Thing to Do

Picnic in Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park provides a beautiful space for people to picnic in an urban oasis nestled in the heart of Washington, DC. Each picnic grove offers something unique. Which is the right picnic grove for your event or gathering?

Take a look at the Picnic Grove options at the bottom of the page. Amenities are listed for each one.

On the park map, picnic areas are represented by the numbers in blue and black circles. Sites that require reservations from May through October appear as numbers surrounded by a blue circle. Sites that are first come, first served year-round are indicated by numbers surrounded by a black circle.

What else do you need to know about picnicking in Rock Creek Park? Permits and reservations may be required for some sites. Take a look at these park regulations regarding picnic areas below.
A picnic table sits beside a stone chimney grill.
Picnic Grove 7

NPS Photo/ K. Cain

Do You Need a Reservation?

Reservations are required for several picnic areas in Rock Creek Park from April through November. These picnic areas are:

How do you make a reservation?

Reservations for the above listed sites can be made by visiting and searching for Rock Creek Park. Select the option "Rock Creek Park Group Picnic Areas (DC)" to check availability and make your reservation.

To learn more about the reservation process check out our Reservations and Permits page.

Groups that will be transported by bus may only reserve Picnic Grove 1 and Picnic Grove 24, which are served by wider city streets that can accommodate oversized vehicles. Buses traveling to Picnic Area 1 must enter and leave via Connecticut Avenue and Tilden Street. Buses traveling to Picnic Area 24 must enter and leave via the 16th and Colorado Avenue entrance to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre parking lots.

These picnic areas are first-come, first-served December through March -- as are all other picnic sites in Rock Creek Park. A full list of Picnic Areas is available at the bottom of this page.

If you've made a reservation for a site and you think someone is in it, contact US Park Police for assistance at (202)610-7505.

Do I need a permit?

In addition to getting a picnic area reservation, some groups may need an additional permit for their event or gathering. These events fall under the "Special Use" category.

The permit holder's use of the picnic grove may not interfere with other park visitors' use of nearby playground equipment, parking spaces, restroom facilities, or tables and benches outside the picnic grove area.

What to Bring With You

  • Extra trash bags- You are responsible for cleaning up after your event. Please bring extra plastic or paper trash bags to the picnic gathering. "Pack out" what you can. Trash pick up in the park is limited. Trash left out can attract wild animals. If you can't take trash with you, and containers are full, place bags of trash beside the containers. Please recycle when possible.

  • Firewood or charcoal- If you plan on using the grills or chimneys in the park you must bring your own firewood. It is illegal to collect fallen tree branches and leaves in the park and burn them. It is also illegal to cut down trees in Rock Creek Park. There are no stores or concessions facilities in Rock Creek Park that sell charcoal or wood so you must bring these items with you!
  • Games to Play- Volleyball and badminton nets are permitted only if they are self‐supporting. The nets may not be tied to trees, shrubs, or any other natural or built feature in the park. Supports for the nets may not be driven into the ground. Softball, soccer, kickball and similar activities are permitted in areas adjacent to the picnic groves. However, only temporary goals, bases, backstops and similar activity equipment may be used.

What to Leave at Home

  • Alcoholic Beverages- Alcoholic beverages are prohibited from all park areas administered by Rock Creek Park, except Carter Barron Amphitheatre, Rock Creek Park Golf Course clubhouse and Rock Creek Tennis Stadium.
  • Balloons and Decorations- Do not attach ribbons, posters, balloons or directional signs to any park object, either natural or man‐made. Balloons are prohibited in Rock Creek Park.
  • Petting Zoos, Moon Bounces etc. - Specialized recreation equipment, mechanical or carnival rides such as moon bounces, rides using livestock, and petting zoos and/or displays using live animals are prohibited in Rock Creek Park.
  • Amplified Music- Enjoy the sounds of nature in Rock Creek Park and leave the stereo equipment at home. Amplified sound is not allowed in picnic areas. If you need amplified sound as part of a special event, you must first have obtained a permit and you must operate the sound equipment within decibel limits specified in the permit conditions.
  • Canopies and Tents- Canopies, tents or shade structures anchored to the ground, awnings or portable pavilions are prohibited except where written permission is obtained from the Superintendent

Picnic Areas in Rock Creek Park

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    Last updated: April 11, 2024