Memorial Loop Trail

Memorial Loop Trail image

Experience the Japanese cherry trees in their monumental setting while visiting some of our national icons. This 2.7-mile loop takes you through some of the park's memorials such as the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as well as some of the lesser-known places such as Constitution Gardens where the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial is located. See how the landscaping of the memorials and Japanese cherry trees complement one another and inspire people from all over the world.

1. World War II Memorial

Dedicated in 2004, this complex memorial recalls the terrible sacrifices of our nation, while at the same time celebrates the accomplishments of the WWII generation. Indicating this double purpose, note the contrast between the still water in front of the wall of stars and the dancing water in the central fountain. The columns represent the people of the nation who all contributed and sacrificed in this effort. The wall of stars honors those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in this conflict. Although Americans on the home front and those in uniform are both remembered here, the arrangement of the states pays special tribute to the veterans. The states are arranged in the order in which they entered the union, but the arrangement alternates back and forth across the wall of stars. Thus, the stars are further defined as having a special and central importance. More detailed information is available from the brochure at the contact station.

2. Tidal Basin

Created in the 1890s with the development of East and West Potomac parks, the Tidal Basin is the ideal location to view both the memorials and the flowering cherry trees. Both are best appreciated next to reflective bodies of water where the delicate blossoms compliment the grand architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington Monument, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. From the top of the stairs leading into the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial you can appreciate the picturesque panorama of the majestic Washington Monument framed by the flowering cherry trees.

3. Usuzumi Cherry Trees (Prunus spachiana f. ascendens)

Planted in 1999, these noteworthy trees were a gift from the people of Neo Mura Village in central Japan. This generous expression of goodwill came with a desire to expand cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States. These trees with unusual flowers have a unique history. Legend has it that the 26th Emperor Keitai Tenno planted the "Usuzumi-No-Sakura" (meaning "cherry tree of gray blossoms") tree in Neo Mura Village 1500 years ago to commemorate the eighteen happy years he dwelled there. Japan declared this oldest living flowering cherry tree in the world a national treasure in 1922. It is from the cuttings of this tree that the Usuzumi trees in the park were grown, giving them an interesting lineage. They can reach up to 40 feet in height with single flowers that change from pink to white and then gray. Look for the numbered sign to identify the trees.

4. Fugenzo Cherry Trees (Prunus serrulata 'Fugenzo')

Meaning "Goddess on a White Elephant," the Fugenzo cherry is one of the oldest cultivated cherry trees in Japan. It is one of the first Japanese cherry trees to be grown in European gardens. They boast pink double flowers with curved petal tips that resemble an elephant's nose.The Fugenzo cherries have crimson buds with sharply toothed sepals that curl characteristically. These trees are among the last to bloom. Look for the numbered sign to identify the trees.

5. Japanese Weeping Cherry Trees (Prunus subhirtella var. pendula)

Blooming about a week before the ever-present Yoshino, the weeping cherry trees are easy to spot with their graceful cascades of pink flowers. They can be 20 to 40 feet in height with a variety of flowers of differing forms and colors. One variety, the autumn flowering cherry, blooms sporadically during warm periods in the fall and fully flowers the following spring. There are more than 90 weeping cherries and more than 20 autumn flowering cherry trees in Potomac Park. Look for the numbered sign to identify the trees.

6. Akebono Cherry Trees (Prunus x yedoensis 'Akebono')

This is a cultivated variety of the Yoshino cherry. Developed in San Jose, California, in the early part of the 20th century, this is a pinker version of the Yoshino. How can there be an improvement to the pinkness of a white flower? Yoshino blossoms change color during their lifespan—pink buds open and fade to white petals, then turn pink again as they begin to wilt. The Akebono displays pinker colorations during these transitions. Because the sky may display pink in the morning and again pink at sunset, this variety was named Akebono, which means 'daybreak.' Look for the numbered sign to identify the trees.

7. John Ericsson Memorial

Sculpted by J.E. Fraser, this seated figure of John Ericsson honors him as the inventor who perfected the use of the screw propeller and designer of the ironclad USS Monitor. The memorial was carved from pink granite. It is the largest single block of granite outside of Egypt. Erected by the US Government and private subscription by Americans of Scandinavian descent, the memorial was dedicated May 29, 1926.

8. Korean War Veterans Memorial

While the Korean War Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives for this country, it also addresses the central theme of unity that pervades the entire park. The Korean War was the first major test of the United Nations. This memorial includes the names of the 22 countries that constituted the United Nations team that fought to repel the North Korean and Chinese Communist forces in this war. President Bill Clinton and President Kim Young Sam of South Korea dedicated this memorial on July 27th, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting in 1953. Stop by the kiosk for a brochure containing more information.

9. Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is known as "The Great Emancipator" and "Savior of the Union." It is here that people can reflect on the past and learn about this great man. Constructed between 1914 and 1922, the Lincoln Memorial tells the story of the president's two terms in office and his struggle to lead a country through Civil War by using symbolism, art, and words from two of his famous speeches, which are etched into the memorial walls. In the center of the Parthenon-styled chamber sits a 19-foot tall statue of a war-torn Lincoln exhibiting his compassion as well as his strength and determination. The geology of the memorial also acts as a symbol of Lincoln's relentless fight to preserve the Union by bringing together granite, marble, and limestone from all over the United States. The Lincoln Memorial, designed by Henry Bacon, has remained one of the more popular places on the National Mall for expressions of freedom. See a park ranger and request a brochure for more information.

Last updated: March 19, 2021