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Boulder Bridge Loop

 4 votes

3.1 Miles 5.0 Kilometers



270' 82 m


-263' -80 m


339' 103 m


96' 29 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (6°)

All Clear

53 days agoUpdate

This lovely route circles part of the park President Roosevelt frequented over one hundred years ago

Megan W


Range through idyllic forest and creek-side ecosystems on this mellow loop through Rock Creek Park. A visit to the iconic Boulder Bridge with its bit of presidential lore is not to be missed. Built in 1902, it is one of the few park bridges not to have been washed away in floods.
Features: Birding — Fall Colors — River/Creek
Family Friendly: Gently rolling trail with shade, easy access, and ample parking make this a low-stress proposition. There are several bail-out options if you need to cut the loop short.
Dogs: Leashed

Need to Know

Horses are also allowed on some parts of this loop - be aware and respectful.


To access this loop trail from the Nature Center, head south toward the Horse Center. Take a sharp left into the horse center and, keeping left, head past the small parking lot towards the corral. The dirt trail begins behind and to the left of the corral, descending gently towards Rock Creek. Soon you'll hear the rushing rapids of the Rock Creek "falls." This cascade of water runs over a geologic transition zone where the harder rock of the Piedmont Plateau meets the softer, sedimentary rock of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Follow along the creek for about a ½ mile, and cross the unmarked Rapids Bridge footbridge (enjoy the view upstream and downstream!) Then cross Beach Drive, and take a right (south) onto the Valley Trail - South, marked by blue blazes. Continue south for 1/2 mile until you reach the historic Boulder Bridge.

Constructed in 1902, Boulder Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the park. It’s an example of rustic architecture, or ‘parkitecture’ (architecture designed to blend in with the natural landscape). Keep an eye out for Theodore Roosevelt’s ring, which he lost at Boulder Bridge during one of his many walks in Rock Creek Park over one hundred years ago. One hundred feet after Boulder Bridge, take the small, unmarked trail on the right ( Foot Trail #17) and head uphill.

After 1/4 mile, stay straight at the four-way trail intersection, following the unmarked, Cross Trail #9. Soon you cross Ridge Road and arrive at the Equitation Field. Circle around the southern end of this horse field and then head north. Follow the green blazes of the Western Ridge Trail northward, following the “foot traffic only” signs when it turns off of the wider horse trail. After 3/4 of a mile, the trail seemingly ends as you come upon Picnic Grove 13 and a grassy field. Cross the field and the two roadways, and then continue just up the hill to the Nature Center to complete the loop.

Flora & Fauna

Virginia pines, mountain laurel, beech, oak. Fox and deer.

History & Background

It is said that the extra large boulders that comprise Boulder Bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge's contractor. The plans called for "man-sized" stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason. Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders. When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked. The boulders did not come from the immediate vicinity of the bridge or from within Rock Creek Park, but nearby. The bridge cost a total of $17,635.77 to build.


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3.5 from 4 votes

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Nov 25, 2017
Fly Guy
Oct 22, 2017
Aaron Lee
Aug 8, 2017
Aaron Severn
Great hike, although crossing boulder bridge with traffic was not ideal. 3.1mi — 1h 30m
Jul 23, 2017
Zaby Khan
Feb 3, 2017
Carl S
Oct 10, 2016
Jennifer Nicole
Great minus horse poop. Loved boulder bridge 3.5mi
Sep 5, 2016
Chip Buckley
Sep 2, 2016
Shawn MacDonnell
Guide was a little unclear at times. The posts with the pink tape usually helped follow the path better than the blazes. Crossing the bridge, you h... — 1h 20m

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 4 votes


  3.5 from 4 votes
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