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North Branch Hiker-Biker Trail

Division: Park Development

Overall map of North Branch Trail Project outlining current conditions and proposed conditions. More information can be found in the Park Project Description

Click on the image to enlarge

Project Description

The proposed North Branch Hiker-Biker Trail will extend approximately 2.2 miles through Rock Creek Regional Park and the North Branch Stream Valley Park Unit 4.  The south end of the trail will connect to the Lakeside Trail located on the east side of Lake Frank within Rock Creek Regional Park.  Here, the trail will make use of an existing, abandoned park road alignment and construction will include the removal of two abandoned parking lots along the east side of Lake Frank.

The trail will continue north to Muncaster Mill Road, where it will meet up with the Emory Lane Bikeway.  Parks Staff is working with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to improve the intersection of Emory Lane and Muncaster Mill Road and to extend the Emory Lane Bikeway to Park property.  The trail will also cross the North Branch of Rock Creek and connect to Meadowside Lane and the Muncaster Mill Bikeway.  A new parking lot and trailhead will be constructed along Meadowside Lane to provide access to the trail.  The North Branch Trail will utilize the Emory Lane, Muncaster Mill, and ICC Bike trails to connect to a developer-built trail at the Preserve at Rock Creek residential development. The connection between the ICC Bikeway and the Preserve at Rock Creek trail will be constructed as part of this project.


The North Branch Trail is one segment of a continuous regional park trail system that would extend from the District of Columbia to Olney through Rock Creek and North Branch stream valleys.  The hiker-biker trail system through Lake Frank and the North Branch of Rock Creek has been recommended on multiple master plans going all the way back to the 1978 Master Plan of Bikeways.  Additionally, the trail appears in:

In Fall 2015, the project was awarded $2 million in matching funds through the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program.  As a condition of the program, the construction drawings must be reviewed by the Maryland State Highway Administration for compliance with their design and procurement standards.

Following a September 2017 public meeting and recently completed public comment period via our Open Town Hall forum, Parks staff will be returning to the Planning Board in Fall 2017.  The focus of the Planning Board hearing is the potential relocation of the trail’s trailhead and parking lot from a site along Muncaster Mill Road just west of Emory Lane to a location along Meadowside Lane.  Additionally, Parks staff is proposing to relocate a proposed pedestrian-only bridge from the area around Meadowside Nature Center to a crossing just south of the Intercounty Connector.

Status/Project Update

The scope of the project and trail alignment generally follow the recommendations of the Facility Plan that was approved by the Planning Board in 2013, however, small refinements have been made to improve accessibility and preserve surrounding natural resources.

Key Dates

  • June 27, 2013, the Planning Board approved the Facility Plan for the North Branch Hiker-Biker Trail, which includes an analysis of the site’s environmental, cultural and visual features, a 30% complete preferred plan for the trail, a determination of regulatory feasibility and a cost estimate for the project.
  • In 2015, the project was accepted into the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program and given an additional $2 million in reimbursable project funds.  The program, which is administered by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) requires that the project follow the SHA’s Bicycle Policy & Design Guidelines.
  • September 13, 2017, Community Meeting – To review alternative parking lot locations
  • November 30, 2017, Parks staff brought the project back in front of the Planning Board for approval to modify the project’s Facility Plan in two locations.  In response to concerns raised by the community, the trailhead and parking lot will move from a location along Muncaster Mill Road near Emory Lane to a location along Meadowside Lane, near Muncaster Mill Road.  Additionally, a small bridge across the North Branch of Rock Creek will move from the vicinity of the Meadowside Nature Center to a location just south of the ICC overpass and connect to natural surface trails north and south of the ICC.  The full Staff Report is available on the Planning Board’s Website.

The construction documentation phase is nearing completion.  Once construction permits are issued, the project will be reviewed one more time by the Maryland Department of Transportation – State Highway Administration.  Upon their approval, the project can be advertised for construction bids.

Calendar and Meeting Notes

Links to review meeting notes and Planning Board memos are attached to each applicable calendar event.

September 11, 2011 Project initiated
September 19, 2012
7 – 9 PM
Community Meeting – To review possible trail alignments
– Slide presentation
Shady Grove Maintenance Yard
Training Room, Building B
16641 Crabbs Branch Way
Rockville, MD 20855
Fall 2012 Refined the preferred plan, obtain preliminary permits, develop a cost estimate
June 27, 2013 Planning Board meeting – Facility Plan approved M-NCPPC
Montgomery Regional Office
8787 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Fall 2013 Final design initiated
Fall 2015 Project awarded $2 million grant through the Federal Hwy Administration Alternatives Program
– View the conditions
September 13, 2017,
7-9 pm
Community Meeting – To review alternative parking lot locations
– Slide presentation
Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center
5110 Meadowside Lane
Rockville, MD 20855
Fall 2017 Construction drawings undergoing review by the Maryland State Highway Authority
November 30, 2017 Planning Board Meeting
– To present amendments to the North Branch Hiker-Biker Trail Facility Plan
M-NCPPC Montgomery Regional Office
8787 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Fall 2018 Submit 90% construction documents to SHA
Spring/Summer 2021 Receive final permits and approval to advertise for construction
Summer/Fall 2021 Advertise for construction bids
Fall 2021 Begin Construction
Summer 2023 Construction Complete

*Date and time subject to change. Please contact the project manager for additional information

M-NCPPC Staff Contact

Michael Zelaski, Project Manager

Last Updated: May 4, 2022