District of Columbia
General Overview of Trail
The ADT route through Maryland and Washington, D.C., serves as the area’s “greenway connector.” Proceeding west from Delaware the trail passes through Maryland’s eastern shore via rural roads, the Denton Greenway and the planned Hillsboro Rail Trail, which leads to Tuckahoe State Park. As the trail continues on to the Chesapeake Bay, it is bordered by inlets and wetlands as it approaches the Kent Narrows Island Greenway and the Bay Bridge.
After crossing the Bay Bridge, one enters historic Annapolis, from there the old Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis rail bed provides an excellent scenic route to Baltimore and ultimately Bowie, MD. From Bowie, the trail traverses the National Agricultural Center on its way to the historic planned city of Greenbelt. At Greenbelt National Park we pick up the Anacostia Tributary Trail, and at the district line the Fort Circle Trail which takes us to Rock Creek Park and thence to the C&O Canal Towpath Trail at Georgetown. The entire route is marked and open for hiking, bicycling and other uses permitted by local regulations.
Detailed Trail Description
The Maryland and DC portion of the American Discovery Trail is 270 miles in length, running along mostly trails and sidewalks and is broken down into four segments.
Delaware State Line to Chesapeake Bay – 42 miles
The Maryland ADT begins on Hobbs Road in an area known as Ringgolds Green, a former community rich with folklore and ghost stories. The trail soon enters Denton, the county seat of Caroline County. Martinak State Park and Camp Mardela, privately operated, have camping.
From Denton the route continues on rural, lightly traveled roads through Ridgely to Tuckahoe State Park. This 1,800-acre park has campsites and a lake for fishing. South of Queenstown is the Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area, a 2,500-acre protected area offering hiking, birding, and water-oriented activities. At Grasonville and Stevensville you have entered Chesapeake Bay country where you have the choice of many fine seafood restaurants. There are also motels and many fast food options. At Stevensville arrangements must be made for a taxi or a friendly motorist to carry you across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Chesapeake Bay to Greenbelt Park – 43 miles
Annapolis, located on the Severn River just west of the bay bridge, is the capital of Maryland and the site of the U.S. Naval Academy. It is a small historic city that has been able to retain its southern character. When it was designated a National Historic Landmark, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall noted that “Annapolis has the greatest concentration of eighteenth-century buildings anywhere in the United States.” Annapolis has always been a maritime center.
The current route from Annapolis to Bowie is on two-lane roads south of U.S. 50. The Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis rail-trail is planned for completion in 2008 and this trail, known as the South Shore Trail, will become the permanent ADT route into Odenton and then into Bowie.
Between Bowie and Greenbelt the route goes through the Beltsville Agricultural Center, a 7,000-acre working farm with experimental agricultural projects. There are two visitor centers in this area: The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Visitor Center, where you can see examples of various products that were tested here and that are in daily use today, and the U.S. Department of the Interior National Wildlife Visitor Center, which has many interactive scientific and environmental exhibits.
Greenbelt is one of the first “planned” cities, built in the 1930s during the New Deal. The city got its name from the greenbelt of undeveloped land surrounding the community. A short distance from here is Goddard Space Flight Center, which has a visitors center and offers prearranged tours of the facility. Greenbelt Park, a National Park Service unit, has camping and several hiking trails.
Greenbelt Park to Georgetown, Washington, D.C. – 17 miles
From Greenbelt Park follow the Anacostia stream valley to the Washington, D.C., boundary. The route from Greenbelt is on a paved off-road trail. About midway, at College Park, there are views of the oldest continuously operated airport in the United States, which also has an aviation museum. The Wright brothers and Amelia Earhart flew out of here. Just before entering Bladensburg, the route becomes the Northwest Branch Trail into Chillum Park, where you enter Washington, D.C., at Sixteenth Street. From here, follow the historic Fort Circle Trail on sidewalks to Rock Creek Park.
During the Civil War, sixty-eight forts encircled the District of Columbia to protect it from Confederate armies. This ring of forts was along Military Road, which the ADT follows. At Thirteenth Street are the partially reconstructed ramparts of Fort Stevens, and at Third Street is a park that was the site of Fort Slocum. Just off Military Road you enter Rock Creek Park. Hikers can follow the blue-blazed trail on the east side of Rock Creek; bikers can use the marked bike trail that parallels Beach Drive. Plan to stop at the Nature Center and Planetarium as you enter the park.
The route through Washington provides several opportunities to take side trips to visit the Mall area with the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution, and other points of interest.
Georgetown to Oldtown, MD (C&O Canal Towpath) – 167 miles
The ADT follows the towpath along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from the Georgetown section of Washington to Oldtown, Maryland, for 167 miles. The C & O Canal is a national historic park. The canal was in operation from 1850 to 1924 when it was closed after sustaining severe damage from major flooding. Campsites for hikers and bicyclists are located about every 5 miles beginning at milepost 25 and westward.
At Great Falls a boardwalk allows a visit to the very edge of the spectacular falls of the Potomac. Near Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (on the West Virginia side of the Potomac), the Appalachian Trail crosses the ADT. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters is located in Harpers Ferry. Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland come together here at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.
Antietam National Battlefield near milepost 69 was the site of the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. The 3,118-foot-long Paw Paw Tunnel at milepost 156 was the most ambitious and expensive achievement of the canal company. The ADT crosses the Potomac River into West Virginia on a privately owned bridge.
The most up-to-date detailed trail directions are published in the ADT Data Books.
- Love Point to Lewes, DE “Smuggler’s Trail” formerly Queen Anne’s Railroad (future)
- Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Rail Trail
- Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trail
- East Coast Greenway
- Anacostia Tributary Trails
- Fort Circle Trail
- Capital Crescent Trail
- Rock Creek Park Trail
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
- Allegheny Highlands Trail
- Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
- Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
- Martinak State Park
- Tuckahoe State Park, Adkins Arboretum
- Horsehead Wetlands Center (Wildfowl viewing)
- Sandy Point Beach State Park
- Greenbelt Park Parks
- Rock Creek Park
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Points of Interest
- Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area
- Horseheads Wetlands Center
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge
- National Wildlife Visitors Center
- Beltsville Agricultural Center
- NASA-Goddard Visitors Center
- College Park Airport and Museum
- University of Maryland
- Port of Bladensburg
- Anacostia Stream Valley
- National Zoo
- Nation’s Capital attractions
- Historic Georgetown
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
- Great Falls of the Potomac
- Brunswick Train Museum
- Harpers Ferry
- Antietam Battlefield