Rock Creek Park
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3435 Williamsburg Lane NW
HOURS: Open dawn-dusk
One of the largest urban forested parks in the country, Rock Creek Park is home to white-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, coyotes, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and hundreds of bird species. It is a 2,700-acre space overseen by the National Park Service and is the single most popular hiking and biking destination within city limits.
Rock Creek Park is heavily forested, spanning the fall line that runs between the Atlantic coastal plain and the piedmont. Thus the northern part of the park is rocky, with steep canyons and hillsides, and the lower section, closer to the city, fans out into broad flat land as Rock Creek empties into the Potomac River.
Rock Creek Park has miles of hiking and biking trails, including a well-graded eight-mile loop that starts and ends at the Nature Center and crosses through a nearly unbelievable stretch of urban wilderness. Another top destination, especially for weekend bikers and Rollerbladers, is Beach Drive, a portion of which is closed from Saturday morning at 7 a.m. until Sunday evening at 7 p.m.
Rock Creek Park has a popular Nature Center that hosts ranger-led activities, an Equestrian Center that conducts outings for riders of all experience levels, tennis courts, a golf course, and historic sites like Civil War fortifications and Peirce Mill, a scenic 1820s structure that operated as a gristmill until 1892. Although the park is very popular, it also is huge, and there are long stretches of trail that are isolated and remote.
For safety reasons, if you plan to hike or jog, consider using the park with a friend, either two-legged or a large four-legged one, especially if you are female.
© Patricia Nevins Kime from Moon Washington DC, 1st Edition