Safety on the Trail


A "Letter" to Capital Crescent Trail Users

As a result of your hard work and generous contributions our trail is a beautiful and heavily used success. Bikers, bladers, joggers, runners and walkers, commuters and recreational users of ALL SPEEDS and AGES enjoy its 'car-free, park-like setting'. Unfortunately 'car-free' does not mean 'danger-free' and success has brought congestion and thus increased danger to the trail. Serious accidents involving hospital convalescence and police investigation have occurred.

Our trail has over 1 million users per year, is quite congested at times, and has users moving at a wide range of speeds, from 1-2 miles per hour up to 20-25 miles an hour (excessive but real). We have been experiencing more serious accidents on the trail and we urge ALL users to exercise greater caution, courtesy and alertness.

Caution: Poisonous copperhead snakes are occasionally on the trail

Copperheads have been sighted on the trail multiple times in 2020 thru 2022, with their brown diamond markings. So far, all reported sightings have been between Georgetown and the Canal Rd bridge, and most have been around dusk. Riding or walking over a copperhead may cause it to strike, so using a headlight or flashlight is highly recommended at and after dusk to see and so avoid them. If you see a snake on the trail, back away quietly if close to it, then pass by while keeping away from it. DO NOT poke snakes or throw things at them - that will make them more likely to strike.

Please follow the safety tips below:

All Users:

  • Stay ALERT, keep your ears OPEN
  • Stay to the right, on your half of the trail, except when passing
  • Do not go 3 or 4 abreast if that crosses over the center line
  • Do not stop in the trail - move aside
  • Look behind you from time to time
  • Pass only after looking behind you
  • Give a clear warning before passing
  • Pass only on the left
  • Pass only if you will have 2 feet of clearance from others
  • When it's dark, wear reflective clothing so others can see you
  • When it's dark, use a light so you can see others AND so they can see you
  • When entering the trail, look both ways and yield to those on the trail
  • Yield to others at crosswalks
  • STOP at stop signs, there may be dangerous car cross-traffic


  • PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN, keep them to the right!
  • Do not let your children ramble freely across the trail
  • Stay immediately behind or to the left of your children

Bikers and Bladers:

 In addition to the "All Users" safety tips:

  • Keep a safe, reasonable speed - 15 MPH is the speed limit on the trail
  • Reduce your speed for congestion and slippery conditions
  • Be predictable
  • Wear a Helmet
  • Warn with a loud bell, whistle or voice at least 2 seconds BEFORE passing someone

Hikers and Walkers:

  • Do not read while on the trail - it reduces your attention to others
  • TURN OFF your music player, or at least turn it down, so you can hear passing warnings
  • If warned before being passed, you can call out "Thanks", or if there's time, "Thanks for the warning"
  • If NOT warned before being passed, you can politely call out "Please warn before passing"

Pet Owners:

  • Keep your pet on a very short leash (this is required by law!)
  • Keep your pet to the right
  • Treat your pet as you would a child

 E-Bikes are now allowed EVERYWHERE on the CCT

  • On the National Park Service (Washington DC) section of the CCT, Class 1, 2, and 3 E-Bike use is permitted, as long as they are pedaled and obey the 15 MPH speed limit.  Throttle-only E-Bike use is not permitted.  E-Scooters, mopeds, and hover-boards are not permitted.  This NPS policy came out in August 2019This C&O Canal National Historical Park Biking page has details at the bottom.
  • Montgomery Parks policy allows Class 1 E-Bikes and many E-Scooters on all their paved park trails, including the CCT.  This policy directive was issued on 3/25/2021.  For a more readable description of what is and is not permitted, with photos, see the "Electric Bicycles (e-bikes) Definition" section of the otherwise-obsolete Montgomery Parks E-Bikes and E-Scooters Pilot Program page.  Mopeds, hover-boards, and Throttle-only (no pedaling) E-Bike use are not permitted.
  • Rental Bikes and Scooters left on the trail are an ongoing problem.  Rental users, PLEASE do not leave whatever you rented on the trail, where someone might run into it.  Please park it off to the side.

Cyclists: Use effective lights to be safe after dark, but PLEASE, do not use a bright flashing headlight while you're on the CCT

Trail users are reporting that the flashing white strobe lights some cyclists are using as headlights can be disorienting and are very irritating. Cyclists, please use a headlight with a steady beam, aim it low (not straight out into other trail users eyes), and use a moderate brightness setting if possible. Bright and strobing lights for great for getting drivers attention on the road, but are just too bright on the trail. We are all safer if no one is confused or blinded by your lights.

For Emergency Telephone Numbers or to Report Unsafe Trail Conditions, see the Trail Contacts page.