Rules and Regulations

On this page you will find a list of rules and regulations in Rock Creek Park. If you have any more questions, please call the Nature Center, 202-895-6230, during its open hours to speak with a park ranger. For your safety and to protect the park, please observe these regulations.

Additional rules and regulations apply: please see the Code of Federal Regulations and the Superintendent's Compendium for more information.


  • The park is open only in daylight hours; traffic is permitted 24hr/day.

  • Trucks and buses are prohibited on park roads.

  • Overnight camping is not allowed. We have no campground facilities in the park. You can camp nearby at Prince William Forest Park in VA, Greenbelt Park in MD; and the C&O Canal NHP in MD.

  • Pets must be leashed at all times.

  • Use trash cans provided in picnic areas and help keep the park clean.

  • Hike only on marked trails to minimize erosion.

  • Bicycles are permitted only on paved bike trails and roads.

  • Park only in designated areas.

  • Horses are permitted on established horse trails within the park. More information can be found at the Horse Center.

  • All Rock Creek Park areas are closed to swimming, bathing and wading by people and pets.


  • Fires are only permitted in designated picnic areas.

  • Fires are only permittied in grills or the fireplaces in the designated picnic areas. You will have to bring your own grill and fuel.

  • Fires are allowed unless high fire danger has been declared and a public notice has been been issued that fires have been banned within the park.

  • For stoves, fires, and lanterns all charcoal must be doused with water and disposed of in a trash receptacle once the fire is completely out.

  • Firewood may not be collected within the park.

Natural Resources

  • All natural and cultural objects are protected by law. Do not collect or disturb rocks, animals, or plants. Let wildflowers grow. Do not remove trees, even dead ones, for firewood.

  • District of Columbia fishing laws and/or regulations apply throughout the park. Commercial fishing is not allowed within the park. Fishing is not allowed on Rock Creek or its tributaries north of the Porter Street bridge on Rock Creek.

    All hunting, trapping, or removing wildlife from Rock Creek Park is prohibited.

  • You may not pan for gold in Rock Creek Park. It is critical that park visitors understand that any recreational or commercial activity that damages, harms or removes any natural, cultural or archeological resource is illegal. Violators are subject to fines and criminal prosecution by the United States Park Police.


  • Launching boats is prohibited within Rock Creek Park unless water levels are at least 2 feet deep, which is incredibly rare. Most of the time, boating is not allowed on the creek itself.

  • Boats are not allowed to go over Peirce Mill Dam under any conditions.

  • Canoes, kayaks or other similar human powered boats are allowed.

  • Vessels must be less than 20 feet in length.

  • Motors are not allowed.

  • Hand launch only.

  • Boating on the Potomac is a fun alternative to boating down Rock Creek. You can find everything you need to do that at our site by the waterfront: The Thompson Boat Center.


  • Reservation permits are required for picnic areas 1, 6,7, 8, 9,10,13,and 24. Permits can be aquired through

  • Picnic areas are limited to no more than 75 people.
  • You are responsible for cleaning up after your event. Please bring extra plastic or paper trash bags to the picnic gathering. Place bags of trash in the trash containers or beside the containers if the containers are full. Please recycle when possible.
  • 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.
  • Picnic areas 2,3,4,5,11,12,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22 operate as first-come, first-served, and limited to no more than 25 people.

  • Large group picnics of 25 or more people are not allowed outside of numbered picnic areas unless the superintendent provides an exception in writing.

  • Informal picnics of less than 25 people are allowed in all areas except for Dumbarton Oaks Park, Fort Stevens, and Battleground Cemetery, where no picnicking is allowed.

  • Amplified sound is not allowed in picnic areas.

  • Amplified sound as part of special events, which have recieved a permit, must operate within decibel limits specified in permit conditions.

  • Canopies, tents or shade structures anchored to the ground, awnings or portable pavilions are prohibited except where written permission is obtained from the Superintendent.
  • 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.
  • Your picnic grove site is subject to inspection by a park ranger and/or US Park Police before and after your gathering. The permit holder is expected to leave the site in clean condition. If not left in satisfactory condition, the National Park Service may recover the cost of cleaning the picnic grove from the permit holder.
  • Tables and benches are not to be moved from one picnic site to another.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The permit holder is responsible for any damages to government property or for any costs incurred by the National Park Service or U.S. Park Police resulting from the permit holder’s event. The National Park Service will issue a Bill of Collection for costs incurred due to vandalism, negligence or other actions by a permitted group or individuals in the group.
  • Groups that will be transported by bus may only reserve picnic groves 1 and 24, which are served by wider city streets that can accommodate oversized vehicles. Buses traveling to grove 1 must enter and leave via Connecticut Avenue and Tilden Street. Buses traveling to grove 24 must enter and leave via the 16th and Colorado Avenue entrance to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre parking lots.
  • Picnic Rules, Regulations and Guidelines PDF

Carter Barron

Carter Barron Amphitheater has it's own set of rules and regulations.


  • Reservation permits are required for picnic areas 1, 6,7, 8, 9,10,13,and 24. Permits can be aquired through

  • To reserve a sports fields for use, please contact the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation at for sports permits.

  • Special Park Use permits required for construction within park land, to stage equipment, to cross park land with cables or other utilities, or to use park land for access to an adjoining site. Contact the Environmental Protection Specialist at 202-895-6000.

  • Weddings are allowed by permit at Meridian Hill Park, Montrose Park, and the gardens of Old Stone House. Fee charged, contact Special Park Use Office at 202-895-6013.

  • Special events or First Amendment Rights demonstrations require a permit from the NCR Park Programs Office, 202-245-4715.

  • Horseback riding droups larger than 10 horses and riders need a free permit from the Special Park Uses office, 202-895-6013.

  • Permits for scientific research and specimen collection can be applied for online at For more information, contact the Natural Resources Office at 202-895-6074.

  • Sporting events, pageants, regattas, public spectator attractions, entertainment, ceremonies, and similar events must apply for a permit through the NCR Park Programs Office, 202-245-4715.

  • Public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades and other public expressions of views must apply for a permit through the NCR Park Programs Office, 202-245-4715. Please note that all applications, unless determined to be a First Amendment activity, must be accompanied by a $50.00 payment for initial processing.

  • Sale or distribution of printed matter that is not solely commercial advertising is only allowed as part of a first amendment a special event, and must follow specifications in permit conditions.

  • Memorialization (scattering ashes from human cremation) is not allowed within Rock Creek Park.

  • Engaging in or soliciting any business is not allowed within Rock Creek Park except under the provisions of a permit, contract, or written agreement with the National Park Service.

  • Commercial filming of motion pictures or television involving the use of professional casts, settings or crews, other than bona fide newsreel or news television requires a permit, apply at the NCR Park Programs Office, 202-245-4715. Application and location fees apply.

  • Still photography of vehicles, or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising requires a permit, apply at the NCR Park Programs Office, 202-245-4715. Application and location fees apply.

  • Amplified sound as part of special events, which have recieved a permit, must operate within decibel limits specified in permit conditions.


Last updated: January 19, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

5200 Glover Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20015


(202) 895-6000
Rock Creek Park administrative offices can be reached at 202-895-6000. For general information call 202-895-6070 Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and dial 0.

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