After living in the DC area for over 10 years, I finally made it to Theodore Roosevelt Island a few weeks ago. I had always wanted to check it out, so I decided to make it a priority and took my girls with me for a fun little adventure before the school year started.
First of all, you should know that it is only accessible from the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway. So, if you are coming from the north, you will have to loop around. We went during a weekday in the late morning, so there were plenty of parking spaces available. But I have heard that the parking lot fills up early on the weekends. After parking we walked (or danced in Clara’s case) across the bridge.
Once you cross the bridge and arrive on the island, there are three different paths you can take. Left (north), straight (east into the center of the island towards the Memorial Plaza), or right (south). I decided to first go to the plaza. My girls spotted the monument and took off running towards it yelling “We found Teddy”.
This memorial doesn’t look as nicely maintained as the others on the national mall. It’s a little more run down but the plus side is there is way less people here. The day we visited it was just us, Teddy, and maybe four other people.
From here we took a path going south to meet up with the main trail (Swamp Trail) that goes along the perimeter of the entire island. The path leads by the highway 66 bridge and as we approached this area Clara asked if any bad guys were under there! I assured her it was completely safe and as we were standing there a deer walked right by us, probably only about 6 feet from us. She still talks about that deer! She had never been that close to one, so it left quite the impression on her.
We continued walking, now headed north on the east side of the island and this is where the boardwalk begins in the marshland. We saw lots of wildlife in this area of the island: herons, ducks, fish, lizards, and turtles. My girls also found wildflowers to pick. Along this part of the trail there are several benches so it’s a good place to stop for a water/snack break.
Once we were at the northern part of the island we took a smaller side trail leading down to the Potomac river. We were directly across from the Georgetown Waterfront Park. My girls took their shoes off and jumped around in the water. Then they decided it would be fun to collect rocks and throw them into the river. This simple activity kept them entertained for quite a while! It was nice for me to sit and relax while watching them play together.
From this part of the island there are a few different ways to get back to the entrance. My girls were tired at this point, so we took the Upland Trail and cutback through the Memorial Plaza and headed back to the parking lot.
I loved our visit to this island. The peacefulness makes you feel like you are not in a city. The summer was a great time to visit but I think this fall will be even more beautiful so I’m hoping we can make it back for another hike.
Good to Know:
• The island is open from 6am to 10pm.
• Bring a stroller for kids under the age of 5 or so. My four year old made it around the entire island without riding in a stroller but she did complain a lot towards the end! If you take the Swamp Trail all the way around it’s 1.5 miles.
• The only bathrooms are located on the south part of the trail.
• Dog friendly.
• Bikes are not allowed on the island. There is a rack for them at the entrance.
• The trails on the island actually show up on the map on the iphone. This makes it very handy to figure out where exactly you are on the island during your hike.