Enjoying outdoor recreation in Montgomery County is as easy as a walk in the park
It certainly isn’t hard to find a park in Montgomery County. That’s because the expansive Montgomery Parks system encompasses more than 10 percent of the total land within the county. Combine that with a variety of golf courses, soccer fields, tennis courts, bike paths, horseback riding trails and water access points for canoeing and fishing, and just about all you need to do to enjoy the great outdoors in Montgomery County is simply step outside.
The link to nearly all these activities is the parks system, a six-time winner of the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation Management, given by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and National Recreation and Park Association. Some 420 county-run parks cover more than 36,000 acres, with 500 lakes, 457 miles of streams, nearly 250 miles of paved and natural trails, 289 playgrounds and 114 picnic areas.
“We have everything,” says Mitra Pedoeem, deputy director of administration for Montgomery Parks. “It’s a very diverse system of parks that can offer different things to different people. And many of our parks are close to neighborhoods, so a lot of times people can just walk there.”
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Parks are packed with things to do. There are community and neighborhood recreation centers, indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities, senior centers, dog parks and numerous programs for children, adults and seniors. In addition, Montgomery Parks offers periodic pop-up activities where structures such as climbing walls and bike tracks are set up temporarily.
But there are also other parks where the focus is on relaxation, not recreation. More than 60 of the parks are untouched conservation areas rich in biodiversity, with natural trails that are ideal for bird watching or leisurely walks.
“There’s nothing there except the nature,” Pedoeem says.
The crown jewel of the park system is Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, a 50-acre property featuring intricately designed gardens surrounded by brooks and streams. During the spring and summer, Brookside offers the Wings of Fancy butterfly and caterpillar exhibit. And during the holidays, Brookside hosts the Garden of Lights, with more than 1 million colorful lights arranged in the forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements.
“There is always something for someone to do at Brookside Gardens,” Pedoeem says. “But it’s also a wonderful place to just sit and relax and enjoy the beauty of the flowers.”
And if the county-run parks aren’t enough, there are also several state and national parks in the area. Highlights include 6,700-acre Patuxent River State Park (ideal for hunting, fishing, hiking and horseback riding), 6,300-acre Seneca Creek State Park (with a 16.5-mile trail that follows the entire course of the creek) and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (a 184.5-mile pathway that is popular with bicyclists).
A County With Countless Activities
Parks aren’t the only form of recreation in Montgomery County. There are 32 golf courses in the area. The most famous is the private Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, which has hosted numerous professional tournaments over the years and was rated the top course in Maryland by Golf Digest in 2017. Five other courses on the top 10 are in Montgomery County. A number of quality public courses are also available, including nine that are run by Montgomery County Golf.
You can get your kicks at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds. With 24 irrigated soccer fields, the facility holds more than 5,000 matches each year and attracts more than 650,000 visitors. The 4,000-seat Championship Stadium has been the site of Olympic qualifying matches, men’s and women’s professional matches, a CONCACAF Champions League match, the ACC Men’s Soccer Championships and the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
The nearby Montgomery TennisPlex in Germantown offers eight indoor hard courts within two all-season, air-conditioned bubbles, as well as four outdoor lighted hard courts and a 1,500-square-foot clubhouse. Tennis courts can also be found at many of the regional and local parks.
Finally, whether you want to travel by foot, bicycle or even horseback, Montgomery County has an abundance of trails designed specifically for those activities. The 4.7-mile trail at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood provides plenty of scenic beauty, while the Capital Crescent Trail is a picturesque, 11-mile rails-to-trails route stretching from Silver Springs to Georgetown.