Cabin John Stream Valley Trail

In which we race the sun.

Both busy on our normal hiking day, we tried to cram in a quick Sunday afternoon hike after Dar’s weekly animal sanctuary constitutional. The Cabin John Trail in Montgomery County was chosen for its proximal location. “You tried to cram 8.8 miles on an unfamiliar trail into an afternoon at a time of year when the sun sets at 5pm?”  Hey, we’re not known for biting off chewable amounts, okay? Montgomery County Parks has a great three-page PDF map with only a couple mythical features. More on those shortly. Don’t confuse this trail with the LocalHikes Cabin John Trail.

We decided to do the trail north to south, so we dropped a car at Cabin John Regional Park and sallied northward, seeking the mythical parking lot on an unnamed side street of Gainsborough Road shown on the map. It failed to materialize, so we just parked at the end of Goya Drive, a dead-end residential street.

The beginning of the trail is a relatively wide, planned residential trail. Packed dirt, rock-free, etc. As it meanders south of Tuckerman Lane, it starts to resemble a less-traveled hiking trail. Be attentive to the map — there are side trails, and some of them are easy to accidentally go down.

The trail goes through woods, fields, along a river, along roads, and across major intersections. As you can see from our little spur on the map at waypoint 2, the continuation of the trail after crossing Democracy Boulevard is not clear. After walking along Seven Locks Road for 0.2 miles, climb over a guard rail and follow a scuffed line in the grass down a steep slope. We discovered this by passing a runner headed in the opposite direction. A minute after passing him and feeling like we’d walked too far, we turned to look back down the road and discovered that the runner had disappeared in far less time than it would have taken him to reach the intersection, leading us to backtrack and find the unmarked trail “entrance.”

There are many small streams available for obligatory foot photos (OFPs).

There are many small streams available for obligatory foot photos (OFPs).

The last two miles of the trail are markedly different from the rest — skinny, windy, rocky, with many ups and downs and tight turns along the edges of drop-offs. Add growing gloom, and we were increasingly worried about being stuck out in the dark, but we reached the bottom of the interminable staircase that climbs into Cabin John Park with some light left.

Another mythical item on the trail map is the bathrooms at Cabin John Park. We wandered around the entire facility without locating them. So, pee in the woods before you reach the park. Just don’t fall into a ravine.



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