Running down the middle of Washington, D.C. is a pristine strip of land called Rock Creek Park, which has outdoor adventures written all over it.
The park's footprint is roughly 1,700 acres, more than double the size of New York City's Central Park (843 acres). Rock Creek Park boasts several paved roads, off-road trails, a golf course, a world-class tennis center, the National Zoo, and more. This review will focus on road cycling in the park.
What Makes It Great
There are two routes that are ideal for road cycling: Beach Drive, which actually begins in North Kensington, Md., and a paved path that links the middle of the park with the Lincoln Memorial.
Beach Drive follows Rock Creek for more than 13.5 miles, snaking its way into Northwest Washington and curling through the park. It skirts the eastern edge of the National Zoo before exiting the park, and it merges with another road a short time later.
Parts of the tree-lined Beach Drive are closed to cars on the weekends, making it one of the most peaceful places to ride in the area. And motor vehicle traffic is light midday during the week, which means it's a nice spot for a lunch ride.
There are other roads that intersect with Beach Drive, and you can ride a loop through the park on Beach Drive, Ridge Road, and Oregon Avenue, but an out-and-back trip along Beach Drive is probably your best bet.
The aforementioned paved path, meanwhile, is called the Western Ridge Trail. Part of an extensive trail system in the park, it starts just above Pierce Mill, a historic mill within the park, and meanders south, eventually running along the western end of the Lincoln Memorial and going onto Hains Point.
If you're looking for something to do on the weekends, this path offers a safe route of getting down to the monuments section of Washington.
Who is Going to Love It
Cyclists who want to ride their bike without the stress of dealing with cars on D.C. roads. Beach Drive does just that, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way, from historic mills and the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center to the National Zoo and the Rock Creek Park Planetarium.
More advanced cyclists who want to put in a long ride can use Rock Creek Park either as a starting or ending point, depending on where they live. The park's roads and trails hook up with several other trails in the area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Beach Drive starts north of the city in North Kensington, Md., situated between Bethesda and Wheaton-Glenmont. There are several parking areas along the route and through Rock Creek Park, while there are bus and Metro stops in the area that can get you there as well. Visit nps.gov/rocr for more information.