Capital Crescent Trail

Trail Overview

The Capital Crescent Trail is a very popular paved pathway that runs roughly seven miles from Georgetown, DC to Bethesda, MD. This trail is used by commuters, athletes, and recreational pedestrians alike, which can oftentimes make for crowded conditions. Runners are advised to keep to the right, except when passing, and to run single file. Given frequent traffic on the trail, runners should avoid using headphones while exercising—or, if nothing else, should keep the volume of those headphones to a minimum. Runners should also exercise good discretion when attempting faster workouts on this trail. Watch for families—and, most crucially, know that the trail segments in Chevy Chase, MD contain at grade intersections with busy city streets.

The Capital Crescent Trail is well-maintained and is generally in excellent condition. Runners taking the trail north can expect to gain about 200 feet in elevation, but that gain happens quite gradually and is mostly perceptible only on the segment that swings north over the C&O Towpath, heading into Montgomery County, MD. Runners can easily use this trail to connect with the Georgetown Branch Trail in Maryland (to the north) or to the C&O Towpath (to the south) and the southern reaches of the Rock Creek Trail (via an unmarked, but fairly intuitive, stretch of land beneath the Whitehurst Freeway that leads to DC’s Thompson Boat Center).

Water and Lighting

Given the Capital Crescent Trail’s close proximity to developed and populated sections of Washington, DC and Maryland, the trail is often fairly well-lit by ambient lighting. However, the southern portion of the trail that runs from Georgetown through the Dalecarlia Tunnel is more desolate and for significant stretches is not lighted at all. Runners should bring the appropriate reflective and lighting gear despite the direct and indirect illumination on the northern portions of the trail.

Water is frequently available at dedicated locations in the park, though runners should be advised that these locations may be subject to seasonal closings and restrictions. Water is available at Fletcher’s Cove Boathouse, mile marker 6.5 (Dalecarlia Filtration Plant), miler marker 4.5 (River Road Bridge), and at the trailhead in Bethesda (check current conditions for modifications to the trailhead location and access point due to ongoing construction in Bethesda).

Access Points

Many. The Capital Crescent Trail ends (or begins, depending on your location) roughly 75 yards west of the Key Bridge at a well designated trailhead. The approximately 2.5 miles of trail that run southeast from the Arizona Avenue Trestle to Georgetown almost exactly parallel the C&O Towpath, affording runners many opportunities to enter and exit the Crescent Trail (though be warned that poison ivy is rampant in the weeded and wooded areas between the two trails, so runners should not trailblaze between the two).

Given that the northern portions of the trail intersect with multiple urban neighborhoods, runners can enter and exit the trail almost at will—of course being sure to exercise caution when doing so, because these access points are often at street level on busy city intersections. The middle sections of the trail are easily accessible from Little Falls Branch Park.


C&O Canal Towpath | Mount Vernon Trail