Located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., Rock Creek Park is the country's third-largest national park. The 1,754-acres hugging the lush Rock Creek Valley are an oasis for city dwellers, who flock to its 32 miles of trails that run from the Maryland border at Beach Drive to south of the Roosevelt Bridge (I-66) underpass for hiking, running, cycling, and inline skating. The park also connects into other popular local green spaces, including Georgetown Waterfront Park and Meridian Hill Park, and has additional facilities like an equestrian center, playgrounds, picnic areas, an 18-hole golf course, and nature center and planetarium, making it a cultural and educational hub as well.
Things to Do
- Situated along 12 miles from the Potomac River to the Maryland border, Rock Creek Park is Washington, D.C.'s largest park. With both paved multi-used and dirt paths, the trails here wind through majestic forest canopy and along lush creek beds and past historic structures like mills and Civil War-era forts—all in the middle of the city. The park also has 13 miles of dedicated bridle paths, and the Rock Creek Park Horse Center offers guided trail rides as well as lessons.
- Start your visit at the Nature Center and Planetarium. Doubling as the park's visitor center, the facility has a bookstore, a children's discovery room, exhibits dedicated to the park's plants and animals, live animal displays, a bird observation deck, and a garden. With 75 seats, the planetarium screens short nature films and hosts ranger-led programming. After visiting the center, explore the half-mile Woodland Trail or the quarter-mile, accessible Edge of the Woods trail.
- Play the links at the park's 18-hole course off 16th Street in Brightwood, bring your racket to practice on one of more than two dozen courts at the Rock Creek Tennis Center, or settle in for a picnic at one of several scenic shelters.
- Permitted between the Joyce Road bridge and the Peirce Mill Dam, canoeing and kayaking are only allowed when the creek water is above two feet deep and is recommended only for advanced and expert boaters. Rentals are available at Thompson's Boat Center.
Best Hikes and Trails
From flat, gentle paths along lush creek beds to steep and rocky trails into dense forests, the park has varied terrain appropriate for all skill levels. Some paths are paved and ideal for bicycles and wheelchairs, while others are more technical, with stream crossings and rock scrambles.