Washington, DC’s 1,700-acre urban oasis offers hours of outdoor activities
All About Rock Creek Park
Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park – which is made up of 1,754 acres of National Park Service land from northwest DC into Maryland – is a popular retreat for the city’s outdoor enthusiasts. With lush greenery, miles of trails and picnic areas, a nature center, golf course, horse stables, amphitheater and even a planetarium, Rock Creek Park is packed with locals and visitors alike in the warmer months.
Founded in 1890, the park is one of America’s oldest and largest city retreats and remains a bustling outdoor destination for Washingtonians. Even presidents over the years have considered it a welcome respite from the political climate of Washington. For example, Theodore Roosevelt liked to bird watch in the park and Ronald Reagan would often ride horses at the park’s stables.
Fun Things to Do
Rock Creek Park is open year-round and is particularly popular in the warmer months. On weekends, you’ll find many visitors and locals taking advantage of the 32 miles of hiking trails, as well as the paved running and biking trails that are closed to traffic.
There are also 13 miles of horseback riding trails. The Rock Creek Park Horse Center offers one-hour guided trail rides for visitors 12 and up. Rides are $40 per person and advance reservations are highly recommended.
For those that love the night sky, Rock Creek Park is the only national park with an on-site planetarium. National Park Service Rangers conduct free programs twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Rangers also lead outdoor night sky programs with telescopes from April through November. Free tickets may be picked up for these programs one hour in advance at the Nature Center.
The Rock Creek Tennis Center has more than 24 outdoor courts. Tennis players can reserve a one hour court time for $12-$20. An 18-hole public golf course is also on the grounds of Rock Creek Park. Tee times can be reserved for $25.
Getting to Rock Creek Park
With 1,700 acres of parkland, there are multiple points of entry and parking at Rock Creek Park. If you’re new to the site, the Nature Center (5200 Glover Road NW) is a good place to start. This serves as the park’s visitor center and stocks brochures and trail maps, and it’s where park ranger-led programs meet up. The Nature Center is open 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday.