Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is the main stretch of woodland that runs through the city's northwest corridor. If you want to escape the mob of tourists on the Mall, or you just want to spend time in an urban oasis, head to Rock Creek Park. Any section between the Kennedy Center and Pierce Mill has features aplenty—running/biking trails that follow the twists and turns of the creek, tennis courts, idyllic scenery, and the occasional distraction like the National Zoo. On weekends, Beach Drive, located just north of Pierce Mill, is closed to vehicular traffic, transforming into an ideal trail for running or biking. To enter the park at Pierce Mill, take the Metro to Van Ness/UDC and head down Tilden Street. It will be about a 15-minute walk to the mill. For those looking for a more strenuous workout, a hike or a run on the Western Ridge Trail might just fit the bill.
By Julee K., AFAR Local Expert
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The (Original) United States Capitol Ruins
Planning to hike in Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington, D.C.? Just off a horse trail near the horse center and stables, you'll come across a stone graveyard, a hidden piece (or should I say pieces) of architectural beauty. Shrouded in the thickness of the woods for over half a century are sandstone pieces of the original east front portico of the U.S. Capitol Building, which was completed in 1828 after the building suffered extensive fire damage by British forces led by Admiral George Cockburn and Major Gen. Robert Ross during the invasion of Washington on August 24, 1814 (War of 1812). Quarried from Aquia, VA, the source for the same sandstone used in building the White House starting in 1792. These stones have served as the backdrop for Presidential Inaugurations from Andrew Jackson (1829) to Dwight D. Eisenhower (1957) as well as a number of speeches, protests, demonstrations, and rallies before being replaced by marble replicas from 1958-1961. Instead of reusing the pieces, the were placed in this part of Rock Creek per an agreement with then-Architect of the U.S. Capitol J. George Stewart and the National Park Service (NPS). Parking is available at the Horse Center and Stables. Go around the stables to access the trail. More of the original east front (specifically columns) is found on the grounds of the U.S. Arboretum in northeast Washington.
By Christian Mirasol, AFAR Local Expert
Meadowside Nature Center in Rock Creek Regional Park
Rock Creek runs along the eastern side of Rockville, and one of the highlights of the regional park is the Meadowside Nature Center. The center has eight miles of nature trails as well Raptor Aviaries, where you can get a close look at the resident owls, hawks, and bald eagles. This part of Montgomery County was also an important stretch of the Underground Railroad, and docents lead educational walks that bring its history to life. The Nature Center has plenty to keep the attention of young visitors, from its Legacy of the People exhibit where they can learn about traditional games of the Eastern Woodland Indians to a cave that lets them see the world through a fish’s eyes, but there is something here for curious people of every age.
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