National Park Access Free

2014 National Park "Free Entry" Dates!! January 20th Martin Luther King Jr. Day; February 15-17th Presidents Day weekend; April 19-20th opening weekend of National Park Week; August 25th National Park Service Birthday; September 27th National Public Lands Day; November 11th Veterans Day

Saturday, February 8, 2014

#8 Rock Creek Park

With the weather cold and gray, and wanting to avoid muddy slopes with steep climbs, Bonnie and I set out to Rock Creek Park, nestled in the NW quarter of our Nations Capital, for today's hike. While I have passed the park on many occasions, ran through bits and pieces of it a time or two, this was my first opportunity to truly cover the trails that make up this green zone within the city.

We started out at the Nature Center which is run by the National Park Service. This is a good place to grab a map, plan you trip, and look at the wonderful exhibits identifying the flora and fauna to be found within the parks borders. It was very nicely done.

 We settled on a 9 mile hike that would see us start on the Western Ridge Trail - heading to the southern end of the park to the National Zoo. It was a nice wide path that eventually worked its way to Rock Creek following along the water.

Western Ridge Trail as it meets Rock Creek

As we continued along the water, we came across Peirce Mill (yes, "e" before "i"), built in the 1820's and in operation until 1897. The mill still runs from time to time for demonstrative purposes. It is a nice picnic area, and a nice area to park if you wish to walk from here to the National Zoo. Peirce Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peirce Mill
After the Mill, we continued along the creek until reaching the National Zoo. It was not our intent to visit each attraction in the zoo, but more to loop the compound, grab some nourishment we had packed, and head back up northward through the park.

Rock Creek entrance to the National Zoo

As we made our loop through the park, we heard a tiger making a racket, so we detoured over to see Damai, a female Sumatran tiger and her two cubs, Sukacita and Bandar, playing and goofing off. Sumatran tigers are on the critically endangered list, with only 400-500 in existence.

Damai (Mother)

Damai, Sukacita, and Bandar

One of the cubs - born August 5th, 2013

As we continued our loop, we stopped in to see the new baby Panda, Bao Bao, but little baby was sleeping. We have been fortunate to see the Panda's on many previous occasions.

Since we brought Western Ridge down to the zoo, we planned to take Valley Trail back. Western Ridge was a horse trail, so it was wider with less switchbacks, etc.. Valley trail was a foot trail, longer, and a bit more remote; though we enjoyed the change.

Valley Trail

Boulder Bridge
All in all, it was a spectacular day! We both enjoyed the hike, the beauty of the creek and the park, the exhibits we saw. I will say with this park being in the city itself, it is not a hike to "get away" for a day. Many runners, walkers, bikers and hikers use this park, though it was inspiring to see. People were putting in some serious miles and the weather was not keeping them from their goals. We were just off the beaten path enough to give us the solitude we needed for our day.

Until next time...

See you on the trails!




  1. While it is unlikely I will get to do any of the hikes Mike - I do enjoy reading about them

  2. Your descriptions are very clear and well written. They make me feel like I'm there with you!

  3. Thank you, Steve! It would be a wonderful accomplishment for the two of us to be able to put in a few miles together, whether here or there. Until then, we can enjoy reading of each others journey's, and I shall raise a glass to the East in a salute to your travels!

  4. Celticscribblings, thank you for the compliment! It means a lot coming from a published author such as yourself. I find it getting easier to describe my day trips more and more each time.

    I was in my office earlier today, and as I organized my bookcase, I saw one of your earlier writings: The Forgotten Disturbed. I look forward to reading your next!