Photo Friday: Staycation Hiking

view from Boundary Bridge, Rock Creek Park

Today we’re going a bit outside the boundaries of Tenleytown for our weekly photo. But before you cry foul, there’s a good reason.

While many Washingtonians depart the capital city in August to escape the typically hot and steamy weather and enjoy vacations well outside the Beltway, I actually enjoy D.C. in the final month of summer. Streets and sidewalks are less congested, the frenetic D.C. pace slows a bit, and those residents who stick around seem to be more cheerful. And every now and again, the city gets one of those unseasonably temperate days that hint at early fall to come. Today was one such day – gorgeous, sunny, and breezy with temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s.

So I seized the day to enjoy one of our city’s great treasures that is only moments from the neighborhood: Rock Creek Park.

fallen tree across Pinehurst Branch

fallen tree across Pinehurst Branch

On any vacation – staycations, included – my family loves to hike, and Rock Creek Park offers more than 30 miles of hiking and biking trails. The Nature Center, a good place to pick up a trail map and start your hike, is a 10 minute drive or 20 minute bike ride from Tenleytown. Alternatively, if you’re familiar with the trails, you can take a 15 minute walk to Van Ness to pick up the Soapstone Valley Trail, which links up to the Western Ridge Trail. Look for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club marker on Albemarle Street just past 32nd Street.

My son and I chose to hike from the Nature Center to the Boundary Bridge, a roughly five mile hike round-trip. Just past the Rock Creek Community Garden and Rock Creek Park Police stables, and across Bingham Drive, the trail veers into the heart of the park. Once inside it’s difficult to imagine there is a thriving city just outside the park’s boundaries. The National Park Service and organizations like the Rock Creek Conservancy have lovingly restored and maintained this oasis.

free form stone art on the Western Ridge Trail

free form stone art on the Western Ridge Trail

Along our hike we met several fellow hikers, runners, and dog walkers of various ages, all of whom greeted us cheerfully. For the most part, however, we had the trail to ourselves, and were free to chat, examine plant life, and observe a few bounding bucks. While the path is well maintained, it does become steep in parts and rises and falls throughout, providing a nice workout depending upon your pace.

After our hike, we worked up quite the appetite, so a visit to Coffee Nature in Tenleytown was in order. I’d recommend you add a trip to our favorite neighborhood coffee shop to your day hike itinerary, as well. A Fessenden Street sandwich for me and a BLT for him, and we were happily satiated.

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Note to readers: No cell phone camera can do justice to Rock Creek Park, and certainly not mine. You really should see it for yourself.

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