Trail Discovery for Kids: Brookside Nature Center

Hike Information

  • Tom’s Trail is .75 miles starting at the Brookside Nature Center.
  • This trail is wide, without many tread obstacles, and has a few small hills. It is jogging stroller friendly.
  • From the parking lot in front of the Nature Center, walk to the asphalt path on the left side of the lot. Follow it until it intersects with the service road. A trail marker appears with Tom’s Trail and an arrow pointing to the right. Follow the path uphill (passing the trail off to the left). At the second trail intersection, continue to follow the sign for Tom’s Trail to the right. At the third intersection, turn right towards the nature center, through the meadow. (For a longer loop, one mile total, continue straight and it will loop around to the right to the Nature Exploration Area. Don’t follow signs to Pine Lake.) After the meadow, a sign will appear for the Nature Exploration Area on the left and the pioneer cabin and smoke house straight ahead. To complete the circuit, pass the pioneer cabin and follow the service road to the right back towards the nature center.
  • To make this hike longer, add the Oxbow Trail and the wood walkways around the pond or Oak Ridge and Equestrian Trail back to Tom’s Trail.
  • Link to the trail map.

Age Appropriateness

  • This trail is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

What is fun for kids?

  • Nature Center before or after the hike.
  • Nature Exploration Area behind the Nature Center. Great nature activities for kids, such as crawling through hollowed tree trunks, sitting in a human sized bird’s nest, playing in a sand garden, observing birds and butterflies through a blind, and many more stations.
  • Pioneer house and smokehouse.
  • Reading and learning about nature through interpretive signs.
  • Finding frogs and turtles in the pond.
  • Having lunch at a picnic table — adjacent to the Nature Exploration Area or at the Tom’s Trailhead.


  • Wearing bug spray is advised, along with a tick check after the hike.
  • Not too many cautions, go have FUN!

Hiking Along engages children in exploration of the natural world through hiking on scenic trails around the metro DC region. Groups of children, preschool to high school, participate in hands-on science activities to learn about the natural surroundings while hiking on trails. Visit for more information.

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OK Editorial Team

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