Rock Creek Park is a gem. It really is just a shining gem in DC. When people not from here think of outdoor space in DC, most think of the National Mall. The Mall is acres and acres of tourists, patchy grass, too few trees, lots of war monuments.
If you want nature and not monuments, go to Rock Creek Park. The easiest trail for me to get to is the one that starts in the Woodley Park area. If you’re familiar with DC, maybe you know the cafe Open City? There is an entrance to Rock Creek Parkway right in front of that, on the corner of Calvert and 24th Streets.
When you’re standing on that corner, you’ll see the entrance to Rock Creek Parkway. The paved trail is to the right of the road.
Head down it on the paved foot/bike trail, and at the bottom of this open area (about a quarter of a mile at most), right before you get to the wooden bridge, you’ll see a little dirt side trail to the right of it. Take that side trail, that’s where there are no bikers and you can take your dog off the leash – and for a swim!
This is where the trail splits.
This dirt trail winds over a small bridge and under a huge one. The dogs can swim under the small one.
There is a small pool under the little wooden bridge.
A little further, and the trail veers right, but you can dip down to the creek on your left to a little doggy beach. Bring a tennis ball or just use the broken off sticks lying around to play fetch with the beasts. Most times there are other dogs playing there, too.
This area is right behind Montrose Park in Georgetown, which you can climb up a hill or a paved road to get to. Continue a bit further and you get to Dumbarton Oaks Park. This park has a unique history, it was once part of a huge estate in the middle of the city and was designed by renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. From the Park’s website:
“In 1920 a career U.S. diplomat and his wife, Ambassador Robert and Mildred Woods Bliss, returning to Washington from twenty years abroad, purchased an early 19th century mansion surrounded by six acres of disheveled gardens and “gentleman’s farmland” on the northern edge Georgetown. With a goal of creating, in Robert Bliss’ words, “a country estate in the city,” over the next twenty years they vastly expanded that acreage and, under the guidance of landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, created one of the greatest garden ensembles in American landscape history. Farrand’s 1921 design envisaged a carefully phased transition from formal gardens near the mansion to informal gardens further away, ending in a designed pastoral/woodland landscape in the valley below the mansion, centered on a stream with numerous constructed waterfalls and ponds.
In a remarkable act of generosity, in 1940 the Blisses — still healthy and only in their 60s — donated their estate. The mansion, out-buildings, and formal gardens nearby went to Harvard University (Mr. Bliss’s alma mater) for use as one of the world’s leading research institutes in three fields in the humanities. The majority of the estate, comprising the carefully contrived pastoral/woodland, 27 acres which are now Dumbarton Oaks Park, was donated by the Blisses to the American people, as represented by the National Park Service, which since has administered the Park as a unit of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.”
The entrance is pretty hard to miss.
Loop around Dumbarton Oaks with its neat little built-in benches and fire pits and glorious meadow for lounging and reading in, and then head back the way you came.
The meadow is a heavenly place to read during the spring, after being cooped up all winter.
You’ll be totally charmed by all the built-ins.
You’ll come back out of Dumbarton Oaks, then backtrack the main trail. Be warned, this is a dirt trail and can be muddy after it rains.
Don’t wear your brand new running shoes.
The whole trail is probably a mile and a half, so about three miles round trip. It’s almost totally flat, super lush, and just an easy, pretty walk. Do yourself a favor and give it a try, and if you have friends or family in town that get tired of endless sightseeing and pavement pounding, bring them for a little relief.
I made you a little map.
One last suggestion for when you’re done with the trail. Once you’re back on Calvert up by Open City, head east toward Connecticut Avenue (it’s only a block). Turn left on Connecticut and go half a block till you see the restaurant Medaterra on your left. This place has year-round CHEAP martinis and margaritas. If you need some carbo loading, order the Koshari, a delicious lentils, tomatoes, and rice dish (it tastes sooooo much better than it sounds, trust me). Enjoy!