On the last day of our visit to Washington DC we decided to have breakfast with my sister before hitting the road. We met at a cute local chain called The Silver Diner and chose the one in Greenbelt, just a few miles from where she was staying. Much to my surprise there was a National Park nestled in the midst of this DC suburb. Literally, right off the main drag, shopping plazas, fast food restaurants and turn off to a National park. We definitely decided to stop after our breakfast.
Totally full, we turned into the park and began to look for a Ranger Station. There were lots of trails and picnic areas but no signs for the ranger station. I decided our best bet would be to follow the signs to the Campground. Jackpot! There was a check in station and a Ranger. They had just experienced a power outage but they had all their Junior Ranger Materials laid out, books, badges and some great paper Ranger hats. The Ranger also supplied us with the last copy of the Climate Change booklet that she had. At this park the badges and the books were together so we scooped up both and then drove to find a trail to hike. Since we had the badge I told the kids we would do some in park activities on a hike and they could complete the word searches and matching activities on the drive.
The trails were nicely marked and had parking. We started a short loop and worked a scavenger hunt activity. This was a great outdoor park with kids. It is compact, and well tended, but still wild. I was impressed at how well the roads were hidden even just a short way into the hike. They had clearly been doing some park maintenance as you can see from the above picture lots of cut trees, and the paths looked like some had been freshly filled. There were convenient benches along the way for sitting.
It was hot, as one can imagine given it was August in the D.C. metro area so we didn’t hike for too long, about an hour. I had promised to take the kids to one of the playgrounds we had passed but the baby was pretty tired and we decided to hit the road instead. Overall this park was a great recreation park. I liked that it was bizarrely placed in the middle of a densely populated area, that it offered camping, and it was convenient. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the park and even after doing the Junior Ranger books, I’m not sure of what makes it a National Park. It may just be the Central Park effect, in having a wilderness in the middle of the urban sprawl. I definitely plan on checking out the camping rates, Greenbelt is equidistant from a couple of metro stops and it might be a great way to visit DC on a budget, but there was nothing that stood out in the way that many parks do, to make it definitively a NATIONAL PARK.