Rock Creek Park, travel directions

About this document

This document's primary purpose is to help people travel to the park's reservable picnic areas, especially by walking and public transportation.  The NPS map of the park is very helpful.

This document is divided into six sections:  About this document Major roads, paths, and locations Picnic areas requiring reservations Driving with road closings Travel by Metro and foot;  and;  Elsewhere on the Internet.

Major roads, paths, and locations

The National Park portion of Rock Creek Park is in Washington DC NW.  The park continues into Montgomery County Maryland as a regional park of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Most of the park, including all of the picnic areas, is north of the National Zoo and south of the Maryland border.  Between those two points, for four miles, the park runs north-south, as does the following, in order from west to east:

Midway between the Boundary Bridge at the Maryland border to the north, and the National Zoo to the south, is Military Road (Missouri Avenue east of the park) which runs east/west, crosses all seven of those byways, but goes over the middle three.  At the west side, on Glover Road -mile south of Military Road, are the Nature Center and Planetarium, Horse Center, and picnic areas 13 and 14.  Just north of Military Road is Fort DeRussy, Miller Cabin, and picnic area 6.  The park police station is 0.2 miles south of the Military Road overpass, on the east side of Beach Drive south of Joyce Road.

0.2 miles north of the National Zoo is park headquarters, in Klingle Mansion.  0.3 miles north of that, at the northwest end of Park Road, are Pierce Mill, Rock Creek Gallery, and picnic area 1.

Beach Drive south of the Zoo is called Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway which extends south to the Arlington Memorial Bridge, with the Lincoln Memorial on the DC side, and the Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia side.

Picnic areas requiring reservations

Ten of the 30 picnic areas require a permit/reservation: 1, 6 through 10, 13, 14, 23, and 24.  Permits are neither needed nor available for the other 20 picnic areas.  Picnic areas have space for car parking.

There are seven picnic areas north of Military Road (6 - 12).  All five on Beach Drive (6 - 10) require a permit.  The remaining two (11 and 12), both on Bingham Drive, don't.  The only two picnic areas north of Sherrill Drive are picnic areas 9 and 10 (northern most one), south of Wise Road and Riley Spring Bridge.  The only other picnic areas north of Military Road are picnic areas 6 (north of Military Drive), 7 (south of Bingham Drive), and 8 (south Sherrill Drive), and picnic areas 11 and 12.

There are many picnic areas south of Military Road, but only five require a permit (1, 13, 14, 23, 24); the other 18 areas do not.  Picnic area 1 is near Pierce Mill.  Picnic areas 13 and 14 are near the Nature Center.  Picnic areas 23 and 24 are near the parking lot near the Carter Barron Amphitheater off Colorado Avenue south of 16th and Kennedy Streets.

Driving with road closings

On weekends and federal holidays, cars are not allowed on five road sections.

Road closings north of Military Road include all of Bingham and Sherrill Drives, and two sections of Beach Drive: a half-mile stretch from picnic area 10 north to Wise Road where Beach Drive remains open one block until West Beach Drive (which is open) where Beach Drive closes again until the Maryland border.

Beach Drive remains open to cars the 1.4 miles between the police station (not far south of Joyce and Military Roads) and picnic area 10.  Picnic areas 6 through 10 are on that open section of Beach Drive, but cars there often can't go faster than the many bike riders using the road.  When driving on open portions, proceed slowly and cautiously; bicyclists and runners have the right of way.

The only way to drive all the way to picnic areas 6 through 10 when roads are closed, is from Joyce Drive, turning north onto Beach Drive [map].  You can enter Joyce Drive three places.

The only road closing south of Military Road is a 1.2-mile section of Beach Drive south of the police station (Joyce Road) and north of Broad Branch Road.  No reservable picnic areas are on that closed section of Beach Drive.  An open winding hilly park road, and other roads, detour that closed road.

During rush hours, Monday to Friday, driving on Rock Creek Parkway south of Connecticut Avenue is in one direction only: southbound 6:30am to 9am; northbound 3:30pm to 6pm.

Travel by Metro and foot

From the Silver Spring Metro red-line station, go 0.3 miles southwest on Colesville Road, then south on 16th Street NW.  That is the route of Metro bus S4 and S2 [S bus timetable PDF file].  On 16th Street, stop at one of the following streets, and walk west 0.4 miles to Beach Drive.

  1. North/South Portal Drive or Kalmia Road [map],
    then 0.8 miles south to picnic area 10 (1.6 miles southwest of the Metro station).
  2. Holly Trail 100 feet south of Holly Street [map] (MetroBus S2 does not stop near here.)
    This is about one mile from the Metro station.
    Walk 0.6 miles straight west through forest to Valley Trail, to Riley Spring Bridge,
    then walk 0.2 miles south on Beach Drive to picnic area 10.
  3. Sherrill Drive at Aspen Street [map] and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center
    (0.2 miles south of Alaska Avenue),
    then north to picnic areas 9 and 10, or south to picnic areas 8 and 7.
  4. Joyce Road at Rittenhouse Street [map],
    then 0.3 miles north to picnic area 6.
  5. Military Road goes over Beach Drive without any nearby access to it.
  6. Morrow Drive at Kennedy Street [map],
    then 0.3 miles north to picnic area 6.
  7. Colorado Avenue, west to picnic areas 23 and 24.
  8. Irving Street, not near picnic areas, 2 blocks west of Columbia Heights green-line Metro station.

Running between the Takoma Metro red-line station and Columbia Heights Metro green-line station, the Metro bus 52, 53, and 54 routes run along 14 St NW (2 blocks east of 16th St).  From the Takoma station, picnic area 10 is 1.5 miles west, and picnic area 6 is 2 miles southwest.

Running between the Friendship Heights Metro red-line station and Fort Totten (red and green lines) Metro station, the Metro bus E routes cross the park on Military Road (Missouri Avenue).  Buses don't stop in the park, but can stop at Glover Road (Oregon Avenue), and at 16th Street.  Picnic area 6 is 2.5 miles east of the Friendship Heights station, or 2.5 miles west of the Fort Totten station (also the green line).

From the Cleveland Park Metro station or Van Ness UDC Metro station, both on the red-line, picnic area 1 is 0.8 miles, and picnic area 6 is 2.5 miles.  From Connecticut Avenue between those two stations, go east on Tilden Street [map], or Melvin Hazen Park trail, to picnic area 1.

Elsewhere on the Internet

[DC] [home] [about] [copyright] [contact] This page last changed October 22, 2002.