Please Note: Outdoor exhibits, natural features, and trails are open every day from dawn to dusk. Indoor exhibits, Nature Center staff, and restrooms are available only during our Visitor Hours, which are Wednesday through Sunday from 1pm to 6pm. Additional restrooms can be found at the Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center during their regular open hours when the Nature Center is closed.
Don’t miss taking in the beautiful natural areas around Locust Grove Nature Center. Please note: trail conditions vary with the seasons and weather.
In the Upper Meadow, look for Monarch butterflies, caterpillars and eggs on the milkweed in summer. Check out the dogbane for iridescent dogbane beetles. Listen for wrens and bluebirds near the bluebird nest boxes. Watch for box turtles crossing the path in early morning.
In the Lower Meadow, watch for bats hunting in late afternoon or early evening. Sit under the shade of the 200-year-old sycamore, and imagine what the park looked like when it was part of a large farm. Watch as Cabin John Creek flows briskly by. In the spring, listen for the calls of spring peepers and other frogs from the vernal pools. You might also spot minnows, crayfish, bathing birds, or signs of beaver activity.
Visit with the giants as you follow the trails through the Mature Forest. Towering white oaks and tulip trees dwarf the younger understory. In the spring, keep an eye out for the ephemeral wildflowers blooming before the forest trees leaf out and block the sun. In the winter, listen for the calls of barred owls in the late afternoon or early evening.
Thanks to its location along the Cabin John Stream Valley corridor, Locust Grove Nature Center is connected to over 10-miles of Natural Surface Trails. There are options for long-distance hikers and bikers, as well as quarter-mile loop trails for shorter visits. To learn more about the trails, and to download a trail map, please visit the Cabin John Regional Park Trails page.
Indoor Exhibits are available only during our Visitor Hours, Wednesday through Sunday from 1pm to 6pm.
A life size oak tree exhibit commands the center of the indoor space at Locust Grove Nature Center. Find the animals that live in and near the tree; push the buttons to learn what they sound like! Look for signs that show the importance of trees both dead and alive.
Large windows throughout the circular building allow for bird and wildlife watching in any season. Step out onto our wrap-around deck to fully immerse yourself in the sounds of the forest. We keep our feeders full to entice our wild neighbors!
Locust Grove is home to several live animal ambassadors, including snakes, turtles, frogs, and toads. Many of our animals were once wild, but now live in captivity due to an injury or other issue which prevents them from living successfully outside. These animals make regular appearances in many of our programs, and are often out and about during Visitor Hours. Come and meet them for yourself!
We offer nature-themed toys, games, creative play stations, and storybooks for our younger learners to deepen their connection to our wild plants and animals.
We rotate our displays, children’s book library, toys and games, and interpretive activities every season. We also offer special exhibits during our Theme Weeks, which are generally the last week of every month. Check our Facebook page for additional information about our upcoming Theme Weeks.
Our many outdoor exhibits and play areas can be enjoyed any day of the week from sunrise to sundown.
Spring brings bluebells and bulbs, while summer welcomes butterflies and blossoms galore. Fall is for seeds and fruit, while most plants lie dormant all winter. Our well-tended, native plant pollinator garden will delight your senses year round.
The Betsy Dotson Memorial Garden was created at the bequest of her family to honor a remarkable member of our community. Betsy was a lawyer who lobbied actively and successfully for public institutions. She was also a gardener who delighted in all manner of interesting and unusual plants. She believed strongly in experiential education and established scholarships allowing college students to visit and work with members of Congress. Betsy appreciated the peacefulness of Locust Grove and valued the fact that it was accessible to urban dwellers. In establishing this shade garden, her family hopes that Betsy’ love of nature and education will be shared with park visitors. For more information, see the Memorial Garden Brochure and Betsy Dotson Garden – Why Native Plants?
The Montgomery County Parks Commission has been a leader in providing park visitors opportunities to play outside in nature as part of Maryland’s No Child Left Inside initiative. And nowhere is this as evident as in Nature Exploration Area created at Locust Grove Nature Center.
The Nature Exploration Area is designed to allow children to play in the world without limitations to imagination, to explore nature safely, and enjoy being outside for unstructured play. Loose parts – leaves, sticks, sand, rocks, and mud – are the variables that empower creativity. There is a sand pit for digging, logs and blocks for building, tubes for musical exploration, a nature loom, and several animal-home style play houses. Jumping stumps and a footbridge over an imaginary stream encourages imagination. Let your children freely explore this special space designed just for them while you relax and take in the sights and sounds from a shady picnic table.
Take a journey back through time, starting from present day to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth millions of years ago. As you walk, learn about the different periods of geologic time. When did the first plants and mammals appear? Have temperatures changed over time? How have our continents changed?
You’ll end your journey at a dig site, where you’ll discover a life size replica of a dinosaur fossil. Become a paleontologist; find your tools in the workbox at the dig site and see which dinosaur fossil you unearth.
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