Last Saturday I took a day off from group hiking to explore Lake Frank, in Montgomery County, Maryland, for a hike our group is doing this coming Saturday. Lake Frank is only about 10 miles from the I-495 Capital Beltway, but since it is nestled in the 1800-acre Rock Creek Regional Park, it’s a great place for a country hike.
I’ve been planning to do a hike at Lake Frank for some time, but when I first visited the trails were torn up due to a sewage line construction project. I checked on it again this Spring, but the ford over North Branch Rock Creek was always too high to cross without getting your feet wet. Finally I decided to circle the lake counter-clockwise. The stream crossing is at the end of the hike, so getting your feet wet doesn’t matter much.
The resulting 5-mile route is pretty straightforward, heading west and north past the Study Pond and some of the Lathrop Smith Center outbuildings before turning south to hike past the Pioneer Homestead, over the Valient Covered Bridge, and along the west shoreline of Lake Frank to the Lake Frank Dam. To add a little more meat to the hike, the route continues downstream from the dam to the junction of North Branch Rock Creek and Rock Creek, and follows Rock Creek downstream a bit before returning north along the east bank of Lake Frank. Directly east of the Nature Center, stepping stones across North Branch Rock Creek lead back to the starting point. The whole hike takes around 2 hours; maybe a little more if you stop for a break.
As it turned out, the counter-clockwise route was probably better than the clockwise route I had originally planned: the hillsides along the west bank of Lake Frank are quite steep, and the trail (aptly named “Old Nasty”) is narrow, so going downhill is a pretty good option. You still have to go back uphill on the east bank, of course, but the Lakeside Trail is paved and graded, making the long climb a little more conducive to good conversation.
All told, a pleasant hike, easily accessed from anywhere in the Washington DC area. Meadowside Nature Center has plenty of parking, a friendly staff, and nice facilities, and once you get away from its immediate vicinity there aren’t a lot of folks on the trail. The Pioneer Homestead and Valient Covered Bridge are picturesque, and most of the hike is in the shade, so on a hot summer day, you’re still fairly cool and comfy.