The Locust Grove Nature Center provides a natural sanctuary from the hustle and bustle. Located in Bethesda, MD, the center offers a nice oasis.
To enter the Center you have to cross a bridge that is wonderful for young walkers and lends a sense of enchantment to your visit.
Locust Grove Nature Center Exhibits
Locust Grove is one of the smaller nature centers with only one exhibit room but it’s quite lovely.
A reproduction of a white oak seems to break through the ceiling. The branches represent the four seasons. Native fauna such as owls and squirrels surround the naturalistic tree. The room is also home to three live snakes and a tree frog.
This Bethesda nature center also has nature books, games and blocks will amuse the preschool set. Rockers and a view of the bird feeders will appeal to nursing mothers. The entire room has the feel of a tree house surrounded by windows.
If you want to avail yourself of the indoors only, call first for room availability since the room is often closed for programs.
A new back deck is the perfect spot for a cup of coffee or a picnic. It looks out over the Betsy Dotson Memorial Garden of native plants with a charming bronze sculpture of two children and a frog pond circled by bird feeders.
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In front of the center is a nature exploration area, where kids can:
- Climb a wooden snake and wooden bears
- Play with wind chimes
- Build a fort
- Play in the sandbox (themed buckets are available to borrow inside the center)
Slightly up the hill is a butterfly/hummingbird garden with picnic tables and beyond that is a pavilion with more picnic tables.
What the Center lacks in indoor space it more than makes up for in outdoor space.
Locust Grove has 5 hiking trails. The longest is the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail at 1.9 miles but the other trails are an easy .2 miles to almost half a mile.
Cabin John Stream Valley and Oak Ridge Trails go through the woodland; Upland Meadow Trail has plenty of bluebird boxes and goes through a meadow habitat.
Pine Ridge Trail, Cattail and Cabin John Trails all lead to the Cabin John Creek, perfect for stream splashing and wading. The creek even has a small beach.
Cattail Trail has lots of steps leading to the stream but is the most pleasant walk; Pine Ridge returns via the less scenic parking lot.
Programs & Events
The staff of naturalists at Locust Grove hold a variety of story times and programs for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as affordable camps and programs for older children and fun events for the entire family.
These events are quite popular and you do have to register so make sure to check ahead of time for upcoming events. Our Kids does regularly share Montgomery Park events in our weekly newsletter so sign-up to be notified of upcoming events (it’s completely free!).
In order to register for events, you’ll need to create an account on their website here.
Hours & When to Go
Locust Grove Nature Center hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 1pm – 5pm and closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
It’s a good idea to call ahead or check their Facebook page as it occasionally closes to the public if there’s a birthday party.
The Nature Center is also closed on major holidays.
Trails are open from dawn to dusk.
There is no charge to visit the Locust Grove Nature Center. Most of their programs, however, do have a nominal admission fee of around $5.
Good to Know Before You Go
- To rent a camp fire ring, call Locust Grove Nature Center at 301-765-8668 for fees and availability.
- Naturalists also host school groups, scouts and birthday parties.
- None of the trails are stroller or handicapped accessible.
- If you register for a preschool class, either make sure your child is a good walker or bring your Baby Bjorn.
- Picnic tables are located in various places.
- There are changing tables in the restrooms.
- A water fountain is outside of the restroom.
Getting There & Parking
Locust Grove Nature Center is located at: 7777 Democracy Boulevard Bethesda, Maryland 20817
Parking at the nature center is ample so you won’t have trouble finding a place.