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The Laurel Inner Space: Rest on your Laurel: Priceless family weekends on the cheap

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

By AGNES PASCO CONATY 

Except for some unusually chilly days, April promises to be a month you and your family could start to go out in your neighborhood for a hike, a bike or a kite.

My family and I have a few favorite local spots we go to for a short walk. Rocky Gorge Reservoir (16601 Supplee Lane) is not too far from where we live. With a comfortable hike, you get a scenic view of the reservoir, which is open from dawn to dusk from now through Nov. 30 for fishing, boating and birding. The park features picnic tables, a tennis court and a children’s playground along Montgomery Road, adjacent to the West Laurel Community Center. Visitors over 16 must pay a small permit fee, but the park is free for seniors, veterans and military personnel, and children under 16, who must be accompanied by an adult. Permits may be purchased online (my.wsscwater.com) or onsite at the WSSC building (14501 Sweitzer Lane). You can also purchase a permit (and pay your water bill!) using the WSSC WATERshed mobile app, which is available (IOS and Android) on Google Play. 

Not far from Laurel is the Brighton Dam azalea garden and visitor center (2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookville), where thousands of azaleas lend extraordinary color during their peak bloom in late April or early May. There are lots  of opportunities for birding, picnicking and boating at the Triadelphia Reservoir behind the dam.

My family’s go-to bike route is just a short ride from home. Granville Gude Park (8300 Mulberry Street) has a largely flat, 0.9 mile loop with a lovely water fountain view. The route’s also great for walking, birding and picnicking. 

Not too far away is Fairland Regional Park (13950 Old Gunpowder Road), which offers hiking and biking on gravel roads and along some hilly trails. These 3.1 miles of varied terrain are generally just mild slopes but may be a little challenging for some..

One of the hike and bike trails on our list is the Patuxent Research Refuge (10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop). The refuge has walking trails ranging from 1.7 miles to 8.1 miles and offers endless opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife. The refuge also has a visitor center with great exhibits and events.

On windy days, we go to the Panther Field (14300 Gunpowder Road) to fly our kites; we are careful to launch in a wide area far away from power lines. Panther Field is a great spot to practice soccer moves, do hill climbing or have a picnic. 

Laurel’s exceptional parks and accessible recreational facilities are available to everyone either free or at reasonable cost. With these terrific venues within easy reach, we could literally rest on our Laurel.


Agnes Pasco Conaty is a college math and environmental science adjunct professor who also works as senior research scientist and science lead for the GLOBE Observer Program at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

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