Little Bennett Regional Park
23701 Frederick Road, Clarksburg, MD 20871
There is nothing “little” about Little Bennett Regional Park. At 3,700 acres, it is the largest of Montgomery’s county-owned parks. The park is located in northern Montgomery County, abutting the border with Frederick County. The park is located in the valley of the Little Bennett Creek and includes numerous tributary streams. Little Bennett Regional Park features a wide variety of habitats, including riparian woodlands, ridge-top forest, open fields, hedgerows, and wetlands. There is an alder shrub swamp that holds alder thickets, black willow, white turtlehead, cardinal flower, and native orchids; numerous natural and man-made vernal pools with a full complement of breeding amphibians; dry herb-dominated open canopy uplands; pristine skunk cabbage seeps; and extensive areas of rich floodplain. The park has some of the highest quality streams in the county.
With its diverse habitats, Little Bennett has hosted over 170 species of birds. The park is also home to a wide variety of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, amphibians, and reptiles. There are more than a dozen historic sites and points of interest within the park. A campground for RVers and tent campers operates year-round.
There is an extensive trail system, with over 20 miles of natural surface trails. There are also multiple parking areas, making it possible to drive close to a spot you want to explore on foot. The existence of so many parking areas makes it feasible for those who are mobility-impaired to bird here, by driving to multiple spots and then sample the various habitats by birding from or near the car.
Clarksburg Road goes through the park, running roughly north-south, and provides access to a picnic area as well several parking areas with trail-heads (see trail map at link at left). Other trail-head access points with day-use parking, going counterclockwise starting at the northwest corner of the park, include: Hyattstown Mill Road, off MD Route 355/Frederick Road; ◾ Sopers Branch Day Use Parking, also located off MD Route 355/Frederick Road; ◾ the campground area, accessed from Hammond Road off MD Route 355/Frederick Road; parking here provides access to a nature trail; ◾ Stoneybrook Maintenance Yard just south of the campground entrance; ◾ Burnt Hills Parking Area, off Burnt Hill Road, at the northeast corner of the park; ◾ Lewisdale Road parking area, just east of Clarksburg Road along the northern border of the park; and the Prescott Road parking and picnic area, adjacent to the Little Bennett Golf Course. That’s a lot of territory to choose from; to help you make a choice, we suggest obtaining a copy of the print publication A Birder’s Guide to Montgomery County, Maryland, available from the Montgomery Bird Club; see https://mdbirds.org/join/merchandise/a-birders-guide-to-montgomery-county/ for ordering information. The chapter on Little Bennett has details on suggested birding routes. Also see the interactive county park map available at https://mcatlas.org/parks/?find+G06. As you zoom in on this map, detailed features such as parking, picnic areas, trailheads, and restrooms will be displayed, as well as trails.
Over 170 bird species have been reported on eBird for Little Bennett Regional Park. Breeding warbler species include Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Ovenbird. Other notable breeding species include Wood Thrush and Veery; Yellow-breasted Chat; Scarlet Tanager; Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Acadian, Great Crested, and Willow Flycatchers; Wild Turkey; Yellow-throated, White-eyed, and Red-eyed Vireos; Indigo Bunting; and Blue Grosbeak. Barred, Great Horned, and Eastern Screech Owls all breed in the park; Barn Owl has bred within the vicinity. Pineland areas of the park may still harbor Whip-poor-wills. Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, and Cooper’s Hawks breed in the park.
Long-eared Owls have been present in winter. The park can be fantastic in migration; all east coast warbler species have been seen here, and a super-rarity was a Black-throated Gray Warbler.
Bluebird nest boxes at Little Bennett have consistently fledged high numbers of Eastern Bluebirds. Large flocks of bluebirds may be seen during winter foraging on the fruits and berries of abundant food sources, including Eastern red-cedar, Viburnum prunifolium, and winterberry holly. Red-breasted Nuthatches can sometimes be seen in the areas of the park with Virginia pine.
Pets are permitted on a leash.
Mobility-impaired birders can bird the park by driving to the wide assortment of parking and picnic areas; this technique will allow sampling of Little Bennett’s various regions, from or near the car.
Butterflies found at Little Bennett Regional Park include Maryland’s state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot; Olive Juniper Hairstreak; Appalachian Brown; Coral Hairstreak; Striped Hairstreak; and Harvester; among many others. ◾ Wetland areas at Little Bennett are good for dragonflies and damselflies, with vernal pools, swamps, streams, springs, and seeps each supporting different species. ◾ Notable reptiles found at Little Bennett include Copperhead, Northern Ring-necked Snake, Corn Snake, Eastern King Snake, Eastern Milk Snake, Queen Snake, and Eastern Ribbon Snake. Notable native plants include white turtlehead (the host plant for Baltimore Checkerspot), birdsfoot violet, Eastern red columbine, green milkweed, whorled milkweed, several orchid species, Virginia snakeroot, Small’s ragwort, and maidenhair fern.
The non-profit Friends of Little Bennett support the park and their website has a wealth of information about the park. We especially recommend the trail map provided by the Friends: you can print the map, but while it is open on your screen, you can click on a trail to go to a web page with a detailed description and photos of that trail. The trail descriptions can also be accessed directly from the website. There are many volunteer opportunities available with the Friends.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Montgomery Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. ◾ The Montgomery Bird Club has published A Birder’s Guide to Montgomery County, Maryland; this comprehensive, detailed printed book covers 17 major birding sites plus 18 “little treasures” in the county. To order, see https://mdbirds.org/join/merchandise/a-birders-guide-to-montgomery-county/.
Montgomery Parks has an interactive map available at https://mcatlas.org/parks/?find+G06. As you zoom in on a county park, detailed features such as trails, parking, picnic areas, trailheads, and restrooms will be displayed.
Paved lots throughout the park; see trail map.
From I-495/DC Beltway: Take Exit 35 to go north on I-270 toward Frederick for about 18 miles. From I-270, take Exit 18 for MD Route121/Clarksburg Rd) towards Clarksburg. Clarksburg Road has been rerouted near I-270, so after exiting I-270, make a left onto Gateway Center Drive and then a right to continue north on MD Route 121/Clarksburg Road. You will enter the park in about 1.7 miles. Watch for signed parking areas and trail-heads on both sides along Clarksburg Road. To get to other access points for Little Bennett, use the trail map.
Montgomery County: Black Hill Regional Park, Blue Mash Nature Trail, C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks, Lois Y. Green Conservation Park, 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, Wheaton Regional Park – Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center, Pine Lake Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Suburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Rivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)CampingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHorseback RidingOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Community and Urban ParksDriving Tours (Birding By Car)