At Locust Grove Nature Center you can enjoy the park grounds and trails from dawn to dusk every day. The trails and outdoor exhibits are always available and the indoor exhibits are available when the building is open to the public from 9am-4pm Wednesdays, 9am-5pm Saturdays, and 1-5pm Sundays. There often is someone in the office every day of the week if you need to drop in with questions or to register for programs but please be aware that we run programs and school group tours during the other days of the week so we may not be available. Please follow us on Facebook for regular updates and great environmental info and hashtag #LocustGroveNature when you share pictures online. We love to see you having a great time in the park!
Choose your speed, hike or stroll, but don’t miss taking in the beautiful natural areas around Locust Grove Nature Center.
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 leaving the bat boxes in late afternoon or early evening. To learn more about bat boxes, please visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Bat Page. Sit under the shade of the 80-year-old sycamore and imagine what the park looked like when it was part of a huge farm. Watch as Cabin John Creek flows briskly by. You might spot minnows, crayfish, caddisfly larvae, 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.
Locust Grove Nature Center Trails at Cabin John Regional Park
|Activities||Hiking and Biking|
|Location||The park is located in the lower portion of the County south of Montrose Road and north of Democracy Boulevard between Seven Locks Road and Westlake Drive.|
|Trail length/surface||Natural Surface, 4 miles; Hard surface, less than 2 miles.|
|Trail characteristics||Some of the natural surface trails parallel the Cabin John Stream while others provide access to ball fields, the ice skating rink and picnic shelters. The hard surface trails are oriented to recreational facilities in the park.|
Access and parking
|Parking lots that offer the best access to the trail system are located along Democracy Blvd and Tuckerman Lane. Trail maps are available at Locust Grove Nature Center. The connector trail between the ball fields and the playground area is a rough gravel surface.|
|Contact||Park Manager may be contacted at 301-299-0024.|
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. We keep our feeders full to entice our wild neighbors!
Locust Grove houses two resident snakes – Houdini, our resident Black Rat and Seeker, our Corn snake. Black rat snakes are common in Montgomery County and are often found in trees. Corn snakes have become less common, but at one time were often found in areas where corn and other grains were grown and stored. Can you guess why? That’s right…the mice!
We also have two Eastern Box turtles, Crunchy and Buttercup. The Eastern Box turtle is a terrestrial turtle that can be found all over the Eastern United States. Female box turtles, like our Buttercup, typically have yellowish, brown eyes and the males, like Crunchy, have much brighter orange, red eyes. Box turtles are also known for having a hinged shell, which they are able to completely hide inside of, protecting them from predators.
Our Red Eared Slider, Paddles, is a semi-aquatic turtle who is not native to this area. He likes to split his time between swimming and basking on a rock under his heat lamp.
Our Northern Toad, Prince Charming, watches for treats of fresh mealworms and crickets. You will usually find him hanging out in his log house.
Our many outdoor exhibits and play areas can be enjoyed any day of the week from sunrise to sundown.
Observe the birds and antics of the resident squirrels from the back deck. Or, quietly visit the small pond to look for frog eggs or tadpoles in spring.
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 (pdf, 2.4MB) 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. At Locust Grove there is a sand pit for digging, logs and blocks for building, tubes for musical exploration, a waterfall to play in, natural materials and a pile of pinecones to bring out the inner artist. Jumping stumps and a footbridge crossing 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 tree trunk chair.
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 (Quaternary, Tertiary, Cretaceous, and Jurassic Periods). Discover important events that happened during each period. 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.