Where to Celebrate National Trails Day in the DC Area

Boulder Bridge, Rock Creek Park, NW, Washington, D.C.
Boulder Bridge, Rock Creek Park, NW, Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons
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It seems as though there is a national day honoring every occasion. National Crush a Can DayNational Knock-Knock Jokes DayNational Double Cheeseburger Day (that’s double, not single), National Hug a Friend Day... one can theoretically celebrate something every single day of the year.

Don't get us wrong, we love celebrating cheeseburgers just as much as anyone, but what we can really sink our teeth into is celebrating events that are truly relevant to daily life—such as National Trails Day (NTD). Occurring annually on the first Saturday of June, this event brings together every state in the U.S. to highlight trail activities appropriate for the region.

If it belongs on a trail—hikingbackpacking/camping, mountain biking, trail running—it will be celebrated somewhere in America on June 6.

Entrance to Rock Creek Park near Georgetown
Entrance to Rock Creek Park near Georgetown Stefanie Payne

National Trails Day is designed to promote and build awareness of the remarkable trail systems that wind throughout the United States. Individuals, companies, and organizations will hit the trails to participate, and will also create events of their own as an opportunity to contribute to their communities. It will surely be a fun day for all involved, and it will be particularly sweet for those who've helped popularize the event over the years.

NTD was founded in 1976 by the American Hiking Society, operating under the core mission that preservation of hiking trails and their surrounding environments is a legacy of great value to pass along to future generations. Championed among a small group of industry advocates and political parties with a vested interest, it really got off the ground in the 1980’s. As time marched on and the appeal of the U.S. trail system spread far and wide across our country, a national day of celebration was created in an effort to connect the greater trail community. As hoped, awareness grew and continues to every year.

In 2012, on the 20-year anniversary of the event, an estimated 157,000 Americans participated in over 2,000 events.

As for DC area residents, the best way to get involved in the action will be to head to the Rock Creek Park trail system on June 6 to help celebrate 125 years of outdoor awesomeness. The yearlong celebration has already begun and events are underway, National Trails Day obviously being one of the highlights.

A rivulet after a spring rain in Rock Creek Park
A rivulet after a spring rain in Rock Creek Park NatureServe

Rock Creek Park runs north/south through the heart of the District and has more than 32 miles of trails. The main vein through the park is a 13.5 mile stretch of paved cycling trail called Beach Drive  which weekend roadies typically flock to for a ride from the National Zoo down to the monuments. For hikers and trail runners, the Western Ridge Trail and Valley Trail (both just over 5 miles) are prime spots, as is Battery Kemble Park/Palisades Park just outside of Georgetown.

Beyond the trails, Rock Creek Park has seemingly endless ways to explore. You can rent boats at Thompson Boat Center, play tennis at Montrose Park, wander for free the National Zoo, visit the Nature Center/Planetarium, Dumbarton Oaks Park, and the Georgetown Waterfront—which is a great stepping off point to cycle up the C&O canal to Great Falls or to Bethesda, Maryland.

However you choose to partake in the country's largest celebration of trails, you're sure to to find something that will suit your fancy in the DC area and beyond. We'll see you out there on June 6th!

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