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Recently I’ve received a lot of Google traffic from searches similar to this, “How to find access to <insert Rock Creek Trail name here> from <insert DC neighborhood here>.” If you are one of those people, I know your pain. When an old roommate of mine, the WisconsinBeerRunner, talked about running trails in the park, I had some trouble figuring out where to find them! I knew where some of the trailheads were located, but didn’t have a good way to get there. I would end up running 3 miles each way to the trail, which usually left me with just a few miles off the pavement. So after exploring any and every little path I could find, causing me to get lost or find myself in a place I probably shouldn’t be alone, I’ve found what I believe to be the best access points for dirt hiking and running trails in Rock Creek Park from the NW neighborhoods. With so many people hitting the trails this summer, I thought I’d lay out my access points, hoping that you don’t have as much trouble as I did.
Now to be clear, these are not the most direct ways to Rock Creek Park. There are often closer access points to Beach Drive/Rock Creek Trail, but this will put you directly onto the dirt, giving you access to all the great dirt hiking/running trails that Rock Creek has to offer.
14th and U – Valley Trail Trailhead
Columbia Heights – Valley Trail Trailhead
Unofficial Trailhead Access
Once you head down Park Rd., cross over the bridge, keeping to the right.
Immediatelly following the fence, hang a right, follow the trail up the hill, then just keep hanging lefts until you hit the Vally Trail trailhead.
This short section after the bridge is unofficial trail, but is very well used and easy to follow. If you took a right at the top of that hill, it would lead you to a neighborhood behind 16th Street.
Hopefully that will help! Do you have another way to enter into the park?
Enjoy the trail!