Woodend Nature Sanctuary in Chevy Chase is a 40 acre green space run by the Audubon Naturalist Society. The grounds are open daily and free to visit from dawn until dusk. Audubon also hosts numerous kid and family nature activities on the grounds of Woodend throughout the year.
The nature trail is easy but not stroller friendly as there are many rocks and roots along the path. Most of the numbered trail stops are in the shade and there are many benches along the way to stop and take in the serenity of this peaceful place inside of the beltway.
The trail guide points out some native and invasive plants as well as types of trees along the way. It also aims to educate about the human impact on the land and its surroundings. The entire loop took our family about 35 minutes with many stops along the way for picking up sticks, looking for frogs in the pond and playing follow the leader.
The hike is suitable for kids 3 and up to do on their own two feet, but please leave all four legged “kids” home. No dogs or pets are allowed on site.
While Woodend Nature Sanctuary does not offer many bells and whistles for kids on an everyday visit, I found that the highlights for my girls were the simple things that we do not often take time for – jumping off of tree stumps, running a stick through the mucky water of the pond and checking out the tree tops from the elevated platform toward the end of the walk.
The gift shop in the mansion was also a big hit and we headed back home equipped with two new magnifying glasses to explore the wonders of the plants and trees in our own backyard. The shop offers a great selection of “nature gear” for kids, stuffed animals, and books. Audubon Naturalist Society members receive a 20% discount on select items in the store (and you do not need to have your membership card on hand, they can look you up!)
Being a member of Audubon has other perks here too like preferred sign ups and reduced prices for their hugely popular summer camps, birthday parties and after school classes. Monthly family programs are available at no cost to members at Woodend on select weekends. Non-member families pay just $5 per child.
Advanced registration is required for all family programs which are geared towards kids from 4 to 8 years old. All children must be supervised by an accompanying adult and each program is capped at 12 children.
In the fall, programs for children ages 18 months to three years old and their accompanying adults are held on Friday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m. These Lil’ Sprouts programs require advanced registration and cost $10 for members and $12 for non-members. Additional classes are held for preschool and school aged kids as well as scouting programs, school field trips and even an on site preschool.
Woodend Nature Sanctuary is a great place to spend an afternoon in nature with your kids without having to fill up the gas tank to get out of town.
Know Before You Go:
- Operating hours for the gift shop are 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm on Saturday and 12 to 5pm on Sunday.
- Restrooms are available in the mansion if you visit during operating hours of the gift shop. The restroom is up a flight of stairs and has no changing table (but does have a bathtub!)
- Always check your kids for ticks.
- Picnic tables are available and scattered throughout the property.
- A large playground is located about a 2 minute drive from the sanctuary on Jones Mill Road if you turn left out of the entrance.
Photo by Kim Engstrom