(N) Valley Trail
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This 5.2-mile trail runs along the east side of Rock Creek, from Rock Creek Trail (trail J) at its southern end, to the northern end of Rock Creek Park at the Maryland border. At either end, it connects with the Western Ridge Trail (trail N), which provides an alternate, parallel route on the west side of Rock Creek Park. These trails, plus a number of other trails that criss-cross Rock Creek Park north of Rock Creek Trail (trail J) allow for a myriad of looping routes (see detailed map).
A 2.5-mile loop route recommended for its scenic beauty and distance from the sight and sounds of cars: Beginning at the intersection of the Melvin Hazen Trail (trail K) and the Western Ridge Trail (trail L), go south (downstream) along Rock Creek about one-quarter mile to a pedestrian bridge (on the way, you will walk along rock ledges above Rock Creek). Cross over to the east side of Rock Creek and go north (upstream) for several hundred yards. Look carefully for the blue trail blazes on the far (north) side of Beach Drive, which mark the beginning of the Valley Trail. Walk up an embankment and cross Park Road, continuing up the Valley Trail. Go nearly one mile, and after you begin to descend to Blagden Avenue, take the right fork (away from Rock Creek), which allows you to cross Blagden Avenue and continue up the other side on the Valley Trail. The trail crosses a hill to Pulpit Rock, which provides a scenic view of the Rock Creek valley.
At this point, you can return to your starting point by going left on the Theodore Roosevelt Trail, crossing Rock Creek on the Beach Drive bridge and rejoining the Western Ridge Trail (trail L) on the west bank of Rock Creek. Or you can continue a bit further along the east bank of Rock Creek on the Valley Trail to the Boulder Bridge on Beach Drive. Here you can head back down Rock Creek, following Beach Drive (this portion of the drive is closed to traffic on weekends), and rejoin the Western Ridge Trail just after you cross Broad Branch Road. Or, after crossing Boulder Bridge you can take a trail straight up the west bank of the Rock Creek Valley, turning left at the first trail intersection and following the trail back to the Western Ridge Trail.
Beginning just north of the Boulder Bridge is perhaps the most beautiful stretch of Rock Creek, where it tumbles down over large rocks and boulders at the fall line, which is the edge of the piedmont plateau. There is a trail on the west bank of Rock Creek that starts just south of the Boulder Bridge. Take this trail straight up the west bank of the Rock Creek Valley and turn right at the first trail intersection to continue up along Rock Creek. You can make a loop by hiking up Rock Creek on this trail for about 1.5 miles to Military Road and the Park Police station, then doubling back on the east side of Rock Creek on the Valley Trail, or on Beach Drive when it is closed on weekends (total distance for this loop is a bit less than 3 miles).
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