At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Cost: Park grounds are free. There is a fee at Brookside Gardens for the greenhouse and for the butterfly exhibit (well worth seeing).
Tips: Avoid weekends during spring, summer and fall. ◾ Stay off the train tracks when the train is in operation (generally mid-morning on weekends in the warmer months). ◾ The following are not allowed within the Gardens: pets; fishing; food, drinks, and picnicking; frisbees, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, and other recreational and sports equipment.
Best Seasons: Fall, spring.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Kensington CE
Wheaton Regional Park – Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center, Pine Lake Area
Shorefield Area – 2000 Shorefield Road, Wheaton, MD 20902
Brookside Gardens – 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902
Brookside Nature Center – 1400 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902
Wheaton Regional Park, managed by Montgomery County, is an extremely popular 539-acre park with extensive deciduous woods, hedgerows, open fields, and several small ponds, of which the largest is Pine Lake. The park, fairly hilly in parts, has excellent habitat diversity. There are three main areas of the park, named for the roads from which they are accessed: Glenallan (includes Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center, Wheaton Riding Stables, and an extensive trail system), Shorefield (includes Pine Lake and trails as well as picnic shelters, a miniature train and a carousel), and Orebaugh (primarily sports fields and associated structures). Most birders will want to visit the Glenallan and Shorefield areas.
In the Glenallan area, the side-by-side Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center (feeders in winter, nectar feeders in summer) provide different habitats, with mowed grass (swallows in summer), ornamental plants and flowers, a hummingbird garden, two ponds and great views of the sky. Brookside Gardens’ ornamental areas and wooded sections are good for migrant warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks and Gray Catbirds. There is an extensive trail system near the Gardens and Nature Center, including a self-guided nature trail immediately behind the Nature Center’s building (see trail map at link at left). The pond below the Brookside Nature Center always seems to have interesting passerines despite its small size, and may have Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers in spring. The pond by the gazebo in Brookside Gardens seldom has much beyond Mallards and Canada Geese, but Red-winged Blackbirds nest there.
In the Shorefield area, the vicinity of the carousel and miniature train, which connects with Pine Lake via a short trail, has become a surprisingly popular and productive place for local birders, especially in fall. Pine Lake has a marshy edge that can be good for Common Yellowthroat and other skulkers.
Over 185 species have been reported on eBird from Wheaton Regional Park. There is an eBird hotspot for the entire park, as well as separate hotspots for Brookside Nature Center; Brookside Gardens, and the Shorefield area near the miniature train, carousel and Pine Lake.
Wheaton Regional Park is great for migrant passerines in spring and even more so in fall; a few of the specialties include Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers, and Rusty Blackbird. The park occasionally hosts an Olive-sided Flycatcher in fall; look on dead snags. Green Heron and Wood Duck are resident breeders at Pine Lake, and there is a modest assortment of waterfowl in winter. Chipping Sparrows are present in summer; Swamp Sparrows are present in fall, winter, and spring. The many streams and ponds attract Winter Wrens as well.
Some of the trails and some of the facilities in Wheaton Regional Park are wheelchair accessible, including boardwalks near ponds at the Brookside Nature Center.
Pets are not permitted in Brookside Gardens. Pets are permitted in other areas of the park but must be on a leash and you must clean up after your pet.
Brookside Nature Center is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center.
Brookside Gardens features an excellent butterfly exhibit and the Nature Center has a hummingbird bird garden and a feeder area. ◾ The Nature Center has indoor and outdoor exhibits and offers numerous nature education programs; see https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/brookside-nature-center/. ◾ There are horseback riding stables (fee for riding) in the Glenallan Area; see https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/wheaton-regional-park/riding-stables/. ◾ From Wheaton Regional Park, there are connectors to the Sligo Creek Hiker-Biker Trail and the Northwest Branch trail system.
Biking is allowed on most of the trails in the park, but not within Brookside Gardens. ◾ The Orebaugh area features an extensive set of indoor and outdoor athletic facilities; see https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/wheaton-regional-park/orebaugh-area/.
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.
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/.
Large paved lots at the Shorefield Road access; additional parking near the dog park at the end of Orebaugh Avenue; parking also at Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center on Glenallan Avenue.
To reach the Shorefield Area of Wheaton Regional Park from I-495/DC Beltway: Take Exit 31 to go north on MD Route 97/Georgia Avenue. In 2.7 miles, turn right (east) on Shorefield Road. Shorefield Road will take you directly into the park in just 0.3 miles. Park near the carousel and train station.
To reach the Glenallan Area of Wheaton Regional Park, including Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center: Return to Georgia Avenue and turn right to go north. In 0.3 miles, turn right (east) onto Randolph Road. In another 0.3 miles, turn right again (east) onto Glenallan Road. The parking areas for Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center will be on your right (south side of road) in 0.5 and 0.6 miles, respectively.
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, Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Seneca Creek State Park
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBoardwalkFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeGift Shop or BookstoreHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksGardens & ArboretaMAEOE Green CenterNature CentersPonds, Lakes, and Reservoirs