Fort Stevens Anniversary Hike

Say, did you know that this July 12th is the 150th anniversary of the only time a sitting president of the United States was under fire on a battlefield?

On July 11th, 1864, a Confederate force under General Jubal Early pushed its way south into DC from around Silver Spring, MD. Early’s troops were too exhausted to do anything before nightfall, and during the night troops from the seasoned Union VI Corps arrived to reinforce the Union defenses. When Early’s troops launched a strong demonstration attack on Fort Stevens the next day, July 12th, it was handily repelled and driven back, convincing Early that an attack on Washington was fruitless.

President Lincoln stood around watching the battle from Fort Stevens on July 12th and came under fire from Confederate sharpshooters, prompting  a young Union officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (as the story goes) to shout, “Get down, you damn fool!”

Let’s meet at Brightwood Recreation Area in Rock Creek Park, take a nice walk north and upstream through the woods, pop out of the park just south of Silver Spring, and follow Early’s route of march south, stopping at the Battleground Cemetery and Fort Stevens on our way back to our starting point.

The route: From Brightwood Recreation Area, we’ll head north along Morrow Drive to Beach drive, which we’ll follow upstream along Rock Creek to turn onto Valley Trail, just before Beach Drive crosses Rock Creek. From there we’ll follow Valley Trail upstream along Rock Creek and emerge from Rock Creek Park at the intersection of Holly St NW and 16th St NW. From there we’ll head east along Holly St, cut a couple blocks south to Fern Place and continue east to Georgia Ave. Turning south on Georgia Ave, we’ll walk south to the Battleground National Cemetery for a break.

After checking out the Battleground National Cemetery we’ll continue south on Georgia, turn right at Van Buren to cut over west a block, and then continue south along 13th St NW to Fort Stevens, where we’ll pause again to snoop around Fort Stevens. Afterwards, we’ll continue south along 13th St NW, turn slightly right onto Colorado Ave and follow it to Kennedy Ave. Turning right onto Kennedy Ave, it’s only a block west before we recross 16th St onto Morrow Drive and return to our starting point at Brightwood Recreation Area.

Google map:

This is a circuit (loop) of about 5.3 miles of smiles, plus excursions into Battleground National Cemetery and Fort Stevens. The hike should take around two and a half to three hours at a moderate pace, depending on how long we spend at the two historical sites.

The hike difficulty is moderate to easy. The surface is a dirt paths and sidewalks. There are undulating ridges through the woods along Valley Trail in Rock Creek Park; otherwise it’s fairly easy going on sidewalks throughout.

How to get there:  

• From I-495 north of Washington, (either direction) –   

1.  Take exit 31 to merge onto MD-97 S/​Georgia Ave toward Silver Spring
2.  Slight right onto 16th St and drive south 1.2 miles
3.  At the traffic circle, continue straight onto 16th St NW for another 2.5 miles
4.  Turn right onto Morrow Dr. NW
5.  Take the first left onto Stage Rd
6.  The meetup point will be on your right, in front of a public restroom, opposite the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center (on your left). There is lots of parking further along down Stage Road.

• From northern Virginia, on I-395 N –

1.  Head northeast on I-395 N and follow signs for I-395 N to cross the Potomac on the I-395/US-1 Bridge
2.  Take the 12th St exit toward L'Enfant Promenade and drive 0.2 miles
3.  Slight left onto 12th St Expressway and continue another 0.7 miles
4.  12th St Expressway turns slightly left and becomes 12th St NW; continue another 0.8 miles
5.  Turn left onto Massachusetts Ave NW and drive 0.4 miles
6.  Turn right onto 15th St NW and drive 0.8 miles
7.  Veer slightly left to stay on 15th St NW for another 0.8 miles
8.  Continue straight onto 16th St NW and drive 1.9 miles
9.  Turn left onto Morrow Dr. NW
10.  Take the first left onto Stage Rd
11.  Meetup point will be on your right, in front of a public restroom, opposite the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center (on your left). There is lots of parking further along down Stage Road.

• Metro: The closest Metro Station in Georgia Ave Petworth. It's about 2 miles away, though, so unless you're a Metrobus ninja or up for an extra 4 miles of walking, maybe driving is a better bet.

What to bring: Water, cool sunglasses, comfy shoes, and your furry friend if desired (leashes required).

Administrative stuff: There are public restrooms at the meetup point in Brightwood Recreation Area. (More to follow after I reconnoiter.) As a reminder, this is a kids-free zone, no one under 18 years of age is permitted.

After the hike: The Shops at Wisconsin Avenue is about 3.5 miles west of our meetup point at the intersection of Military Road NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW. There are several restaurants in the area, notably Clyde's of Chevy Chase and Mi Cocina. See the links below for directions and pay parking. Free parallel parking is available in the neighborhood directly north of the shopping center.


• Fort Stevens at Civil War Trust:

• Fort Stevens at Wikipedia: 

• Battleground National Cemetery, 6632 Georgia Ave NW,

• The Shops at Wisconsin Avenue, 5310 Western Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD,

• Clyde's of Chevy Chase, 5441 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, (301)[masked],

• Mi Cocina,  5471 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, (301)[masked],

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  • ML M.

    John truly spoils us with his efforts - especially his integrating hiking with history. This was yet another great example. I also so appreciate the care and concern shown by everyone over my unexpected unleashed dog encounter. All is well.

    4 · July 13, 2014

  • Lana

    Thank you John for great hike from me and my sis. She said it was AWESOME!!!!!!

    2 · July 12, 2014

  • Michael M.

    Thanks all for a great hike

    1 · July 12, 2014

  • Martin B.

    There was much of interest and to see on this varied 5+ mile hike, through a heavily wooded area of Rock Creek park, and also in the neighborhoods and parks along nearby Georgia Ave in DC. The Civil War Cemetery and Cannon Salute at Fort Stevens (our luck -- a few minutes after we arrived) were highlights.

    2 · July 12, 2014

  • John M

    Wow, a ranger greeting us at the cemetery and a cannon salute at Fort Stevens! What's not to like? Fun friends and a fantastic hike! Thanks!!

    6 · July 12, 2014

  • Skysusan

    As always... sky

    1 · July 12, 2014

  • Hank

    Thanks for another great hike, John!

    3 · July 12, 2014

  • Tom S.

    Informative, great scenery, fun, especially meaningful 150 years to the day after the battle. Thanks to John for organizing, leading and providing commentary. I want to do more!

    1 · July 12, 2014

  • ML M.

    Almost there

    July 12, 2014

  • Skysusan

    Can anyone drive from King Street Metro; I'd love a ride... thanks, sky

    July 9, 2014

    • Arundhati G.

      Oops just saw Hanks note, perhaps I could get a ride with Sandy, only if possible

      July 11, 2014

    • Skysusan

      Thanks Hank :) sky

      July 11, 2014

  • John M

    Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy, fought just southeast of Frederick.

    On July 9, 1864, Union General Lew Wallace, with a scratch force of 2,500 green ‘100-day men,’ bolstered by a 5,000 men from the Army of the Potomac’s Sixth Corps, delayed the advance of the 14,000 veterans of Confederate General Jubal Early’s invasion force for a critical day – long enough for reinforcements to arrive in defense of Washington.

    There’s an excellent three-part article about the battle here:

    2 · July 10, 2014

    • Edna

      This is a wonderful history reference John! Thanks for sharing.

      July 10, 2014

  • Jim

    Here is a list of speed cameras & red light cameras in DC. According to AAA, one camera on 16th St. generates almost $2 million a year. A WJLA report said that drivers could get nailed for going a single mile above the speed limit but I'm not sure that is accurate.

    July 10, 2014

  • Lisa T.

    I'm going to play the clarinet with the Takoma Park Community band at Fort Stevens. We will perform pieces from the Civil War era--9:30 a.m. till 10 a.m.

    3 · July 8, 2014

  • lynn m.

    Wedding to attend...enjoy!

    July 6, 2014

  • Dawn

    Work schedule has changed. Changing RSVP so someone else can plan to go.

    June 9, 2014

    • Edna

      Me too Dawn! Fort Stevens is a historically important site that ought to be honored over and again. Perhaps those of us who can't go can schedule a separate visit...

      June 29, 2014

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