Segment 40: District of Columbia

Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge, route of the American Discovery Trail and the Fifty Trail, which includes this walk as part of the District of Columbia Segment in order to ‘beef it up’ a little.


The Fifty Trail route through DC follows the route of the American Discovery Trail with the following important exception. At Georgetown, mile 0.4 on the C&O Canal Tow Path, the trail turns north (left for the eastbound route), crossing the Canal on a footbridge. Keep left as you leave the bridge, passing through Francis Scott Key Memorial Park. Continue to bear left to cross the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge into Arlington, VA.

Leaving the Key Bridge, continue to stay left crossing the on-ramp from the George Washington Memorial Parkway and then turning left onto the Mount Vernon Trail just before the intersection with the ramp from I-66.

The trail crosses over the GW Parkway then drops down to a parking lot where the Fifty Trail hugs the Potomac River Bank on the paved Mt. Vernon Trail, crossing under I-66 then under the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Soon after the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Fifty Trail leaves the Mt. Vernon Trail, takes a right turn, crosses the GW Parkway, and continues to bear right, crossing the off ramp from Washington Blvd. It then turns right to cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge back into DC, proceeding straight toward the Lincoln Memorial.

Bear right at the Lincoln Memorial and proceed along the reflecting pool. You are now on the National Mall and the Washington Monument is directly ahead, with the Capitol Building beyond. Proceed to the Capitol and walk around the south side then the east side, passing the Supreme Court and Library of Congress and continue to loop around the Capitol until you’ve almost made a full 180 degree turn, but not quite. Follow Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House—the route that all Presidents walk on the day of their inauguration.

Reaching the Ellipse in front of the White House, bear left, passing around the Ellipse and continuing diagonally south westward toward the intersection of 17th St. and Constitution Ave. Proceed down Constitution to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial where the trail bears left along Henry Bacon Drive. Turn left again just before reaching Lincoln Memorial Circle (with the Memorial straight in front of you), and proceed down the walkway to the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway.

Cross the parkway and turn right (WNW) in order to use the walkway right above the River. Cross back under I-66 continuing to follow the riverside walk until you come to the outlet of Rock Creek, which is also the end of the C&O Canal. Follow the trail north away from the Potomac with Rock Creek on your left (west) and continue up Rock Creek trail passing the intersection with the C&O canal trail, which comes in from the left just before an on-ramp to, and then the underpass of, Pennsylvania Avenue.

You are now back on the American Discovery Trail Route. Follow the ADT directions (in reverse—their directions are for East-to-West travel) north through Rock Creek Park then east into Tacoma Park/Hyattsville, MD to the Northwest Branch Trail and on east to Annapolis, MD and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

There is currently only one way to walk across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and it only happens one day per year—enter the Across-the-Bay 10K race. For Fifty Trail recognition as a completer of the DC segment or of the whole trail, this is necessary. Hey, other than the National Mall, it’s the highlight of the segment.

This is the fifth largest 10K race in the United States. It has been scheduled for the first Sunday of November each year. Walkers are welcome. There is a generous time limit of 2.5 hours to do the 10K (6.2 miles) before a sag wagon picks you up.

There used to be a free Bridge Walk early in May each year starting in 1975, but government budget constraints brought that event to an end. The last free walk was held in 2006 and for the following seven years it was scheduled then cancelled before the Maryland Department of Transportation finally formally discontinued the event. There was a further time gap until the 10K Bridge Race was established in 2014.

The Fifty Trail DC segment ends near the finish line of the Bridge Race at the start of the Cross Island bike trail in Terrapin Park on Kent Island.


American Discovery Trail, Maryland:

Across the Bay 10K race:


A fifty-mile route, mostly on the American Discovery Trail starting with the C&O Canal tow path at the MD-DC line, incorporating the Potomac Heritage Trail and the National Mall, and continuing to Governor’s Bridge over the Patuxent River at the Prince George/Anne Arundel County Line in Maryland. Governor’s Bridge is a historic old truss bridge, built in 1912, that is closed to vehicular traffic currently, but apparently repairs are planned and it is scheduled to re-open to traffic in 2019.

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