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Boulder Bridge Loop



3.1 mile 5.0 kilometer loop
98% Runnable


Ascent: 270' 82 m
Descent: -263' -80 m
High: 339' 103 m
Low: 96' 29 m


Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 10% (6°)


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This lovely route circles part of the park President Roosevelt frequented over one hundred years ago.

Megan W

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek


Range through idyllic forest and creek-side ecosystems on this mellow loop through Rock Creek Park. A visit to the iconic Boulder Bridge with its bit of presidential lore is not to be missed. Built in 1902, it is one of the few park bridges not to have been washed away in floods.

Need to Know

Horses are also allowed on some parts of this loop - be aware and respectful.


To access this loop trail from the Nature Center, head south toward the Horse Center. Take a sharp left into the horse center and, keeping left, head past the small parking lot towards the corral. The dirt trail begins behind and to the left of the corral, descending gently towards Rock Creek. Soon you'll hear the rushing rapids of the Rock Creek "falls." This cascade of water runs over a geologic transition zone where the harder rock of the Piedmont Plateau meets the softer, sedimentary rock of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Follow along the creek for about a ½ mile, and cross the unmarked Rapids Bridge footbridge (enjoy the view upstream and downstream!) Then cross Beach Drive, and take a right (south) onto the Valley Trail - South, marked by blue blazes. Continue south for 1/2 mile until you reach the historic Boulder Bridge.

Constructed in 1902, Boulder Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the park. It’s an example of rustic architecture, or ‘parkitecture’ (architecture designed to blend in with the natural landscape). Keep an eye out for Theodore Roosevelt’s ring, which he lost at Boulder Bridge during one of his many walks in Rock Creek Park over one hundred years ago. One hundred feet after Boulder Bridge, take the small, unmarked trail on the right ( Foot Trail #17) and head uphill.

After 1/4 mile, stay straight at the four-way trail intersection, following the unmarked, Cross Trail #9. Soon you cross Ridge Road and arrive at the Equitation Field. Circle around the southern end of 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 turns off of the wider horse trail. After 3/4 of a mile, the trail seemingly ends as you come upon Picnic Grove 13 and a grassy field. Cross the field and the two roadways, and then continue just up the hill to the Nature Center to complete the loop.

Flora & Fauna

Virginia pines, mountain laurel, beech, oak. Fox and deer.

History & Background

It is said that the extra large boulders that comprise Boulder Bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge's contractor. The plans called for "man-sized" stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason. Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders. When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked. The boulders did not come from the immediate vicinity of the bridge or from within Rock Creek Park, but nearby. The bridge cost a total of $17,635.77 to build.

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Apr 6, 2019
Doron Petersan
Jul 15, 2018
Allie Passarello
slightly extended loop accidentally due to fallen tree 4.1mi

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 8 votes


  4.0 from 8 votes
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Western Ridge Trail
Jan 9, 2015 near Washington, DC
Catch a view of the sky
Apr 20, 2016 near Washington, DC
Boulder Bridge over Rock Creek.
Mar 8, 2016 near Washington, DC
Green blazes marking the Western Ridge Trail in Rock Creek Park.
Apr 20, 2016 near Washington, DC
Rock Creek Park Nature Trail sign.
Apr 14, 2016 near Washington, DC
Rock Creek Park Nature Center.
Apr 14, 2016 near Washington, DC


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