This park is a bit of a trek for us, but our visit was well worth the drive.
What a treasure! They have a fabulous visitor’s center, with wonderful resources for kids (and their parents). The trails are plentiful and well-marked, with a variety of lengths from which to choose. I highly recommend Claude Moore Park for kids and families of all ages!
And if your family is in the market for a great wildflower guide, read on for expert recommendations from a CMP naturalist.
We spent some time at the visitor’s center, exploring their super-fun resources for kids. My boys loved looking at the corn snake and painted turtle, as well as the many preserved fossils, specimens and stuffed (real) animals. There were turtle shells, bird’s eggs, owls, beavers, spiders and much, much more!
After than, we set off on the Hickory Nut Trail, which was about half a mile in length. It was perfect for my boys, ages 2 and 6, and our friends, ages 4 and 6. In fact, I think they could have handles a longer trail. But this gave us time and energy for more exploring around the ponds and historic buildings.
Even on a blustery day in November, there was plenty of nature to observe. We found tulip tree leaves. sweet gum leaves and “balls,” many oaks and maples, persimmon trees, geese, mallard ducks, a daddy long legs (or “daddy wegs,” as my youngest calls them), an endless variety of sticks and pinecones, cattails, dried-up Queen Anne’s Lace, a box turtle and more!
It was a little too cold to manage these, on top of supervising small children, but I LOVE these guides and lists provided at the Visitor’s Center. They’d be perfect for older kids, or for younger kids in nicer weather, when mom isn’t juggling gloves and tissues. 🙂 (And I definitely would not recommend trying to tackle them all in one hike or one day! Which just gives us more reasons to make repeat visits to the park…)
Note: we’ve found it helpful to use clipboards for scavenger hunt activities like this.
While November is not prime time for viewing wildflowers, it is prime time for making Christmas lists! On our family’s list this year is a good wildflower guide. We have small pocket guides that we love. (Read here about our favorite nature pocket guides for kids). These are what we carry in our small, “nature backpack” when we’re out and about on nature treks. But we need something much more comprehensive to keep at home for reference purposes.
Since we were at the Visitor’s Center and they had a wonderful collection of children’s books and nature guides, and since we were the only ones there at the time, I struck up conversation with the naturalist on duty. She was super-helpful and started pulling out all sorts of guides for me to examine.
Here are the top three guides she recommended (two of which were already on my list, hooray!):
- Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide–She said this is her favorite. The only possible drawback is that it’s arranged by leaves, as opposed to color. She mentioned starting out with one of the two below, and then progressing to Newcomb’s. I believe this is the same guide, with many more reviews posted on Amazon.
- Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers–This was her second favorite. She said she started out with this one, which is arranged by colors. Many reviews listed at the Amazon link.
- Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers–She said this is another good one, on par with the Audubon guide. We personally have the Peterson Tree Guide of this same series, and it’s very good.
- 21544 Old Vestal’s Gap Rd. / Sterling, VA 20164
- Ph: 571-258-3700
- Daily Park Hours: 7:00 a.m. until sunset
- Daily Visitor Center Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Claude Moore Park website
Park Overview (from the CMP website):
Claude Moore Park encompasses 357 acres of mature forests, young woodlands, wetlands, ponds, and meadows in eastern Loudoun County. All of the park’s programs are designed to foster an appreciation of Loudoun County’s natural and cultural resources in a fun and informative manner.
The park provides a unique green space nestled next to the Sterling Park neighborhood and just a mile from the Dulles Town Center Mall and several other shopping and restaurant areas. The park is approximately a mile south of the Route 7/Cascades Parkway interchange and a mile and a half east of the Route 28/Church Road interchange (using Church Road to Cascades Parkway).
Leave the highways behind as you enter the park along wooded park lanes – perhaps you’ll spot a deer, wild turkey, box turtle, or other wildlife that make their homes in the Claude Moore Park habitats.
- There are many spots with picnic tables and even kid-sized tables, which our little explorers loved. In nicer, drier weather a picnic blanket could be spread just about anywhere.
- There are two entrances to Claude Moore Park from Cascades. One (Loudoun Park Lane) takes you to the Rec Center and Heritage Farm Museum; the other (Old Vestals Gap Rd) takes you to the Visitor’s Center. The Old Vestals Gap Road entrance is closer to Route 7, while the Rec Center entrance is closer to Church Road.
- The Heritage Farm Museum sounds really cool, too. Click the link to the left to go to their website and read about all the wonderful activities and exhibits offered there.
Other posts you might enjoy:
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
- Exploring Nature with Kids: The Nature Display
- On-the-Go Nature Guides for Kids
- Chapman DeMary Trail in Purcellville, VA (and a few of our favorite nature gear items for kids)
- Quintessential Fall Day: Pumpkin Picking at Wegmeyer Farms
- Favorite Picture Books for Fall (updated)