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C&O Question: Crossing the Potomac Near DC

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C&O Question: Crossing the Potomac Near DC

Old 05-12-14, 03:06 PM
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AusTexMurf
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C&O Question: Crossing the Potomac Near DC

What is the best way to get across the Potomac to get in to Alexandria, Va from the C&O ?

All the way in to DC and then take the Mt. Vernon Trail ?
Chain ferry at White's Ferry and then down from Leesburg, Va straight to Alexandria ?
Camp in Potomac, Md and cross, where ?
Thanks in advance for the input.
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Old 05-12-14, 03:58 PM
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BobG
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Last September I rode the C&O all the way to Georgetown, connected to the DC bike routes and crossed at Arlington Memorial Bridge on the right hand sidewalk. On the VA side you may find the traffic too fast and intimidating to cross over to the left side to access the Mt Vernon Trail. Follow the sidewalk in the attached picture to the right and you'll cross just one lane of traffic at a time*. Follow it around the rotary and continue on Memorial Ave towards the Arlington cemetery. On the straight section past the rotary you can cross lighter 4 lane traffic at a crosswalk over to the left hand side and return safely back towards the bridge and access the bike trail to Alexandria.

http://goo.gl/maps/vx0ar

*Well, maybe 3 lanes at a time but traffic is one way and crosswalks are provided.....

http://goo.gl/maps/Xrl6L

Last edited by BobG; 05-13-14 at 07:35 AM.
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Old 05-12-14, 04:15 PM
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This is part of my daily commute. Several options, but to keep it simple, stay on the dirt towpath (rather than the nice paved Capital Cresent Trail that parallels the towpath for the last couple miles). After you pass under Key Bridge in Georgetown (Key Bridge is the first huge bridge you'll come to), take the dirt ramp up and over the canal. You'll have to push your bike up a small set of stairs, but there is a ramp on the right to make it easy. Cross over Key Bridge into Virginia, and at the end, you'll cross the entrance ramp, then take an immediate left to get on the Mount Vernon Trail. Follow that all the way to Alexandria. Only thing to watch for is at the first boardwalk area, go to the left to stay on the MVT (straight/right will take you up and over the Roosevelt Bridge into DC).

Keep in mind that lots of people like to take a picture at the Mile Zero marker, so if this is something you want to do, let me know and I'll describe that route. It's a little more complicated, but you'll ride down the river on the DC side a little longer, crossing the 14th Street Bridge. Just as nice a ride, BTW. Wouldn't recommend Memorial Bridge, as you need to cross very busy roads without a light. It can be done, just not that safe.
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Old 05-12-14, 08:17 PM
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alan gave a very good description of what is probably the easiest and most straightforward way to get to Alexandria. If you happen to find yourself on the C&O towpath after lots of rain, however, and don't want to deal with the muddy conditions, you could take White's Ferry, then ride about 4 miles on the shoulder of the very busy route 15 to reach the W&OD paved rail-trail.
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Old 05-19-14, 07:38 AM
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Thank you all.
Followed Alan's route on the way in to Alexandria.
C&O tow path is a dream. Wonderful hiker/biker campsites. Mud slowed me down a bit, fully loaded, with camping gear. Still managed to cover 140 miles in two days in a bit of wet weather.
Amazing bike facilities in the DC area. Love the trails along the different runs (creeks) in the Alexandria area as well.
Will probably ride the W&OD to White's Ferry on the way back out. I checked out the ferry from the other side of the Potomac when headed in to DC. Interesting way to cross the river as well. Don't think Route 15 will bother me. I am from Texas. LOL
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Old 05-19-14, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
Will probably ride the W&OD to White's Ferry on the way back out. I checked out the ferry from the other side of the Potomac when headed in to DC. Interesting way to cross the river as well. Don't think Route 15 will bother me. I am from Texas. LOL
I had mapped a W&OD - C&O loop with a White's ferry crossing a few years back but have yet to ride it. I've been concerned about the condition of the C&O from White's ferry to DC. We rode the GAP last summer and on the way home made a car stop at the Paw Paw to check it out, the C&O, particularly on the east side of the tunnel was a kind of "rustic". I'd love to hear about section heading into DC.
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Old 05-19-14, 04:59 PM
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If you do take White's ferry, get lunch at Windy City Red Hots in Leesburg. Great cycling food, outdoor seating in the back (bring your bike through the alley) and good beer. It's on the route between the W&OD and the C&O. However; White's ferry is presently CLOSED due to flooding of the Potomac. There is no other safe way to cross on a bicycle between chain bridge and Harper's Ferry, so plan ahead. If you do go back on the Maryland side, be sure to hike out to the viewpoint at Great Falls. The river will be impressive with all the rain of late.
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Old 05-19-14, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by DCwom View Post
I had mapped a W&OD - C&O loop with a White's ferry crossing a few years back but have yet to ride it. I've been concerned about the condition of the C&O from White's ferry to DC. We rode the GAP last summer and on the way home made a car stop at the Paw Paw to check it out, the C&O, particularly on the east side of the tunnel was a kind of "rustic". I'd love to hear about section heading into DC.

The towpath from DC to Whites Ferry is in pretty good shape. Miles 1-26 are very good, and after that, it gets a little muddier. W&OD is a nice paved suburban ride, but there are numerous grade road crossings, so stopping is fairly frequent. Also, there is more up and down terrain on the W&OD vs. the C&O, which is flat, except for the locks. Outside Leesburg is a bit more rural, but that would be beyond the route for Whites Ferry. Bike Washington has some good information.
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Old 05-20-14, 05:02 AM
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Originally Posted by TheReal Houdini View Post
However; White's ferry is presently CLOSED due to flooding of the Potomac. There is no other safe way to cross on a bicycle between chain bridge and Harper's Ferry, so plan ahead.
You can certainly cross at either Point of Rocks or Brunswick. I can help with some of the side-road navigation if you're interested.
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Old 05-20-14, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
Thank you all.
Followed Alan's route on the way in to Alexandria.
...
Will probably ride the W&OD to White's Ferry on the way back out. I checked out the ferry from the other side of the Potomac when headed in to DC. Interesting way to cross the river as well. Don't think Route 15 will bother me. I am from Texas. LOL
While the W&O might be another trail to see and do I think you might find your self wishing you had ridden on the C&O again. The view is a lot better on the C&O and its probably faster too.
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