fbpx Skip to the content
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Locust Grove Nature Center – Exhibits & Trails

Please Note: Outdoor exhibits, natural features, and trails are open every day from dawn to dusk. The nature center, restrooms, and the Nature Exploration Area are available only when the nature center is open. Additional restrooms can be found at the Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center during their regular open hours.

The Nature Exploration Area is only open during regular open hours. Please supervise children at all times.

Trails & Natural Features

Don’t miss taking in the beautiful natural areas around Locust Grove Nature Center. Please note: trail conditions vary with the seasons and weather.

Locust Grove Nature Center Trails Map

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 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 trees and shrubs like spicebush and red maple. In the spring, keep an eye out for the ephemeral wildflowers blooming before the tree leaves emerge and block the sun. In the winter, listen for the calls of barred owls in the late afternoon or early evening.

Locust Grove Nature Center is connected to over 10 miles of natural surface trails along the Cabin John Stream Valley corridor. 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.

 *Please note that the trails surrounding the Nature Center are for pedestrians only (no bicycles or motorized vehicles) and may be closed for programs on occasion.

Indoor Exhibits

Indoor Exhibits are available only during our Visitor Hours.

Wildlife Observation Area

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!

Animal Ambassadors

Locust Grove is home to several animal ambassadors, including snakes, turtles, quails, 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!

Rotating Displays

We rotate our displays, children’s book library, activities, and interpretive programs every season. We also offer special exhibits during our Theme Months. Check our Facebook page for additional information about our upcoming Theme Months.

Outdoor Exhibits

Our many outdoor exhibits and trails can be enjoyed any day of the week from sunrise to sundown.

Living Meadow

The meadow trail starts along the entrance drive, with banners to help you discover local native meadows and pollinators.  Spring brings early blooms, while summer welcomes butterflies and blossoms galore. Fall is for seeds and fruit, while most plants lie dormant all winter.  A walk through the meadow is an experience every day of the year.

Betsy Dotson Memorial Garden

A bronze statue

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 inside the nature center.

Nature Exploration Area


Montgomery Parks has been a leader in providing park visitors opportunities to explore 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 allows children to explore nature without limitations to imagination and to learn about the animals and plants around them. Follow the path to learn about animal homes and make connections to other places in the park.  This exhibit is designed for younger learners. Adult supervision is required. The Nature Exploration Area is an extension of our indoor facility and is open during the same hours so naturalist staff can answer your questions as you learn about animal homes and how people can be good neighbors to nature. The exhibit is intended for learning with interactive components but is not a playground. The Nature Exploration Area is meant for hands-on learning that keeps guests of all ages safe, so please refrain from running or climbing on the hillside.  Parents, caregivers, and teachers should explore side by side with their children to facilitate learning.  Cabin John Park has an outstanding playground located on Tuckerman Road that is on level ground and suited to active play.

Path to the Past

Take a journey back through time 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 dino dig site where a life-size replica of a dinosaur skeleton is waiting to be excavated. If you would like to dig, you may check out digging tools from the nature center by leaving an I.D. with the host at the front desk.

Woodland Labyrinth

The new woodland labyrinth is surrounded by giant white oaks and is a rustic pathway to walk in meditation.  It is located between the dino dig site and the Oak Grove fire ring at the top of the hill. The labyrinth is open for you to spend some time in peace with nature.

We love to see you learning and exploring in the park!  We thank dog owners for keeping dogs leashed and cleaned up after so that all visitors may have a positive experience.  Happy trails to you. Please Follow us on Facebook for regular updates and use hashtag #LocustGroveNature when you share pictures online.