When you think of green open spaces in major cities one of the first things people usually think of is Central Park in Manhattan. It’s truly world famous. Yet Washington D.C. has an equivalent that is just as interesting: Rock Creek Park. Rock Creek Park is part of the National Park System and despite not being as famous as Yellowstone or Yosemite it was established in the same time frame as those two. The park is a sprawling area of nature in our capital and most of it is set just north of the White House and other major attractions. I have had the fortune of visiting the park on two separate occasions so far.
My first visit was initially just to check out the park’s nature center and hike on of its trails. The nature center is small and nothing special. It’s also a bit out of the way from the hustle and bustle of the city. However, it does have a renowned planetarium that we were unable to experience at the time. The nature center does lead right into the Western Ridge Trail, which is probably the park’s most popular hiking trail. That’s for good reason as the trail goes through hills and streams in a leisurely fashion. There’s a couple of interesting sights along the way on the Western Ridge Trail such as the Pierce Mill, a historic grist mill from the 19th century. The Western Ridge Trail terminates right next to the Smithsonian Zoo, which we spent the rest of our afternoon. Yet before our journey concluded in the park we had a lot of fun watching the spring flowers begin to bloom and watching numerous birds fly by such as American robins and mallard ducks.
My second visit to the park was completely unintentional. I was staying at a hotel on Connecticut Avenue when I found out that a part of Rock Creek Park was right across the street. Once again I was visiting the park at the beginning of the spring season so I was able to see snowdrops and other flowers begin to bloom. On this visit I hiked the Soapstone Valley region which is a small portion of the park that is to the west of the Western Ridge Trail.
The sights may not be as memorable as other parks in the National Park system, but there are a lot of views and activities to enjoy in Rock Creek Park. It’s an easy place to overlook if you’re going to Washington D.C., but it’s just as cool as the monuments.