One of my all time favorite trails to bike is the Rock Creek Park trail. I guess I can’t really call it a trail—it’s actually a road (Beach Drive) through Rock Creek Park. On the weekend and on holidays, Beach Drive is closed at the DC line to motorists—so no cars. We like to start out in Kensington and bike all the way to the zoo—although the trail goes all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.
The first time we biked it, Natalie insisted she’d never go again. But then we got her a new bike, and things got much better. In fact, the last time we biked it, she even said she liked it and that it wasn’t too bad.
We like to start near the Mormon temple. To park close to the temple, take Beach Drive until it dead ends at Stoneybrook Drive and turn right. Just a little ways down the road, there are a couple of visible parking areas on the left. We usually park at the second are near a playground—it means a little less biking!
The first trail you take, which is paved, runs alongside the road as you start. So from where you parked, hop on your bike and head to the right (or towards the DC line).
Soon you will see signs for Rock Creek Trail.
You’re not in Rock Creek Park yet. Just follow the trail—it takes you past ball fields, and a horse stable and you’ll have to cross East-West Highway—but keep following it.
The trail is very flat. In about 20 minutes, you should be at an entrance to Rock Creek Park.
Here’s the link to a great map of Rock Creek Park from the National Park Service:
Before going through the entrance, the trail you are on will end in a parking lot, with the entrance being somewhat diagonal from the end of Rock Creek Trail, and ahead and to your right just a short distance. There is a big brown sign marking the entrance to Rock Creek Park, which is visible from the end of Rock Creek Trail.
The ride through Rock Creek Park is shaded and runs along a river (Rock Creek), so it’s really nice riding. It’s also slightly downhill most of the way. The first time we rode the trail, I kept thinking, “Oh no, whatever hill we go down, we have to go back up.” I found myself not enjoying most of the ride because I was anticipating a harder ride back. But, to my pleasant surprise, the ride back wasn’t hard at all. The hill is so gradual that you just have to shift your gears, and you can’t even feel the hill. In the words of a 13-year-old, “This isn’t bad.”
At a couple of different points in the Park, you have to cross over a road—just follow most of the other people if you’re not sure where to go. If you’re riding to the zoo, keep an eye out for Pierce Mill. At Pierce Mill, the trail goes between the mill and the river, so ride to the left of Pierce Mill. Once you pass Pierce Mill, you’ll cross a bridge. Then shortly after that you’ll have to cross another road. After you cross the road, keep your eyes open for two footbridges crossing the river to the right. You want to take the second footbridge you see within a relatively short distance. Don’t take the first bridge. The bridge you want to cross is marked with two blue rectangular slashes, like the ones painted on trees to mark hiking trails.
Go across the bridge and turn left (which is the only way you can turn) to stay on the path to the zoo. (We missed the bridge the last time we went and had a little adventure, but we still made it!)
The whole ride to the zoo took us about an hour. We didn’t really ride very fast, and we stopped a couple of times briefly to take pictures. When we got to the zoo, we parked our bikes and spent a few hours enjoying a beautiful day at the zoo.
We even brought a picnic lunch.
The ride back took us about an hour too. It was just as pleasant on the return as it was going to the zoo. What a great adventure—riding bikes through a beautiful park on a beautiful day with family! Life doesn’t get any better!
Be sure and tell us about one of your favorite bike trails or another one of your favorite adventures.