Hiking in the Patuxent Research Refuge

The Patuxent Research Refuge offers several nearly level hikes that include a lot of interest, including a the 1.8 mile Cash Lake Loop Trail, the 4.9 mile North Tract Loop, and the 2.4 mile Forest Trail.

Stretched for time, we chose the shorter “hike” (more like a walk, although there were a few muddy spots and trippy tree roots, around Lake Cash.

We encountered several families with young children and men fishing in the lake.

The hike is short but the scenery and wildlife are terrific. It starts at the visitor center for the Patuxent National Wildlife refuge, near Beltsville, Md, and winds around the lake. Usually you’re shaded, but there are a few points where you cross floating bridges or unshaded parts of the lake in open sun.

Because of the varying scenery walking along the lake, in woods, crossing bridges, board walks, there’s a lot of interest for kids, and since it’s almost flat, a great place to start introducing the littlest ones to a love of nature.

There are also numerous benches and places to contemplate the beauty of Lake Cash.

Patuxent Research Refuge supports a wide diversity of wildlife in forest, meadow and wetland habitats. The land is managed to maintain biological diversity for the protection and benefit of native and migratory species.

During the fall and spring migrations, many waterfowl species stop to rest and feed. Approximately 270 species of birds have been documented on the refuge. We saw ospreys and great blue heron.

We visited during the time of Covid-19, so the wildlife /visitors center was closed. When my now-adult kids were much younger, we brought them there several times, and it was always a fun visit.

Established in 1936 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Patuxent Research Refuge is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the United States established to support wildlife research.

Getting there: 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop Laurel, MD

Hours: the grounds are open sunrise to sunset. Please check the website for visitor center hours and other specifics.

Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/patuxent/

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