Biking Around Town Vol. 9 – Riding out on Beach Drive

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Biking around Town is written by Josh Nadas (@dcliterate), a daily bike commuter & avid rider who works for the National Park Service, and lives in Mount Pleasant. Josh previously wrote about the Anacostia Riverwalk Ride.

One of the most well-worn bike routes around town is beach drive. It due in part to the fact that a good chunk of this ride is closed to cars on the weekend and the route has a couple of hills that are fun without being too challenging (according to the map statistics, you only gain approximately 300 feet of elevation, and I added in hills as I describe below). The parts of this ride that do have cars on the road, the cars are generally well-behaved because they expect bikes to be there. Unfortunately, this isn’t true everywhere or all the time, but it helps.

I started the map down in Rock Creek Park, at the part of Beach drive where the weekend car-free zone begins. The name of the article is fairly intuitive regarding the route – we will be riding along beach drive today all the way to Garret park. However, I chose to take a side route up and around ridge road because I wanted an extra hill. If you are not interested in this part, you can feel free to start pedaling up Beach drive; it’s easy to pick up the rest of the route. As a reminder, Ridge, make the right turn onto Ross drive in order to get back to beach, don’t follow ridge too far.

As you descend down Ross drive, make a right turn and then a quick left to make sure that you go under the Military Road Bridge. At that point, you’ll be riding up Beach Drive, until you reach a bit of a funny intersection at the bottom of a hill. You have the option of continuing to the left on Beach Dr, or going to the right on Beach Drive, NW. (I apologize for how un-intuitive that is). Make sure you head to the left, and continue until you get to east-west highway. At that point, the name of the road changes to Jones Mill Road. Be sure to follow traffic lights and patterns for this part of the ride, it’s a residential area with a decent amount of traffic. Take Jones Mill all the way to the 495 beltway, where you should keep your eyes peeled for a left turn after you pass underneath the bridge, because you’ll be picking up Beach Drive again.

Continues after the jump.

This last section on beach is my favorite. It’s flat, and really easy to ride along because of a large shoulder on the road. You’ll ride this until the road ends in a “T” intersection with Garrett Park Road. At that point, you will find yourself at a small park with restrooms and water – so be sure to top off your bottle before heading home.

All told – the route took me just under an hour. I’m pretty sure that I was pushing myself to ride hard, so it could take you a little bit longer (or shorter, I’m really not very fast), especially so if you want to enjoy the scenery, rather than just burn off some calories. This is a great workout ride, or if you felt like traveling at a slower pace, half-day adventure ride. The park at the end makes a nice place to recover, and you can pretty easily have a picnic lunch there. I hope that you have fun out there.

21 Comment

  • Please be aware of and respectful to the walkers, families, recreational cyclists and runners on Beach in RCP.

    I run in the park almost every weekend, and typically use some part of Beach, and it can be frustrating and dangerous due to cyclists. Frustrating because I’m tired of being told that I’m running on the “wrong side of the road” while running into traffic on the sections of Beach open to cars (I run on the right in the closed sections). Dangerous when cyclists (who are apparently preparing for the Tour de France time trials) speed by with less than a foot of clearance.

    Lots of different people use the park on the weekend. We all need to respect each other out there. That includes runners/walkers scooting into single-file when a cyclist is trying to pass on a busy road, and families realizing that others are working out or training for upcoming races and not taking up the entire road.

    • And you appear to preparing for the Boston Marathon? Why not just run along the trail if you wish to avoid the speeding cyclists?

      • When not training for road races, I do run on trails. Unfortunately, the two big races I’ve prepped for this year are on the road.

        • I’m going to disagree with you on this – maybe not based on what is legally allowed, but based on what I think is both prudent and considerate. I don’t think runners should be running in the road in RCP in the section that are open to car traffic, there’s plenty of room to run on the side of the road. (I’m a year-round distance runner btw.)

          • Agree, I use the paved trails when available on the open sections of Beach north of Broad Branch. As a cyclist and long distance runner I understand the attraction of RCP. What we all need is 1) civility, 2) courtesy, and 3) bells and open ears. Turn down the iPod and invest in a bell – it’ll make everything a lot easier.

          • @Andy – I think that paved trail only goes so far up. For instance one of the more dangerous intersections (Beach/Wise Rd.) has no sidewalk and is open, but once you round the bend to the left, you have another closed section of Beach. But your point is taken about that path.

            I agree with the rest of your points, too. I just want to have folks respect the other park users.

    • I don’t want to be snarky/insensitive at all, but I think that if I were biking on Beach Drive amid the cars and I came around a corner to suddenly find someone jogging right where I am going, I would be very leery of weaving out into vehicular traffic, and I’d probably shout at you, too as it’d be a bit terrified in the moment to see you.

      • whether I’m running into traffic (as popular rules of the road go), or with traffic (as some people suggest in RCP), the cyclist still has to veer into traffic to get around a pedestrian.

        The other thing I didn’t mention is that we run single-file on open sections of Beach, and I’m as close to the curb as I can be without being in the gutter. We’re trying to take up as little room as possible.

    • Not to derail things, but I have a serious question. What exactly is the law/rule on running counter to traffic? As a cyclist, who prefers to ride in the road with traffic, playing chicken with much faster moving cars seems like a non-ideal situation. Is there any real truth to the salmon-style being safer? I heard rumor years back that it stems from old wives tales, but am open to being convinced otherwise.

    • andy

      I run the closed sections on the weekends, and I think it’s not a great trail for where and when there is car traffic. Only parts of that road have a side-trail that is paved, and the real trails are muddy and can be very rocky.

      The only time I have had problems with bikes is when going between the gates where the sections are closed, and bikes want to zip through there at the same time I am running through. It has happened a few times, and it’s unnecessary.

      • I run round the outside of the gates instead of through the middle. That way the cyclists and I don’t have to play chicken with each other. Just makes it easier for everyone.

  • My mother lives pretty close to Grubb Road and East West Highway in Chevy Chase. Is there a place near there to pick up this part of Beach Drive?

    • I think you just head south on Grubb road until it ends, then turn right on West Beach. Should end up right at Beach Drive.

        • No problem! There’s a good shop there on Grubb (The Bicycle Place) if you need anything on your way. I used to do a lot of group rides there on Sunday mornings. Lunch at Parkway Deli after sort of negates the ride, but is tasty…

  • “Be sure to follow traffic lights and patterns for this part of the ride”?? So you don’t have to obey traffic laws for the rest of the ride?

    • OK, I don’t know Josh at all, but from reading his posts, he comes off as a conscientious cyclist, and I doubt he meant to imply that it’s not necessary to obey traffic patterns all the time, on every ride. I read his post at face value, without trying to split hairs, and I think he simply meant to give riders a heads-up that you run into significantly more traffic when you hit that section, and therefore it’s important to be extra cautious and aware. For my part, I appreciate as much detail about traffic conditions as possible when reading about bike routes.

    • Or it could be because that is the only part of the ride where you will encounter traffic lights. There are no traffic lights on Beach Drive.

  • andy

    Also – not long after you hit #6 on the list you can get on the Capital Crescent Trail and run all the way to Georgetown. I’ve run it – it’s a long run, but a great one.

  • Fellow Beach-Drive runners: There are also awesome trails on either side of the creek/road along this section of Beach. They have some hills, and the one on the west side of Beach (across the creek) is a wide horse-trail (don’t worry, there’s not too much horse crap and I don’t encounter riders very often).

    That said, I run in the road often, whether it’s because of (a) laziness, (b) sub-optimal trail conditions in wet/snowy weather, or (c) wanting to avoid steep hills because of an achilles injury.

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