Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Car-free DC: Greenbelt Park

This is the sixth article in a series on hikes in DC that can be reached by public transportation.

Have you ever wished you could go camping inside the beltway? Greenbelt Park is your best bet, with 174 sites at $16 a night (you'll need reservations in the summer).

Not a camper? With 1,100 acres, and over 8 miles of hiking trails (map), Greenbelt Park has more to offer. You'd never believe you were only 12 miles from the White House. Several creeks pass through the park on their way to the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River. And in the summer, the woods are noticeably cooler than the city, offering a little respite from the urban heat island.

Let's be clear: it's hard to get completely out of earshot of a road -- the park is touched by the beltway, Kenilworth Avenue, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. But this park is definitely worth exploring. My favorite memory was a particular hike several years ago when we saw multiple luna moths in one day. It's also a fairly common location for forays by the Mycological Association of Washington.

By public transportation: The southeast corner of the park is under a mile from College Park metro station. Follow Paint Branch Parkway across Kenilworth Ave, where it will become Good Luck Road; the park is on your left. There is some limited bus service from College Park to Kenilworth Ave: weekdays and Saturdays, you can take Metrobus R12, and weekdays only, Metrobus F6 or PG Bus 14.

The main entrance to Greenbelt Park is about 3 miles from the Greenbelt Metro station. From there, several buses will take you by the park, but none run on Sundays. On weekdays and Saturdays, try Metrobus C2, T16/17, or R12 . Weekdays only, you can also take PG County buses 15 and 16.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed in the park, but are supposed to remain on leash. However, there's currently a major tick problem in the park, so you might want to think twice about taking your pet.

Allowed on the roads and several paved trails marked on the park map (including an entrance off Good Luck Road that is closed to other vehicles). On Wednesday evenings in the summer, there is a "Tour de France style" bike race from 6:00 to 8:30 PM (registration required). Up to 2 bikes can be stashed on the front of any Metrobus; you can take your bike on Metro anytime on the weekend, and anytime except 7-10 AM and 4-7 PM during the week.

Greenbelt Park

Do you have other tips on Greenbelt Park, or experiences to report? Share in the comments section.