DC: Fort DeRussy to the C & O Canal Towpath

Fort DeRussy to the C&O Canal
Along the Fort Circle and Glover Archbold Trails

Perhaps what's most amazing about this stroll down tree-line sidewalks and wooded paths is how few people know it exists. The proposed route for the Potomac Heritage Trail delivers for the hiker distinct experiences that define the history and culture of the Potomac. On this hike, you can experience Washington, DC neighborhoods, a few sites along the Fort Circle and one of the area's best-kept secrets — a hike along Foundry Branch in Glover Archbold Park. Best of all, you can be sitting at home on a weekend morning, decide to take this hike, and be out on the trail in no time at all. And there's no need to pack a lunch because the mid point of the segment goes right through Tenley Circle. Both ends are accessible via public transportation. You can also choose to hike just the north or south portions, using the Metro station at Tenley as an end point.


Trip Planner

Start: Oregon Avenue at Fort DeRussy in Rock Creek Park
End: The tow path in the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park at Canal Rd.
Miles: 5.6
Points of Interest: Fort DeRussy
Parking: Oregon Ave., near Fort DeRussy (0.0), Fort Reno on Chesapeake St. (2.0), Canal Rd. (5.6)
Water: Tenley Circle restaurants
Provisions: Tenley Circle stores and restaurants
Camping: None


Hike Data

Mile Navigation
0 From Oregon Avenue entrance to Rock Creek Park, go south on the Western Ridge Trail.
0.1 Military Road.
0.4 Turn right on Grant Rd.
0.6 Turn right on Broad Branch Rd.
1.2 Turn left on 36th St.
1.5 Cross Connecticut Ave.
1.6 Turn right on Ellicott St.
1.7 Turn left on Reno Rd., then immediately right on Fort Drive.
1.8 Cross Nebraska Ave.
1.9 Fort Reno Park
2.0 At Chesapeake St., at south end of park, go south on 40th St., away from park.
2.3 Cross Tenley Circle, stay on 40th St.
2.4 Turn right on Veasy St., then left at the end of the street.
2.5 Turn left on Van Ness St.
2.6 Turn right on foot trail into Glover Archbold Park.
3.3 Cross Massachusetts Ave.
3.7 Cross Cathedral Ave.
3.9 Cross New Mexico Ave.
4.1 Reach footpath to Battery Kemble and Palisades Park - planned future route for PHT (For side trip to Battery Kemble turn right on footpath. Turn right at trail fork. Cross 44th St. at Edmonds St.; stay on trail. Cross Foxhall Rd. Cross 49th St. into Palisades Park). To continue on PHT, walk south from junction with side trail.
4.4 Trail junction.
4.8 Trail junction; path leads left (east) into Whitehaven Park.
5.1 Cross Reservoir Rd.
5.6 Tunnel under Mac Arthur Blvd. Reach C&O Canal National Historical Park towpath at Canal Rd.

Explore the PHT

Fort DeRussy
Fort DeRussy was built on a hill to provide cross fire on the approaches to Fort Stevens on the 7th Street Pike (now Georgia Avenue) and to control the countryside to west of today's Rock Creek Park. It supported Fort Stevens in only battle fought in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, July 11-12, 1864. It was built in 1861 by the 4th New York Heavy Artillery and named after its commander, Colonel Gustavus A. DeRussy. It is relatively well-preserved. The parapet's earthworks still display the openings where guns were mounted. The moat around the parapet is still evident, and rifle trenches outside the parapet can be seen.

Fort Reno
Originally named Fort Pennsylvania for the 119th Pennsylvania Regiment which constructed it, the fort was renamed for Major General Jesse Lee Reno, who died from wounds received at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. It was built during the winter of 1861 shortly after the the Union Army's defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Situated at the highest point in Washington, Fort Reno eventually became the largest and most heavily armed fort circling the city. Its commanding views of the surrounding countryside made it an important link in the defense of Washington. Today, in addition to serving as parkland, the Fort Reno site contains reservoirs for Washington's drinking water.

Glover Archbold Park
A three-mile trail runs the length of the park, which stretches from the Potomac River nearly to Tenley Circle. With seven stream crossings along the way, the defining feature of the route is Foundry Branch. For a 3.5 mile circuit hike, begin at Tenley Circle and hike south into Glover Archbold (at mile 2.3 above). Turn right at the trail to Battery Kemble (mile 4.1). Once in Battery Kemble, turn right and follow the trail to Nebraska Avenue, then follow Nebraska back to Tenley Circle.

Battery Kemble
People who grew up in Washington, D.C., know Battery Kemble Park as one the best sledding hills in the city. During the Civil War it was one of 93 batteries supporting the 68 forts defending the city. A potential future route for the Potomac Heritage Trail leads to Battery Kemble then south to the C&O Canal Towpath.

Last updated: July 6, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage NST Office
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive SW

Washington, DC 20242



Contact Us