Rock Creek Park a Versatile, Verdant Retreat for the Renter in Northwest

Joggers in the park

Pace and quiet: With miles of paved and unpaved trails through acres of forested areas, Rock Creek Park is a favorite destination for area joggers.

Rock Creek Park in D.C.’s Northwest quadrant has a storied past and today remains a majestic, pure destination in a power-hungry city.

The park was founded in 1890 as one of the first federal parks, and the establishing legislation stated the area was “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States.” It’s been fulfilling this mission for 120 years now. Rock Creek Park is a piedmont stream valley and is home to diverse wildlife such as deer, coyotes, both gray and red foxes, birds of many feathers, and heck, maybe even bigfoot. It also has the largest density of raccoons in the United States. If we ever had a mountain lion or a grizzly bear at the nearby Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and it managed to escape, I believe it’d do well in Rock Creek Park (if it learned how to hunt, forage or scavenge, of course). A scary but interesting thought.

[ Related: From Chinatown to Georgetown, Northwest Offers the Best of D.C. ]

The main section of the park is 1,754 acres, more than nine miles long and up to a mile wide in sections; it has additional parcels of land scattered throughout the city, bringing the total acreage to more than 2,000. While the massive park does not have a Metro station per se, check the WMATA site for the closest one or the nearest bus route. There is also parking in multiple areas; call (202) 895-6000 for more information.

You can hike here, obviously, but also bike on a variety of paved trails, and even ride horses on 13 miles of dirt and gravel bridle trails. The hiking trails are maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. There are picnic areas with softball and soccer fields too, but you must obtain a $7 permit to have your fun.

The park also houses Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, which itself houses William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium, home to the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Prices to play at the center vary, so call them ahead of time.

Finally, golfers will want to take to the links at Rock Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole course that’s one of three in the city that are part of the U.S. National Park System. Again, check the site for pricing.

Rock Creek Park offers a plethora of ranger-led programs, and these include horseback tours, bird-watching and related activities, and Creature Feature, where park visitors get to assist in feeding animals. Heck, they’ll even help you explore the universe. That’s right, Rock Creek Park has the only planetarium in the National Park System. The Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium is located at 5200 Glover Road, N.W., near the intersection of Military and Glover Roads and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Rock Creek Park itself is open every day during daylight hours.

Want to salve both your love of nature and theater in one shot? You can at the park’s Carter Barron Amphitheatre, which hosts a variety of music, dance and theatrical productions during the summer. Some of the performances are free; some are not.

It’s actually reassuring that in these times of modern technological wonder – though with an increasingly doubtful future – there is a verdant oasis in the capital city that harks back to a simpler time. Renting an apartment in the Rock Creek Park area means you’ll have easier access to one of the nation’s top green spaces.  Visit Apartment Showcase for apartments in the area.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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