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Your recollection of the bridge is correct (tho' you may be tempting fate in the traffic lanes during the morning/evening commutes - things are fast and without much room for error).

The primary problem with this crossing is the intersection of the VA side (of Chain Bridge Rd & Glebe). It is (effectively) blind, poorly signaled/controlled, and not very well constructed, to boot. Regular reports of hit cyclists show up on the local listservs.

Is there any decent way of getting from Chain Bridge to the CCT without having to go offroad via the C&O?

The only other ways I can think of are
1) to ride on Canal Road (where drivers go as fast as 80mph) down to Fletcher's boat house. It's up to you as to whether that is decent.

2) There is a way to walk your bike up the hill to the CCT, but I've never done that and can't really tell you how.

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