Dear PoP – How Late Can You Stay in Rock Creek Park?


“Dear PoP,

A question for you – if i were playing sports in Rock Creek after sunset, would someone actually kick me out? I grew up in NY where, post-Guiliani, they go around and actually make you leave Central Park after dark. Rock Creek is technically only open during daylight hours but if there’s a big group of us running around at night, do you think anyone would actually do something about it?”

Hmm, that’s a good question. I know there is a contingent of Park police that patrols the grounds but my guess is they’re probably not too likely to kick you out. Anyone know from experience?

13 Comment

  • Rock Creek Park is a NPS property. There are different hours for different things apparently but the quote for what looks to be for the whole is “Rock Creek Park is open during daylight hours.” Not too clear on actual hours per se.

    Rock Creek Park is open during daylight hours.

    Our Visitor Centers are open as follows:

    Nature Center and Planetarium
    Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Wednesday-Sunday except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year days.

    Old Stone House
    Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Wednesday-Sunday except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year days.
    Group tours (10 or more) available by reservation.

    Peirce Barn
    Open Noon to 5:00 PM on the Weekends

  • my only personal experience was making out with someone after dark. that happens all the time and its pretty easy to not get caught, or to get off with a warning.

    but this reader is writing about a ‘big group’ ‘running around’. What are they going to be doing? Playing a midnight scavenger hunt? Most areas where a big group could congregate or move around are going to be quite visible to a park ranger or police. hidden areas like trails are going to be almost impossible to navigate after dark. it’s not like the paths are lit. again no personal experience but I have a hard time imagining a scenario where a large group of people would go unnoticed.

  • Over the past three or so months, the NPS police have greatly increased car patrols through Rock Creek Park. The Park closes at sundown and I believe you’ll be asked to move along if they catch you after dark.

    Unfortunately, there was a(nother) sexual assault in RCP 10 or 12 weeks ago. The park police posted fliers along the running trails but I dont know if they ever made an arrest.

  • I don’t know from personal experience here but I would guess that a NPS officer would ask you to leave if s/he saw you there after dark but the park is big and there probably aren’t enough people patrolling for it to be likely to happen very frequently to any individual person. And if they do catch you, they’d probably just ask you to leave, at which point you leave, not such a big deal.

  • I use the picnic areas up on Ross drive pretty frequently until dusk or thereabouts… Always see a park police cruiser driving through near sunset. A few times, I have been reminded that the park closes at dark.

  • @joseph hovsep:

    There is actually a $500 fine for being in the park after hours. Usually they don’t bother with lovebirds and just let the go with a warning.

    But a big group? Hard to imagine a Ranger letting that one go. Even during open hours, you need to get and pay for a permit for group events.

  • You don’t actually need a permit for group events, but if another group shows up with a permit for that particular area, you have to surrender it.

    Picnic areas 1, 6-10, 13, 14, 23 & 24 are permit areas. 8,9 and 10 are my favorites for groups – big play fields, lots of shade, good wading. Area 10 has a restroom. Area 1, near Pierce Mill, has a shelter & restroom and is the only one easily accessible by Metro. I think #6 also has a shelter & restroom.

    And this might be the last weekend to see the Mountain laurel in full bloom – Pulpit Rock trail has a lot of it.

  • I used to run in RCP on the trails in the winter a few years ago, we’d start sometimes at 5:30 or 6:00 AM when it was well before dawn. Sometimes it would still be dark an hour later when we got back. (We had headlamps. Probably people would see us from their cars through the woods and think some kind of Blair Witch thing was going on.)

    Never got yelled at once. Of course, we never saw another soul, civilian or park ranger, ever.

  • Park Police now have several cruisers outfitted with infrared cameras on their roofs, and I’m told they routinely do sweeps of the wooded areas adjacent to Beach Dr in particular. I was told they generally are looking for homeless camping, fires, drug/alcohol use. If you were a large group of folks in the woods after dark you would out off a huge heat signature on the cams, and I have no doubt a large amount of police resources would be brought in to investigate. Not worth it in my opinion considering the $500 fines. Find someone with a farm you can rent out of town for this sort of event.

  • Ugh, just reread your questions. They’d probably just ask you to leave if you were playing soccer or something on a field, but as anon above mentioned – something like a scavenger hunt in the woods would likely be a bad idea.

  • Not too many years ago, I was driving at night as a Park Policeman pulled behing me , checked my license, and registration, told me I was free to go as the police were closing Ross Drive in the Park for the night.

  • you must be an old white guy, the police only asked you to stop once. A lot of young people are asked to stop for insurance, and license check on a regular basis without probable cause . DC does not stand for Dick Chaney–sp

  • Dick Cheney is irrelevant, as this happened before Bush and Cheney, age could add wisdom.

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