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It’s hard to believe you can lose the city a few steps into the woods from Van Ness, but there it is: Soapstone Valley is one of the finest trails in Rock Creek Park, traversed by a couple of hikers, an occasional homeowner with an unleashed dog, and no one else. The trailhead on Albemarle Street NW—about a block east of the Connecticut Avenue intersection—is marked by a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club sign. From there it descends to a riffling creek, a tributary of Broad Branch that looks positively unpolluted in the right light. The trail follows the creek for a bit and then you cross it by hopping the stones (probably granite, since most of the actual soapstone was quarried out some time ago). You’ll crisscross the creek seven or so more times as the valley grows deeper, greener, and more dense. After a last bit of stone-hopping, Soapstone Valley and the trail ends, spitting you out at Broad Branch Road after a mile-and-a-half. A quick dogleg across lanes of traffic and you can hook up with the Western Ridge Trail, which, in turn, connects with the Valley Trail and continues on up to the northern part of the park. From there, loop back and end the hike with another happy hopscotch through Soapstone Valley.