At a Glance
Hours: Trails open sunrise to sunset. Nature Center: Tuesdays-Saturdays 9 am – 5 pm.
Tips: Bring a scope to view waterfowl in winter. ■ Some trails are steep; hiking boots and/or a hiking stick are advisable. ■ The trail system is extensive. Obtain a trail map from the Nature Center or print one out using the link below before you go.
Best Seasons: Spring and fall migration; summer for local breeders.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Kensington NW
Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank
Meadowside Nature Center – 5100 Meadowside Lane, Rockville, MD 20855
Lake Frank – 15201 Avery Road, Rockville, MD 20855
Meadowside Nature Center and its trail system covers almost 500 acres within the larger (1,800 acre) Rock Creek Regional Park, managed by Montgomery County Parks. Meadowside Nature Center and nearby Lake Frank present the lush streamside habitats typical of the Maryland Piedmont.
(Note: Do not confuse this county park with the similarly named Rock Creek Park, a National Park Service property located in Washington, DC. See the Birder’s Guide description for Rock Creek Park in DC at https://birdersguidemddc.org/site/rock-creek-park/.)
The Meadowside Nature Center property includes woods and meadows and an extensive trail system. There are two small ponds (Sunfish Pond and Study Pond) and the 54-acre Lake Bernard Frank, formed by damming the North Branch of Rock Creek, which flows north to south through the Nature Center area.
The terrain can be quite hilly, with many trails heading steeply downhill from the Nature Center building. There is a freshwater marsh near Study Pond. Plantings near the Nature Center were designed to attract birds and other wildlife, and there are native plant gardens for bees, birds, and other pollinators.
Breeding Pine and Prairie Warblers can be found during the warm months; Louisiana Waterthrushes nest along the North Branch of Rock Creek below the Nature Center. About 21 species of waterfowl may be found on Lake Frank, mainly in the winter to early spring, although there is a breeding population of Wood Ducks that is present year-round. House Wrens use boxes provided for them and can be seen and heard in breeding season. Thrushes occur in forested areas, including Wood Thrush during breeding season, Hermit Thrush in winter, and Veery, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked during migration.
The Nature Center trails can provide a good show of warblers during migration, with 31 species reported in all. Yellow-breasted Chat breeds in the brushy areas, and Rusty Blackbirds show up in wet woods in early spring.
The Nature Center is wheelchair-accessible, but most of the foot-trails are not. The nearby Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail, which extends to the DC line, is paved asphalt and is wheelchair-accessible. The Hiker-Biker Trail Map shows wheelchair access points; be aware that there are some steep slopes, also marked on the map.
Pets are permitted on a leash; you must pick up after your pet.
- Meadowside Nature Center is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center.
- Behind the Nature Center are enclosures for injured, unreleasable birds of prey. The Nature Center posts public feeding times on its website.
- The Nature Center has an extensive selection of indoor and outdoor exhibits and also offers nature education programs, including some in Spanish. See https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/rock-creek-regional-park/meadowside-nature-center/programs/.
- Montgomery Parks has an interactive map available at https://mcatlas.org/parks/. As you zoom in on a county park, detailed features such as trails, parking, picnic areas, trailheads, and restrooms will be displayed.
Local MOS Chapter:
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 (2008); this comprehensive, detailed book covers 17 major birding sites plus 18 “little treasures” in the county. The book is now out of print but is available as a free downloadable PDF, courtesy of the Montgomery Bird Club.
Paved lot near Nature Center; see trail map at link at left.
From I-495/DC Beltway: Take Exit 33 for MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue northbound. In 1.9 miles, at the intersection with MD Route 193, bear left to stay on MD 185/Connecticut Avenue. In another 3.8 miles, turn left to go north on MD Route 97/Georgia Avenue. Go 1.8 miles, then turn left (west) onto Norbeck Road. Go just 0.2 miles and take the first right to go west on MD Route 115/Muncaster Mill Road. The entrance to Meadowside Nature Center will be on your left (south side of the road) in 1.4 miles. Turn south onto the entrance road (Meadowside Lane) and proceed about 0.4 miles to the parking area. You can walk to Lake Frank using trails from the Meadowside Nature Center, or you can drive there directly.
To reach Lake Frank from the Meadowside Nature Center: Exit the Nature Center, turning left (west) onto MD Route 115/Muncaster Mill Road. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left (south) onto Avery Road. Go 1.6 miles on Avery Road and watch for an entrance to Rock Creek Regional Park on your left, just past the private residence at #211 Avery Road. There is a small parking area and then a short (less than a quarter-mile) trail to the dam at the south end of the Lake; from the dam you can follow trails along the lake shore in either a clock-wise or counter-clockwise direction, as far as you like.
Montgomery County: Black Hill Regional Park ■ Blue Mash Nature Trail ■ C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks ■ Little Bennett Regional Park ■ Lois Y. Green Conservation Park ■ McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (Hughes Hollow) ■ Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood ■ Seneca Creek State Park ■ Triadelphia Reservoir (Brighton Dam) ■ Wheaton Regional Park – Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center, Pine Lake Area
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseSuburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features:BeginnersBird Feeding StationFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:County ParksMAEOE Green CenterNature CentersPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsState Parks