Metropolitan Branch Trail

District of Columbia, Maryland

9 Reviews

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Metropolitan Branch Trail Facts

States: District of Columbia, Maryland
Counties: Montgomery, Washington
Length: 7.9 miles
Trail end points: Union Station at First St NE & Union Station Dr NE (Washington, DC) and King St & Fenton St (Silver Spring, MD)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015477

Metropolitan Branch Trail Description


Connecting Union Station, historic D.C. neighborhoods, and the bustling beltway town of Silver Spring, the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) weaves connectivity, post-industrial renewal, and outdoor fun into the urban fabric of the nation capital's dynamic northeastern quadrant. The paved 11-ft wide trail traverses 7.9 miles through D.C. and the Maryland suburbs.

Serving thousands of commuters and recreation-seekers alike, the trail is home to vibrant artwork and a series of revolving murals. Following active rapid transit, freight, and intercity rail lines, users of this rail-with-trail can dabble in train spotting while enjoying safe, off-road access to local attractions, businesses, and residential areas. 

Parts of the MBT follow active rail lines including the Amtrak Corridor and WMATA subway system. The trail and rail are separated by a fence and each railroad crossing features warning signals.

About the Route 

The Metropolitan Branch Trail’s northern endpoint is in Silver Spring, Maryland, at King St and Fenton St. Heading south, the trail heads to Upper Portal Park, meeting the D.C.-Maryland line. Here, an on-road segment carries the trail through a series of turns through the Takoma (D.C.) neighborhood. Refer to the TrailLink map for specific details. 

After crossing underneath the Red Line tracks on Van Buren Avenue, the trail turns south on 3rd Avenue NW. Here, trail users can find several recreational facilities at the Takoma Community Center, including tennis courts, an indoor pool, and sports fields. Further south on 3rd Ave NW is Fort Slocum Park featuring a slice of civil war history. 

At Gallatin St. NW, the trail maintains an on-road segment east until the Fort Totten Metro stop. Here the trail resumes off-road, heading south along the rail tracks, towards Catholic University of America. At the Brookland-CUA Metro, the trail makes another on-road segment from Monroe St NE to Franklin St NE. The 0.5 mile on-road stretch, called the Arts Walk, features galleries, studios, and Monroe Street Market, with an array of eateries shops. South of Franklin Street, a skating rink, cinema, and brewery are just off the trail.

At the Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood Metro station, the trails follows a pedestrian bridge, a major milestone for both the trail’s development, and for pedestrian access to the Metro station. South of Rhode Island Ave, the trail passes a concentration of murals as it comes to Alethia Tanner Park, which includes a playground, a dog park, plaza areas, and gardens.

Passing under New York Ave NW, the trail continues south along the western side of the rail corridor, through NoMa to L St NE. Here, it crosses over east under the railway, before immediately heading south along 2nd St NE. At 2nd St NE and G St NE, the trail hooks behind a building, before skirting the east side of Union Station towards its front edifice. The Metropolitan Branch Trail’s southern endpoint is at Union Station’s front entrance.  


The trail is a key segment of the developing 800-mile Capital Trails Coalition network, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project that aims to connect the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region by multiuse trail.

Trail History 

The trail follows a former piece of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O)’s Metropolitan Branch. In 1830, The B&O was the first railroad for public passenger service in the U.S. The Metropolitan Branch opened in 1873. 

The railway is still in use by its owner CSX, along with the MARC commuter rail, and Amtrak trains going between Washington D.C. and Chicago. The railways for Washington Metro’s Red Line, built in the 1970s, parallel much of the corridor between Union Station and Silver Spring. 

The idea for a rail-trail along the Metropolitan Branch was proposed in 1988 by Patrick Hare, a Brookland resident and biking enthusiast. He enlisted RTC’s help to make the case. Construction began in 1998, and the first segment opened that same year.

Parking and Trail Access

The Metropolitan Branch Trail runs between Union Station (Washington, DC) and King St & Fenton St (Silver Spring, MD).

There is no designated parking available along the trail.  

The region’s Metro and commuter rails provide convenient transit access to the trail. If taking your bike aboard a train, please observe the transit agency’s rules. Several train stops are close to the trail:

  • Silver Spring (Red Line, MARC) 
  • Takoma (Red Line) 
  • Fort Totten (Red Line, Green Line)
  • Brookland–CUA (Red Line)
  • Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood (Red Line)
  • NoMa–Gallaudet U (Red Line)
  • Union Station (Red Line, MARC, VRE, DC Streetcar, Amtrak)

Metropolitan Branch Trail Reviews

Great Easy Access City Trail

Very easy to find the trail from any of the nearby red line stops which allows for easy segmenting if you don’t want to do the entire trail. Very runner friendly the entire way. It’s a great resource to have in the middle of the city.

Poor signage

The trail is more like 8 miles one-way from Takoma Park to Union Station. The on-street portions are poorly marked, so expect to wander a bit. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to find your way around town. Lettered streets are East-West, numbered North-South, state names are diagonal avenues.

Lovin the Met Branch Trail so far!

Love the artwork and the close proximity to many rest stops and places to eat & drink. I live in Alexandria, VA so I started on the Mount Vernon Trail, came into the city over the 14th Street bridge. Connected to the 15th Street cycle track to Pennsylvania Ave cycle track toward Union Station. Entered the MBT from Union Station. Looking forward to the continued work past Fort Totten. Felt so good to have all of this dedicated bike infrastructure. And it's only going to get better - so I'm saving that 5th star for the future :)

Great resource in the heart of the city

First ride today. A few places impacted by construction, but in great shape overall and quick ride from upper Northeast to NoMa. And wow, the street art along the way!


nice ride

This trail is good for people who want an urban experience, especially on a weekend morning as the city slowly awakes. Lots of places to stop for food and drinks - even shopping - along the way.

Don't meet the expectations of a trail

Today I decided to try the trails I haven't ride in DC. Anacostia, Sligo, Takoma and Metropolitan Branch. The first three were a nice surprise. The last one, the MBT, was a disappointment. The first 3-4 miles until 8th street are a real trail. Then it becomes a loose segments on road with very poor signs and not well planned. I appreciate all the effort these guys have made but calling it a Trail is really misleading.

Cool urban trail out of DC

I did this trail yesterday for the first time and found it interesting and challenging, especially past the Fort Totten transfer station. It actually is posted to say "End" at the top of this steep grade, so I'm not sure if there IS more trail or not after this point. But it was fun from Union Station. By the way, the entry is actually at Union Station but at 3rd and M Streets NE. It's a little tricky to find but if you actually go to Union Station looking for a trail head you'll be lost. Once you get going it's an interesting trail with lots of urban graffiti and the hum of the metro trains accompanying you. But it's a nice path. Have fun.

Great trail

Well marked and paved, goes straight up from DC. I've commuted on this numerous times and appreciate the effort put in to building something that actually takes you places, including a couple of metro stations.

I tried the new MBT from Union Station (southern terminus) northward, during July. The southern half is well marked EXCEPT for the section from the roadside trail (on sidewalk) to the off street dedicated trail at the Greyhound Bus Station. The trail signs lead to a set of stairs south side of the station, after passing under the railroad tracks. However, the bicycle RAMPS a block further north, at the northeast corner of the bus station. This should be corrected. Traveling along the dedicated trail from there is okay, fairly level grade, but in the summer time it is very very hot. There is little to no shade, and being adjacent to an active railroad yard, there is a lot of heat build up along the tracks. Not that it is a hard ride, just that I would not recommend it on hot days, especially for children. Once I got what should be about the halfway mark, the designated trail hits construction (07/12), then the markings become sparse and unclear. The landmark is Columbia University. Beyond CU the trail parallels an access road that serves a refuse transfer station. Again, not recommended on a hot day. Once past the transfer station, the grade becomes very VERY challenging, and the trail signs become unclear. I took what the map showed as being the trail up to Fort Totten (a park and Metro stop). I believe this is the interim section, but the change in elevation in a short distance makes this a very challenging section. I am by no means a novice, but it was really tough. The MBT is supposed to go to Silver Sring, MD, where it will connect to a number of fine trails. Unfortunately, I could not find any markers, and the one bike lane I found led to the south side of Tacoma and Tacoma Park, and another extreme grade (and no trail markers). I will try the MBT from the Silver Spring terminus later this fall (when it is cooler!), and post a review, to see if it is posted any better. Once completed, it should make an excellent, if challenging, addition to the DC netwrok.

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