Milkhouse Ford Hike

Thing to Do

Milkhouse Ford Hike

A road is barely visible beneath the brown still waters of the creek
Milkhouse Ford was paved to facilitate automobile travel in 1904. The ford was closed in 1995.

NPS Photo/ K. Cain

For your convenience, this trail is blazed with yellow tape wrapped around sign posts.

Directions from the Nature Center:

  • Walk straight out the front door along the paved path past the Edge of the Woods Trail sign to where the trail forks right. Bear right.This is the Western Ridge Trail. Follow it towards Boundary Bridge.
  • Cross Military Road. (Press button and wait for signal first.)
  • Continue straight for 250 feet.
  • At the outdoor exhibit about Fort DeRussy, turn right.
  • In 100 feet, take a slight left onto the dirt trail. The earthen walls of Fort DeRussy will soon be on your left.
  • After the fort, continue down the trail to a “T” intersection near Rock Creek, and turn left.
  • Hike along the creek for ¼ -mile, and look for atwo-room log cabin across Rock Creek. Joaquin Miller, an eccentric poet, lived in this cabin in another part of the city—Meridian Hill—in the 1880s.
  • Just north of the cabin, look for an old road into a creek. This is Milkhouse Ford. First paved in 1904, people used to drive through the creek—a major thoroughfare at one time—until the 1990s.

    For the health and safety of visitors and their pets, swimming and wading in Rock Creek Park is not permitted.
  • Take the trail that leads west (up the hill).
  • Turn left on the Western Ridge Trail (green blazes). Follow this paved trail back across Military Road and up to the Nature Center.
This gentle hike passes several historic structures or locations within the park. One side of the loop has a fairly swift change in elevation while the other is more gradual and follows a small tributary of the creek.  
Pets are allowed on trails within Rock Creek Park but must adhere to the B.A.R.K. Ranger Principles. Dogs must always be on a leash within the park. Waste must be carried out and disposed of in trash receptacles.

For more information on B.A.R.K. Ranger visit the Pets section of the National Park Service website.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
Milkhouse Ford is an old crossing spot on the creek. Fords were places along the creek where water ran low enough for wagons to cross without needing a bridge. Milkhouse Ford was in frequent use and appears on many old maps. It was paved in 1904 to accommodate automobile traffic. Closed in 1995, the ford is still visible but is no longer accessible. The creek contains bacteria, e. coli and algae that is not safe for humans or pets to swim in.  
The trail is accessible year round though winter storms may deposit ice and snow on the trail making it difficult to ascend or descend the steeper sections of the trail.

Fort DeRussy and Miller Cabin will be more visible in the late autumn, winter and early spring when there is less vegetation. Please stay off of the earthworks of Fort DeRussy to help preserve them.  

Storms in the spring and summer can cause the creek to rise quickly. It can deposit sand and mud at the fort making the old roadway hazardous. Use caution---do not enter flood waters.

Rock Creek Park is only open during daylight hours.
Accessibility Information
Most of the Milkhouse Ford Trail consists of bridle trails roughly six to eight feet in width. If the dirt path past Fort DeRussy seems too steep or impassable due to rains making the gravel loose, the paved multi-use trail is a good alternate choice. Use caution as the steep grade can make the descent challenging. A naturally occurring deposit of sand at the ford can be difficult to pass.
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Last updated: April 8, 2021