At a Glance
Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk, year-round.
Tips: No restrooms. Take a friend. Because of limited parking and heavy traffic, consider taking the Metro or a cab to get there. Printed trail maps are available at the Lovers’ Lane entrance.
Best Seasons: During spring and fall migration and late fall and winter.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Washington West CW, Washington West CE, Washington West SW, Washington West SE
Local MOS Chapter: No MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird Club & Patuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. The Audubon Naturalist Society and the Audubon Society of DC cover DC.
Dumbarton Oaks Park
1703 32nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
The 27-acre Dumbarton Oaks Park was originally part of the famed Dumbarton Oaks estate in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC, known as the birthplace of the United Nations because of the organizing conference held there in 1944. Today, the Dumbarton Oaks Mansion and its adjoining formal garden and the Dumbarton Oaks Park are two separate facilities, each with their own entrance and managed separately. Dumbarton Oaks Park, the birding site discussed here, is part of the National Park Service system and considered a unit of Rock Creek Park for administrative purposes. The park is operated in partnership with the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy.
The Conservancy has taken the lead in a restoration of the park’s gardens and grounds, which have been altered and somewhat neglected over the years. Dumbarton Oaks Park has a significant history: the naturalistic gardens and man-made features were designed in the 1920s by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, the first woman landscape architect to earn a national reputation. The objective of the design was to create an illusion of country life within the city. For those interested in details of the restoration efforts at the park, we recommend the 200-page NPS document Cultural Landscape Report: Dumbarton Oaks Park, Rock Creek Park.
Today, Dumbarton Oaks Park offers a landscape of meadows, woodlands, wildflowers, bulbs and other ornamentals, paths and ponds, and constructed waterfalls. Paved trails wind through the property. Because of the ongoing restoration of the grounds, it is not possible to recommend a specific route to walk the property. Instead, consult the trail map at the link at left as well as the tips in the Birdlife section below.
While in the neighborhood, you might want to visit the adjoining Montrose Park, another NPS property, offering an additional 16-acres of public park space. See Open Street Map for a map showing the trails connecting Montrose Park, Dumbarton Oaks Park, and the Dumbarton Oaks Mansion and Gardens.
Over 125 species have been reported on eBird from Dumbarton Oaks Park. All of the birds typical of forested suburban landscapes can be found. There are tall trees that attract migrating warblers (28 species reported); a stream good for migrating song birds and Winter Wren in season; hedges and thickets for sparrows; a hemlock grove that attracts Pine Siskins, other finches, owls, and accipiters; a hemlock and rhododendron grove good for migrating thrushes and even woodcock; and in winter large flocks of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings throughout the park.
Free street parking is available on R Street NW. There is no parking within the park, which has pedestrian access only.
Some of the walkways are accessible to wheelchairs, but many areas have steps or hilly sections. Instructions for a two-minute cell phone ‘tour’ giving a historical overview are available at the Lovers’ Lane entrance; simply call the number listed at the entrance. There are no MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird Club & Patuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. Two organizations, the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Audubon Society of DC, hold field trips to birding spots in the District and the Greater Metropolitan DC region.
By car: From I-495/DC Beltway, take Exit 33 for MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue southbound. In 2.7 miles, at the traffic circle, use the 4th exit to continue on MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue southbound. In 0.9 miles, turn right to go southwest on Nebraska Ave NW. In 0.8 miles, use the left lane to merge onto Tenley Cir NW and take the exit for Wisconsin Avenue southbound. Drive south for 2.4 miles and turn right to go east on R Street NW. Lovers’ Lane will be ahead on the left in 0.2 miles. Look for street parking on R Street NW and then walk to Lovers’ Lane (pedestrian only). Lovers’ Lane is located approximately 200 feet east of the intersection of R Street NW and 31st Street NW. Turn north on the lane and walk downhill to the park entrance. Lovers’ Lane separates Dumbarton Oaks Park from Montrose Park and is signposted by a green-on-white wooden plaque reading, “Dumbarton Oaks Park, Open Dawn to Dusk.”
By Metro and Bus: Take the Metro Red Line to Dupont Circle and then the D2, D4, D6, or D8 bus west on Q Street to 30th Street. Walk north on 30th (uphill) to R Street NW. Go left on R Street NW to Lover’s Lane at the east end of the brick wall. Follow the lane north and downhill to the park.
Washington, DC: Anacostia Park, Battery Kemble Park, C&O Canal – Fletcher’s Cove and Boathouse, Constitution Gardens, East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and the Tidal Basin, Georgetown Reservoir & Palisades Trolley Trail, Glover-Archbold Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, National Arboretum, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island
Montgomery County: C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (Hughes Hollow), Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood, Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Seneca Creek State Park
Upland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Pond, Lake, or Reservoir
Features:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesPets AllowedYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksGardens & ArboretaHistorical SitesNational Parks & Monuments