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Urban Oasis: Rock Creek Park History Hike

Quick Details

Private Tour

Explore America’s first urban National Park!

Established in 1890, Rock Creek Park was the third National Park created in the United States, and the first in a major city. More than 2,000 acres was set aside as a refuge for wildlife and an escape for DC locals, winding its way through Northwest Washington DC. Before the founding of the park, the land supported indigenous people, agriculture, fishing, and industry. The creek powered mills, watered orchards, and was a conduit for trade in the nation’s capital.

While the landscape feels natural today, much of the park was meticulously laid out by the famous Olmstead Brothers. The rustic style of the bridges, roads, and structures helped set the tone of national “parkitecture” across the country. Beyond natural beauty, Rock Creek contains historic structures, memorials, ruins, and other remnants of the park’s past.

The tour begins outside the Smithsonian National Zoo, before plunging into Rock Creek Park via a little-known entrance. We’ll follow the course of an abandoned road, to a hidden stone mansion–one of the oldest structures in the park. Then we’ll trek across the western ridge before dipping down into the valley to see the Pierce Mill, and up again along the Teddy Roosevelt Trail to the beautiful Boulder Bridge. Passing the ruins of another old mill, we’ll stroll back along Beach Drive before hiking one more stretch on a recently renamed trail. The tour will emerge onto bustling Connecticut Avenue and wrap up at the Cleveland Park Metro Station.

What to Bring

We’ll be hiking about 4 miles along both paved paths and uneven terrain, with some steep hills.  Sturdy shoes, bottled water, and comfortable clothes are recommended!

Where to Meet

  • Find your guide outside the West entrance of the National Zoo, near the lion statues.
  • GPS Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
  • The tour concludes at the Cleveland Park Metro Station at 3599 Connecticut Ave NW.

Sights and Stops include:

  • Smithsonian’s National Zoo
  • Kennedy Warren Apartments
  • Klingle Valley Park
  • Tregaron Estate
  • Peirce-Klingle Mansion
  • Peirce Mill
  • Pulpit Rock
  • Boulder Bridge
  • The Broadmoor
  • Cleveland Park Metro

Additional booking times are available with a private tour. Please visit the private bookings calendar to take a look!

For large groups or custom itineraries, please contact us to book.

Map of the Tour Route