Access and Directions

On this page:

Getting to NIH & the Clinical Center  |  Vehicle Access  |  Parking for Patients & Their Visitors
Pedestrian Access  |  Security Note for Visitors & Patients  |  Getting Around the Hospital  |  Patient Services
Shuttle Service & Public Transportation  |  For More Information

Getting to NIH and the Clinical Center

See Directions to the Clinical Center (en español) for driving directions from the nearby airports and for using the public transportation system at the nearby airports.

Please view the Welcome to Our Patient and Their Visitors web page for additional information about visiting the NIH Clinical Center.

Please view the NIH Visitor Map for more information about visiting the NIH campus.

Please view NIH Traffic for the latest Campus Traffic Updates.

Please view the NIH Virtual Tour for a full interactive tour of the NIH campus.

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Vehicle Access

Daily 6 am to 10 pm

Special Campus Entrance for Patients and Patient Visitors

Use West Drive Patient Entrance (en español) at the intersection of West Cedar Lane and West Drive, directly north of the main entrance of the Clinical Center. The facility is designed to ease and speed NIH access for patients by providing one-stop security screening. (Please bring a photo ID if you are 16 or older). See NIH Campus Access for Clinical Center Patients Arriving by Vehicle for additional information.

Vehicles access only. No pedestrian access unless NIH extended visitor/Staff badge is present.

This gate is for entry only (except in emergencies). To leave NIH, follow signs to other exits.

When the Patient Entrance is Closed

Daily 10 pm to 6 am

When the patient entrance is closed, enter through the the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility (CVIF) on Route 355 (Rockville Pike) between North Drive and Wilson Drive. Once you go through the vehicle inspection, follow the driveway until you reach Center Drive and make a right turn. Continue on Center Drive and follow signs to "Patient Parking" and "Clinical Center". The main entrance to the hospital will be to your left on Center Drive.

NIHCC Take Me There App

NIHCC Take Me There App logo

A free app for smartphone devices called NIHCC Take Me There enables users to pinpoint their current location and view directions to nearly anywhere inside the building. (Please note the app works in the hospital's common or public areas, but not within private office suites such as those in the north side of the building.) The NIHCC Take Me There website version allows users to view directions online and share with others via email or print, an important feature for those without smartphone devices. Users can also download the app on their iOS or Android devices. Hospitality staff at the main reception desk can gladly help print directions if needed.

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Parking for Patients and Their Visitors

There are two options for parking, and both are free.

  • The Clinical Center offers complimentary valet parking to patients and their visitors. The Clinical Center strongly encourages patients and their visitors to use our valet parking. It will help reduce the traffic and parking issues we expect due to the major construction projects that are underway. Valet parking is available Monday through Friday, 6 am - 7 pm (excluding federal holidays). Take your valet claim ticket to the underground garage level Hospitality desk to have it validated. No payment is required. Tips will not be accepted.
  • If you choose to self-park, patient designated parking is located on the (underground garage) level. Parking attendants will be available to assist you. You'll enter the hospital through a lobby on the lower (underground garage) level. Stop by the Hospitality desk to validate your parking ticket. The South Elevators serve the parking garage.
  • Visit NIH Traffic for the most up-to-date information related to parking, traffic and associated construction.

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Pedestrian Access

Monday - Friday 6 am to 10 pm
Use the NIH Gateway Center.
Location: Rockville Pike (Route 355) and South Drive

Monday - Friday 10 pm to 6 am; weekends and holidays
Use the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility (CVIF). Once cleared through security, a shuttle will take you to your destination on campus. Location: Rockville Pike (Route 355) between North Dr. and Wilson Dr.

If arriving from METRO Monday-Friday 10 pm to 6 am; weekends and holidays
At the top of escalator, turn right and proceed towards "Bus Stop" area. To walk to the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility (CVIF) Entrance, follow the blue directional signs marked "CVIF" or to access a shuttle, use your personal cell phone to call 301-496-3316 and request a shuttle pick-up at Metro. A shuttle marked "Children's Inn/ Family Lodge" will arrive and take you directly to the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility (CVIF). Once cleared through security, the shuttle will take you to your destination on campus.

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Security Note for Visitors and Patients

Campus Access and Security

The National Institutes of Health, like all Federal Government facilities, has instituted security measures to ensure the safety of our patients, employees, guests and facilities. Please visit the Department of Homeland Security National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) site to learn more about any current terrorist threat alerts for government and public entities that may impact NIH security.

All visitors must enter through the NIH Gateway Center. You will be asked to submit to a vehicle or personal inspection. Visitors over 15 years of age must provide a form of government-issued ID such as a driver's license or passport. Visitors under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Please be aware that Federal law prohibits the following items on Federal property: firearms, explosives, archery equipment, dangerous weapons, knives with blades over 2 1/2 inches, alcoholic beverages and open containers of alcohol.

Possession of Marijuana (Cannabis) is prohibited on NIH campuses, facilities and its grounds. Persons are not allowed to bring medical or recreational marijuana onto the NIH campuses, facilities and grounds, even if they are enrolled in a state-approved medical marijuana program or have a prescription for medical marijuana use. State laws governing the use of marijuana do not apply at the NIH. Marijuana (Cannabis) is an illegal, Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 801(c)(c)(10).

Visitors are encouraged to use public transportation such as the Metrorail subway system which has a convenient stop (Medical Center) on the NIH campus.

Visitors will be required to show one (1) form of identification (a government-issued photo ID-driver's license, passport, green card, etc.) and to state the purpose of their visit. The NIH Gateway Center is located adjacent to the Medical Center Metro Station at the South Drive entrance to campus from Rockville Pike / Wisconsin Avenue (Route 355). It combines visitor parking, non-commercial vehicle inspection and visitor ID processing, all in one location. The NIH will process all visitors in vehicles or as pedestrians.

Patients and patient visitors should continue to enter campus at the West Drive/Cedar Lane entrance during the hours of 6 am to 10 pm, 7 days a week.

Real ID

*** REAL ID enforcement is delayed until May 7, 2025 – the extension does not apply to commercial vehicle operators. ***

The REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, such as NIH, from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards that do not meet these standards.

Under the REAL ID ACT, NIH may only accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards that meet the standards required by the ACT to access our facilities. Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) issued by Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington are considered acceptable alternatives to REAL ID-compliant cards and will also be accepted for official REAL ID purposes. Most EDLs do not contain the star marking and this is acceptable. The EDLs do however state they are enhanced driver’s licenses and have an American flag either overlapping the picture or at the bottom right hand corner.

Individuals who come to the NIH's Clinical Center for inpatient or outpatient services are not subject to the REAL ID Act of 2005.

Approved forms of ID required to enter NIH facilities as of May 7, 2025:

  • REAL ID Driver's License or State Identification Card or Enhanced Driver's License
  • Passport or Passport Card
  • HSPD-12 PIV or CAC Card
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Federally Recognized, Tribal-Issued Photo ID
  • Canadian Provincial Driver's License or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Card
  • USCIS Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • Other Less Common Documents (e.g. Merchant Mariner Credential)

Please visit Homeland Security's Real ID Act page for more information.

Security on Campus

Due to the checking of IDs at the perimeter, employees and visitors will not be required to show their ID again to gain access to the majority of buildings on the NIH Bethesda campus during the normal business day. Employees and visitors should continue to wear their identification prominently at all times while on campus.

Guards will remain at certain buildings to address specific program requirements such as sensitive research and safety concerns. At building entrances where guards are posted:

  • Visitors may be required to log in, wear a visitors' pass and have an employee escort them through the building.
  • Visitors may be required to pass through a metal detector and have bags, backpacks or purses inspected or x-rayed as they enter buildings.

Security staff will be looking for and confiscating any suspicious or potentially dangerous materials. U.S. Code prohibits bringing any dangerous weapons onto Federal property, including anything with a blade longer than 2 ½ inches. Meeting participants may want to leave extra bags or personal materials at their hotel to minimize the time needed for inspection.

NIH Security Notices

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Getting Around the Hospital


Hospitality desks are located throughout the hospital, including at the main entrance and in the lobby adjacent to the Patient Parking garage. Staff can answer your questions and provide directions.

The Clinical Center's  free app for smartphone devices called NIHCC Take Me There is available to download from the Apple Store or Google Play. It enables users to pinpoint their current location and view directions to nearly anywhere inside the building. There is also a web version,, which allows users to view directions online and share with others via email or print.

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Patient Services

Many of the resources patients need have relocated to the first floor of the new hospital. Near the Central Elevators you'll find Admissions and Patient Travel. The Cashier and Voucher offices are located in the in the lobby at the main entrance to the hospital. Luggage can be stored in lockers located in the Transportation/Waiting Area at the main entrance. Social Work is on the second floor. Outpatient clinics remain in their current locations.

The hospital's two cafeterias (B1 and 2nd floor) remain in the Magnuson Center. A coffee bar in the hospital's first floor north atrium is open weekdays, 7 am – 5 pm.

More information on Patient Services.

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Shuttle Service and Public Transportation

NIH operates free shuttles to and from BWI, Dulles, and Reagan National Airports from Sunday to Friday, and on the following Federal holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day. NIH also operates free shuttles to and from several area hotels, the Children's Inn, and the Family Lodge. The shuttles leave from the main entrance of the NIH Hatfield Center. A Metro stop is located on the NIH campus at the Rockville Pike and South Drive intersection. Shuttle service is available to the Metro location.

Shuttle schedules are online.

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For More Information

If you have questions before your upcoming visit, please call Admissions: 301-496-3141.

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This page last updated on 04/01/2024

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