Washington area bike trails: Beach Drive and Rock Creek Trail

A cyclist rides over Boulder Bridge, where Beach Drive crosses over Rock Creek.
A cyclist rides over Boulder Bridge, where Beach Drive crosses over Rock Creek. (1998 Photo By Tim Sloan/the Washington Post)
Friday, April 30, 2010

Rock Creek Trail and Beach Drive from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro

Surface type: Paved trail and road.

Distance: About 14 miles, one way.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Detailed maps available at: http://www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkTrails/trail_maps.shtm and http://www.nps.gov/rocr/planyourvisit/upload/ROCRmap1.pdf.

With its minimal elevation, shady, tree-lined path and popular tourist stops, it is easy to see why the Rock Creek Trail and Beach Drive attract scores of bicyclists, joggers and walkers every weekend.

Our pick for such an afternoon ride is biking from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station in Bethesda to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station in Northwest Washington. Then take the Red Line back to Grosvenor.

Park at the Grosvenor station and ride south along Rockville Pike to Grosvenor Lane near Beach Drive. Continue south along Beach Drive until you reach the Rock Creek Trail.

While Beach Drive in the District is closed to motorists on the weekends, it is still a busy street in Montgomery County. Stay on the paved Rock Creek Trail if you are worried about traffic or simply want to go at a slower place. You might have to contend with joggers, but calming views of the babbling creek -- which follows the trail closely -- make it worthwhile.

After about three miles, you will begin to see the Mormon temple looming above the tree line.

Continue along the trail crossing under the Beltway. At this point the trail begins to follow Jones Mill Road. Continue until you see signs that show you that Rock Creek Trail crosses the road. From this point until the D.C. line (about two more miles), the trail weaves through parks, around athletic fields and through wooded areas.

At the D.C. line, Beach Drive is closed to motorists from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 p.m. Sunday, which means it becomes a paved slice of heaven for riders. Don't be intimidated by would-be Lance Armstrongs who zip along in packs at breakneck pace -- there is enough road for everyone.

You get four miles of nearly car-less Beach Drive (there are some short stretches open to traffic) before you get to the intersection of Broad Branch Road and have to continue on the Western Ridge Trail. The trail parallels Beach Drive.

Continue about a mile and a half to the National Zoo entrance at Beach Drive. Park your bike and check in on the animals. To get to the Woodley Park Metro, continue on the path about a mile until making a right on Shoreham Drive; make another right onto Calvert Street. Turn left on Connecticut, and the station is a block away.

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