“Access some of the most beautiful parts of Rock Creek on this short, easy excursion.”
— Megan W
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Wildflowers
If you're short on time but want to sample the natural landscapes of Rock Creek Park, this is the trip for you. The pretty tumbling waters of the creek and shady paths are a delightful break from the adjacent urban frenzy.
Need to Know
Horses are also allowed on some parts of this loop - be aware and respectful.
From the Nature Center, head south through the parking lot and take a left into the Horse Center parking lot. The trail begins just ahead, to the left of some wooden fencing (officially part of the White Horse Trail
). Wind eastwards, descending through nicely forested groves of deciduous trees. Keep an eye out for wildlife. Soon, you approach picnic area #22 and turn right on Black Horse Trail (South)
to parallel Rock Creek. You'll hear the rushing rapids - water falls over the rocky granite outcroppings of the fall line (the point where the Piedmont Plateau meets the Atlantic Coastal Plane).
Leave the trail for a short detour to stand on the unsigned Rapids Bridge. Enjoy the views up and downstream from this pedestrian bridge before returning to the original path on the west side of Rock Creek. Almost immediately after the bridge, turn right (northwest) onto Cross Trail #6
and start uphill. Cross under the Ross Drive bridge. After an initially steeper section, the grade mellows as you pass by the maintenance yard to the west. Look for the stacked up cement pieces near the fence- they are parts of the US Capitol building, removed from the east portico during a 1960 renovation. Skirt around the Horse Center and complete the loop, ending back at the Nature Center.
Flora & Fauna
Tulip poplar, beech trees, oak, heath, deer and fox.