This rocky, hilly, root-strewn, singletrack trail connects Broadbranch Road with the Rock Creek Park Valley Trail. Its brevity belies its beauty as I find it be one of the most peaceful, interesting, historic and scenic trails to run in the park. And I am not alone — despite having never crossed paths with another soul on this trail, much has been written about it.
One of the best descriptions is from the blog offthebeatenpathdc, from which I have borrowed the following:
“The trail ascends slowly but steadily and has some precarious footing but it gets interesting as you rise above Beach Drive which is closed to traffic on weekends. At about a quarter mile you’ll reach the top of Pulpit Rock. Take a moment here to appreciate the view and solitude. If you scramble down to the flat boulders adjacent the jutting pulpit, you’ll find a perfectly secluded perch. This was obviously a favorite spot of the Blagden family — the boys of which carved their names in the stone around 150 years ago when the mill was active and the family lived on site. The Blagden Mill was directly across the creek from Pulpit Rock in the 19th Century.
When you move on, you can explore the ridge a bit which is covered in mountain laurel or descend back down towards the creek heading north. The descent is quick and soon you’ll be on the east bank of the creek scrambling over rather rough rocky terrain.
Continue around the bend and you’ll see Boulder Bridge. This historic bridge is one of the most important in Washington for a number of reasons. Boulder Bridge was constructed in 1902 and carries Beach Drive across Rock Creek. The reinforced concrete arch bridge was designed by architect W. J. Douglas and was built at a cost of $17,636. The real story here was the man who made this sort of architectural folly possible – Josef Melan an Austrian engineer. He is regarded as one of the most important pioneers of reinforced concrete bridge-building at the end of the 19th century and is credited as the inventor of the Melan System, a method for the construction of reinforced bridges. This system was unique because Melan did not build iron bars into the reinforced concrete bridge structure, but used rigid truss arches made of iron.”
I love to link this trail with the Valley Trail. Stay right after Boulder Bridge, running and scrambling along the creek and above Beach Drive on a rollercoaster, rocky singletrack to the US Park Police Station. There, I cross the bridge at Joyce Road and take a left onto the Western Ridge trail for a nice loop back to the parking lot.
Directions: To get the trail head, head north on Beach Drive until it merges with Broad Branch Road, take an immediate left and park in the lot about 100 yards due north of Pierce Mill. Exit the lot, take a right, cross over the bridge on Beach Drive and bear left – you’ll see the sign for the Teddy Roosevelt trail here.