Excursion: Rock Creek Park to Hellbender

Boulder Bridge
Boulder Bridge @ Rock Creek Park

It’s Spring! Even with a day of snow, it’s time to get outside and explore DC.

Here is one excursion idea that gets you in the woods with a bit of history and the always needed chance to drink cider and beer.

What: Hike Rock Creek Park to Hellbender Brewing Company
Days to try: Saturday or Sunday
Start time: 10:00am
Breweries to visit: 1
Cideries to visit: 1
Fort Circle Parks to visit: 1
Distance: 7 miles
Time walking: 2-1/2 hours
Successfully completed on February 24, 2018

Start: Starbucks (next to Van Ness-UDC Metro at 4250 Connecticut Ave NW)
– Soapstone Valley Park Trail
– Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail (Rock Creek Park)
– Valley Trail (Rock Creek Park)
– Fort Stevens
– ANXO Cidery & Tasting Room
– Legacy Memorial Park
End: Hellbender Brewing Company
Food/snack: Get something at Starbucks; or you can get food at ANXO and Hellbender (usually has a food truck on the weekends)
Get home: Walk to Fort Totten Metro/take a Uber/take a bikeshare

Meet near the Van Ness-UDC Metro, Starbucks is a good place to get a snack or wait for others.

Head north and turn right on Albemarie St. NW. On the right you’ll find access to Soapstone Valley Park Trail, which traverses through the Soapstone Valley Park with a few cool stream crossings with white soapstone. (Okay, it’s about 8 or so stream crossings!)

The trail will eventually enter into Rock Creek Park after about 1.1 miles, where you take a right and follow the road about .2 miles until you come to the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail. The entrance is after you cross Rock Creek and on the opposite side. This very narrow path (be cautious of hikers coming your way) eventually merges with the Valley Trail in .4 miles. Follow the Valley Trail for about a mile. Be sure to snap photos of the Boulder Bridge along the way. There has been some recent construction along Beach Drive NW, but eventually it will stop. We hope. Valley Trail will merge with Beach Drive, but you may have to walk up to Morrow Drive if there is still construction. You want to get to Joyce Road NW (and Google won’t let me map this section, hence the map below is in two parts).

Take Joyce Road (past the Rock Creek Golf Course) out of the park to 16th NW and follow Fort Stevens Drive NW to Fort Stevens, and explore the fort with the cannon placements (and cannons!). This is one of the 60+ Civil War forts built to defend Washington, DC against the Confederate Army. It’s the only location in DC where an actual Civil War battle took place (1864). Abraham Lincoln was present and was shot at by a sniper. The sniper missed, but it remains the only time someone tried to shoot a sitting President during a war.

Head south for about .8 miles, it doesn’t really matter what streets you take, just end up on Kennedy St. NW and head to ANXO Cidery & Tasting Room for a well-deserved cider. You can eat lunch here as well (they have good pressed sandwiches), or just order a porron. This is a traditional Spanish glass pitcher which you hold up high and try to pour into your mouth from as far away as possible. Just be confident, it’s easier than it looks.

Next head Northwest along Kennedy St., Kansas St. and New Hampshire Ave for about 1 mile until you get to the Legacy Memorial Park. This memorial is dedicated to those Metro passengers that died in the train crash on June 22, 2009.

Continue on New Hampshire, and just over the overpass on the right there will be a steep trail down into the industrial complex where Hellbender Brewing Company is located. Get a flight of beers or a few pints and relax at their picnic tables. You’ve earned it! They usually have a food truck (recently it’s been Timber Pizza Co.) on-site on the weekend.

After you’ve had your fill, walk to Fort Totten Metro (.8 miles) or take an Uber.

Click to see the Google Route Map itinerary: 1st Leg and 2nd Leg


Soapstone Valley Park Trail
Soapstone Valley Park Trail
Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens
Legacy Memorial Park
Legacy Memorial Park


Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Excursion: Rock Creek Park to Hellbender”

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