This 3.5-mile loop hike travels through the forest and along the creek. President Theodore Roosevelt frequented this area of the park 100 years ago.
Directions from Rock Creek Park Nature Center and PlanetariumBegin by Parking at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, located at 5200 Glover Road Northwest Washington, DC. If the parking there is full you can park at either Picnic Grove #13 (located at the split for Ridge and Glover roads near Military Rd) or in the parking area for the Maintenance Yard located at 5000 Glover Road NW.
- Exit the Nature Center and turn left out the door. Walk back through the parking lot toward the Rock Creek Park Horse Center.
- Take a sharp left into the Horse Center complex and keep left.
- Walk past the small parking lot and gray barn towards the outdoor corrals. Look for the dirt trail to the left of the corral fence. This is the trail head for the White Horse Trail.
- Stay straight on the path (do not take the split to the right). Walk down the hill towards the creek (roughly half a mile). You will come to a roadway, this is Ross Drive at Picnic Grove #22.
- Cross Ross Drive and follow the dirt path as it parallels the roadway towards Beach Drive (to the right)
- Take a right just before the automobile bridge that crosses Rock Creek.
- Heading downstream, listen to the fast-flowing water—i.e., rapids. This is the fall zone, a geologic transition zone where the Piedmont Plateau (harder rock) meets the Atlantic Coastal Plain (softer, sedimentary rock).
- After hiking along the creek for a half mile, enjoy the view from the center of Rapids Bridge
- Cross Rapids Bridge.
- Carefully cross Beach Drive. The access trail to the Valley Trail is across the street and just to the right.
- The spur from Beach Drive to the Valley Trail is only a few feet in length. Turn right onto the Valley Trail
- Follow the blue blazes until you get to Boulder Bridge.
- Take the trail to your right and step on to Beach Drive.
- Cross Boulder Bridge on the roadway. Beach Drive is closed to automobiles until Labor Day 2022.
- One hundred feet after Boulder Bridge, take the small, unmarked trail on the right and head uphill.
- After ¼ mile, stay straight at the four-way trail intersection.
- Soon you cross Ridge Road (Open to vehicles. Use Caution!) and arrive at the Equitation Field.
- Walk around this horse field and then head north. Follow the green blazes of the Western Ridge Trail northward, following the “foot traffic only” signs when it veers off the wider horse trail.
- After ¾ of a mile, the trail seems to end at Picnic Grove 13 and a grassy field. Cross the field and the two roads. Hike up the hill to the Nature Center.