need a pit stop? Check out Griffin Cycle at 4949 Bethesda Avenue.

Little Falls Parkway

Location: 38.973565, -77.101203
Use caution crossing this busy road.

Cabin John Trolley Trestle

Location: 38.943998, -77.115872
Ride into the tunnel.

Montgomery County-D.C. Line

Location: 38.937514, -77.115784

Fletcher's Cove

Location: 38.919370, -77.101590
Fletcher's Cove, C&O Canal National Historic Park

Capital Crescent Trailhead at the Canoe Club

Location: 38.904589, -77.071345
The southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail

The Whitehurst Freeway

Location: 38.904384, -77.070248
Ride under the Whitehurst Freeway near the Potomac Boat Club

Original Big Wheel Bikes

Location: 38.904430, -77.065983
Another pit-stop option: Big Wheel Bikes at 1034 33rd St. NW.

C & O Canal in Georgetown

Location: 38.903975, -77.058063
Historic, preserved locks hearken back to the shipping heyday of the District.

The World Bank

Location: 38.899617, -77.041766

DC views from Lafayette Square

Location: 38.898916, -77.037302
The White House

DC views from Lafayette Square

Location: 38.898916, -77.037302
The White House from the North Lawn and Lafayette Square

DC views from Lafayette Square

Location: 38.898916, -77.037302
A view of the obelisk from Lafayette Square

Fletcher's Cove

Location: 38.919370, -77.101590
The Potomac River is visible from Fletcher's Cove


Comparable Trips

Comments  Post a comment
0 Trip Comments