Rock Creek Park has been a leafy oasis with miles of trails and picnic area for years, founded in 1890, it’s the oldest natural urban park in the National Park system. Open year-round it’s especially popular during the warmer months. The park is massive— at 2,100 acres it’s two times the size of Central Park.
The park’s paved trails are mostly flat which is great for bikers, runners, and hikers. On weekends, the park is closed to vehicles so you can get a full escape from the city. With 32 miles of trail, there is no shortage of loops and routes to take. The beginning of the main road that goes through the park, Beach Drive, is about 10 minutes away from Bethesda Place.
The park has horseback riding trails that will lead you through breathtaking forests. Horseback riding is allowed on the Western Ridge Trail and the Rock Creek Park Horse center is 3 miles away from Highland House and
Highland House West. The center offers rides on guided trails through the park regardless of experience.
The park has many public facilities including an outdoor concert and theater venue. The Carter Barron Amphitheatre hosts concerts, festivals and the Citi Open tennis tournament is held there every July. The Swift at Petworth is just a 10 minute car ride away from the Amphitheatre.
Peirce Mill is a water-powered gristmill that was built on a quaker farm in 1820 and a 30-minute metro ride away from 4000 Massachusetts Avenue. It’s an amazing landmark within the park that is open to the public and holds tours.
At the Rock Creek Planetarium is close to The Swift at Petworth and 4000 Massachusetts Avenue, and is where visitors can learn about the stars and outer space while seeing what the constellations look like from their home.
There are many picnic sites with barbeque grills and pavilions. Of the 30 area picnic areas in the park, only 8 require reservations. If you’re planning to use a pavilion, the park recommends you make reservations as early as possible as the spots tend to fill up.
After your park day is over, you can easily pop over to the Smithsonian National Zoo as the park borders the zoo.
Rock Creek Park is a beautiful place to explore and many of our communities are just a short distance away. It’s truly an ideal setting to peacefully take in the beauty of nature. Happy exploring!