The date for the CYO cross-country carnival race was listed incorrectly in yesterday's Weekend section. The race is Oct. 27 in Falls Church.

MOTHER NATURE will be finishing up her annual exterior decorating over the next few weeks. With more than 75,000 acres of parkland nearby, Washington leaf watchers can have their color and picnic, too. The parks come in all shapes and sizes, each with perfect spots to plunk down a picnic basket. The only problem may be in choosing the right spot.

To make things a bit easier, we've asked local park authorities for their favorite picnic spots. Most of their choices have grills and tables, hiking and jogging trails. Some have naturalists and nature centers, and one, Rock Creek Park, even has stables with horses for hire.

So, let's move on out and picnic. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


F. Alexis H. Roberson, director of the D.C. Department of Recreation, is partial to larger parks that offer "plenty of room for varied activities." Roberson's picks are Langdon Park, 20th and Franklin streets NE; Kenilworth Parkside, 4300 Anacostia Avenue NE; and Takoma Recreation Center, Third and Van Buren streets NW.

All three parks have lighted tennis courts, swimming pools (in season), ball fields, tiny tot play areas, picnic groves and large open spaces perfect for volleyball, horseshoes and tossing Frisbees. And all three are open dawn to dusk, with no admission fee. The Takoma Park center also has shuffleboard courts. The Kenilworth park has fewer large trees than Roberson's other two favorites, but it's adjacent to the 200-acre Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens where there are plenty of large trees and a lovely garden walk filled with flowers and small native animals.

Roberson has two other favorite picnicking spots: Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park and the small picnic grove next to the Carter Barron Amphitheater near 16th and Kennedy streets NW. "Both have large trees and are close in to town," says Roberson, and "at Pierce Mill the creek gives a refreshing feeling and the mill itself is enjoyable." And it may well be for this reason alone, figures Roberson, that Pierce Mill is one of the most in-demand picnic areas in town. Picnic tables are generally first come, first served. But if you want to reserve an area for a group, call 673-7646. For information on D.C. parks, call 673- 7660. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Sandra Alley, a Public Affairs officer with the National Park service, has her area favorites, too. One is East Potomac Park at Hains Point, a peninsula jutting out into the river.

"It gets crowded and there're planes overhead, but it is a great area," she says. "And it has 'The Awakening,' a huge sculpture of a giant coming out of the ground." The park also has a 36-hole golf course and, during the summer, a swimming pool.

Alley also thinks of Rock Creek Park as a perfect in-town picnic spot. Authorized by Congress in 1890, the park has 1,754 acres, making it one of the largest urban parks in the world. Despite its size, it's easily accessible to city dwellers. It's not unusual for picnickers to arrive by taxi.

Rock Creek offers remarkable diversity, says Alley. Some areas are quiet, but there's plenty of room for team sports, biking, jogging, walking or just cruising in the car. Equestrians can ride the 11-mile long bridle trail that winds through a lovely wooded portion of the park. And there's no need to pack your own mount; horses can be rented at the park's riding center (Military and Glover roads NW).

In addition to savoring the serenity of Pierce Mill (Beach Drive and Park Road), visitors can also enjoy the Art Barn (2401 Tilden St. NW), which shows works by area artists; the Rock Creek Nature Center (5200 Glover Rd. NW), complete with observatory and exhibits; the National Zoological Park (3001 Connecticut Ave.); and the Carter Barron Amphitheater (4850 Colorado Ave. NW).

Down by the river at Virginia Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway, the Thompson Boat Center, a National Park Service concession, rents bicycles, canoes and rowboats by the day or by the hour, from 7 to 7 daily. If the wide river intimidates you, try renting a paddle boat at the Tidal Basin (11 to 7 weekdays, 9 to 7 weekends). However, landlubbers may be more interested in the park's 18-hole public golf course and club house at 16th and Rittenhouse streets NW. (723-9832, open dawn to 5). There are plenty of picnic tables up for grabs in Rock Creek Park, but groups of 25 or more picnickers are required to obtain permits (call 673-7646).

Another of Alley's favorites, just outside D.C., is Fort Hunt in Alexandria. "I like water and it's not far from the river," she says. "It's convenient to the (George Washington) Parkway, has a shelter for groups, playing fields and there are all sorts of activities that groups can do. Or, just two people can have a picnic." It's open dawn to dusk, no fee.

For a complete list of picnic areas in the District of Columbia, write: National Park Service, 5000 Glover Road NW 20015, or call 426-6700. MARYLAND


This Chesapeake Bay border county has taken advantage of its waterfront, building its parks in some choice locations. Tom Donlin, the county's assistant director of parks and recreation, says these are some of his favorite spots to picnic:

* Downs Memorial Park in Pasadena. This 231-acre award-winning park runs for 2,000 feet along the Bay -- much of it in its natural state -- and provides grills and plenty of space for picnickers. There are pavilions for large groups, for which reservations are a must. Fishing is allowed from the shoreline, and there are seven miles of hiking and bicycling trails. To get there, take U.S. 50 to Route 2 (Ritchie Highway) to Route 100 to Mountain Road. Open 9 a.m. to dusk, closed Tuesdays. $2 per car for county residents, $4 non-county. 301/437-7650.

* Thomas Point Park, on Arundel Beach Road, southeast of Annapolis. This is a very small park looking out onto the Bay and requires a permit for entrance. It doesn't have a boat ramp but there is fishing off the bulkhead. Small pavilions allow for quiet picnics and views of the Bay and wildlife, especially nesting osprey. Open dawn to dusk. Permits are $2 monthly and are available by writing: Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, Box 1831, Arundel Center, Annapolis MD 21404, Att'n: Thomas Point Permit; Enclose a money order or check for $2. Or you can buy a permit in the parks office in the Winter Ode Building on the Crownsville State Hospital grounds off Generals' Highway in Crownsville. 301/987-9600.

* Crofton Park, a new park on Route 424 in Crofton, is a nicely designed park area with picnic groves, ballfields, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts and a small pond. Open dawn to dusk, no fee. 01/987-9600. MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Dave Robbins, director of the Montgomery County Recreation Department, doesn't have to fuss with the day-to-day operation of the parks, but he is responsible for the programs offered there. And he suggests picnicking at the county's two largest parks:

* Cabin John Regional, 548 acres at Tuckerman Lane and Westlake Drive in Bethesda. Open 10 to sunset, no fee.

* Wheaton Regional, 533 acres and the county's oldest regional park, which can handle as many as 2,000 picnickers at once. Open 10 to sunset, no fee.

Both spots offer walking trails, playgrounds and picnic sites.

* Robbins also likes Little Bennett Regional Park, nearly 4,000 acres of only partly developed parkland up I-270 near Clarksburg.

"It's nicely maintained, it's beautiful looking and it has good security," says Robbins. "And it has campgrounds that will remind you of West Virginia."

He isn't the only county official who thinks highly of the new park. Bob Young, the associate director of county parks, points out that from the park's ridge "you can look right into Sugarloaf Mountain. It's so beautiful that you want to lock it up and keep it for yourself."

Although there are no established picnic areas yet, Young says there's some space to picnic along Hyattstown Mill Road, which runs through the park. There's also a hiking trail and a small stream for fishing (Maryland license required) but he says it's more a scenic park than a sporting one. The park is open sunrise to sunset; no fee except for reserved camping. For campsite information, call 972-9222; for other park information, 972-6581.

* Another of Bob Young's favorite picnic spots is Needwood Lake, in Upper Rock Creek Regional Park at 15700 Needwood Lake Circle, about three miles northeast of Rockville. (Park entrances are at Avery Road and Needwood Road.) The 74-acre lake, with three large picnic areas on the eastern shore and a 27-hole public golf course (a regulation 18-hole and an "executive 9-hole") on the opposite shore, make it "a very pleasant place to picnic," he says. Hours are 8 to sundown. No fee to use the park. 948-5053. PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY

Prince George's County has nearly 16,000 acres of parkland that include large regional parks with wide-open picnic groves and several smaller parks at historic sites. Several of the larger spots also offer bridle paths and boat rentals.

Hugh B. Robey, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation likes: * Louise Cosca Regional Park at 11000 Thrift Road in Clinton. Robey cites the park's rolling terrain as one of its best features, along with its many tennis courts, a nature center, a bridle path, sheltered picnic areas that can accommodate large groups, ballfields and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day there's a $5 parking fee on weekends for visitors who are not residents of Prince George's or Montgomery counties; free the rest of the year. Picnic shelters are free on a first-come-first- served basis. But if you wish to reserve a group site, there is a fee depending on the size of your group and where you're from. For picnic permits for parks in Prince George's County, call 699-2415. For information on Cosca, call 868-1397.

* Fletcher's Field, 5200 Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale, is more than 40 acres of meadowland along the banks of the Anacostia River. There are two lighted tennis courts, a lighted ballfield, a basketball court, play equipment and picnic area. Open dawn to dusk, no fee.

* Calvert Road Community Park at 5202 Calvert Road is a 25-acre parcel of land along the Anacostia River, a short walk from the historic College Park Airport. There are bike trails, grills, room for volleyball and one of the area's free disc golf courses. Open dawn to dusk, no fee. For information on Fletcher's Field and Calvert Road parks, call 699-2415.

For a complete guide to picnic sites, send $1 to: Park Permits Office, MNCCPC, Park Permits Office, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County, 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale MD. 20737. For information, call 699-2407. FREDERICK COUNTY

Earl Eyler, superintendent of parks in Frederick County, has these recommendations:

* Gambrill State Park, U.S. 40 West, six miles west of Frederick. A mountaintop overlook provides a panoramic view of Frederick, both city and county. Lots of picnic sites and room to hike. Open 10 to sunset, no fee. 301/473-8360.

* Loys Station Park, a tiny park that runs along Owens Creek, five miles west of Thurmont on Old Frederick Road. A lovely setting, complete with grills and picnic tables along the running stream (fishing with permit only). Open 8 to 6, no fee. 301/694-1646.

* Catoctin Mountain Park, Chestnut Picnic Area, three miles from Visitors Center on Park Central Road. (From U.S. 15 north take Route 77 west 2 miles to Visitors Center.) Plenty of picnic spots, deep in the Catoctin Mountains. Weekends open 8 to 6; weekdays 8 to 5. No fee. 301/663-9330.

For more information on Frederick parks, call 301/694- 1646. MARYLAND FOREST, PARK & WILDLIFE SERVICE

The Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service runs 35 parks through the state, some of which charge admission. Associate Director James Mallow suggests trying:

* Swallow Falls State Park, 9 miles northwest of Oakland in Garrett County, for "the naturalness of it." It's about 255 acres with about a hundred picnic tables and a small camping area surrounded by white pine and hemlock. Open 8 to dusk, no fee. 301/334-9180.

* Seneca Creek, 11950 Clopper Road near Gaithersburg in upper Mongomery County, offers an extensive picnic area and fishing in the 90-acre manmade lake. There are also hiking trails, grills and group picnic areas with shelters that can be rented. Open 8 to dusk, 50-cent fee per ca. 301/924-2127.

* Mallow also gives a "special mention" to Point Lookout State Park at the very tip of St. Mary's County on Route 5, about 70 miles southeast of Washington. Once a prisoner-of- war camp for Confederate soldiers, the park now offers scenic picnicking, camping (both electric and sewage hookups) and a visitors center. The point juts into the lower Potomac river and the Chesapeake Bay, perfect for boating, crabbing and fishing. Open 8 to dusk; no fee. Campsite hookups close October 28. 301/872-5688.

For more information on Maryland state parks, call 301/269-3771. VIRGINIA


Park Division chief Fred Louis is responsible for the county's 125-park system. All three of Louis' favorites picnic sites are connected by the Four Mile Run bicycle trail, which runs from Shirlington north to the Falls Church line to the W&OD trail. Here are his favorites:

Barcroft Park, 4100 South Four Mile Run Drive, 70 acres near Shirlington. "It's popular with athletes and is a lovely, wooded area with a creek and covered pavilion," says Lewis. "It's usually booked every day, April to October, for groups, but usually there is room for family picnics. Four Mile Run Creek runs between the athletic field and the general picnic area." It's open dawn through dusk, no fee. The rental fee for the covered pavilion is $25. Call 558-2426.

* Bluemont Park, 601 North Manchester St., about 70 acres centrally located in the county. Has scattered picnic areas and a pleasant open area along Four Mile Run Creek. There's a huge picnic pavilion that holds up to 300 people, right next to the free disc golf course. Open dawn to dusk, no fees except for the rental of the pavilion, $25. 558-2426.

* Bon Air, 850 North Lexington St., about 24 acres. "Probably my favorite," says Louis. It has a wonderful horticulture display with a large azalea and camellia garden, an ornamental tree planting area and a picnic area in the back part ofark. Same hours and phone as above.

For more information about Arlington parks, call 558-2700 or 558-2426. FAIRFAX PARK AUTHORITY

Public information officer Miriam Kochensparger, who's responsible for a lot of parks in Northern Virginia, says, "I love them all but everyone has favorites." Here are hers:

* Burke Lake Park, 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station. The 218-acre lake is stocked with fish by the Virginia Fish Commission; rowboats can be rented (6:30 to dark, weekends; 7 to dark weekdays). The park also has a golf course, playing fields, disc golf, a fitness trail for joggers and a five-mile bike trail. Kochensparger's been on the job for three years and loves to bicycle but hasn't "gone the full five miles yet" because she usually stops for a picnic along the way. Open 6:30 to dark weekends, 7 to dark weekdays. 323-6600.

* Colvin Run Mill Park, 10017 Colvin Run Road. Just five miles west of Tysons Corner, it has an operating gristmill with a water wheel, general store and ducks year-round.

"It's a very pretty setting and educational for the little ones," says Kochensparger. The general store sells the stone- ground flour and the miller's house has exhibits. There are picnic tables and areas scattered around the grounds. Open 11 to 5 daily; no fee except to tour the mill -- $2 adults, $1 children. 759-2771.

* Frying Pan Park, 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon "I like going to the horse shows," says Kochensparger. "There are also some picnic tables on the grounds so you can picnic and then go into the equestrian center and see the horses. There're also a lot of special events like flea markets and arts and crafts shows. It's a different kind of a park, a good place for the family." Open 8 to 9, no fee to use the park. 437-9101. NORTHERN VIRGINIA REGIONAL PARK AUTHORITY

Authority executive director Darrell Winslow says his favorite park is Red Rock, just outside Leesburg. It doesn't have a formal picnic area, but there are plenty of ideal spots.

"It's a tiny park in Loudoun County with a wonderful overlook, a panoramic view of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac River below. It's just hills and beauty," says Winslow, "truly an undisturbed area." To get there, Take Route 7 west to Leesburg, go north on U.S. 15 to Edwards Ferry Road (Route 773) for 11/2 miles. Red Rock is on the left. Open 10 to dark, no fee. 352-5900.

When it comes to serious picnicking, Winslow likes to take his lunch to:

* Occoquan Regional Park, on the Fairfax shore of the Occoquan River. (Take I-395 to Route 123 North, exit 53, cross the Occoquan and follow 123 for 11/2 miles to park entrance on right.) There's ample room for picnicking in this 400-acre site along Belmont Bay and the Potomac River. There's a boat launching ramp and gazebo-like picnic shelters, which are nestled in the trees that hang over the riverbank.

"It's a spectacular, beautiful and fantastic design," says Winslow. "You can sit there and watch the boats go by . . . There's plenty of seclusion. If I was trying to impress someone, I'd take them there." The park also boasts soccer and baseball fields and a batting cage. Open 10 to dark, no fee. 690-2121.

* Bull Run Marina on Old Yates Ford Road, the western shore of Bull Run stream. (Take I-66 west to a right on Clifton Road to a left on Henderson Road to Old Yates Ford Road.) This small park is only open Friday through Sunday and on holidays, 6 a.m. to dark. "Not many people know picnicking is there," says Winslow. "It's on the Occoquan Reservoir in kind of a wilderness setting. They have boat rentals, boat launch, visitors center with snack bar and a bait and tackle shop, nature trails but it is a very small park." But there are lots of picnic tables and grills. A favorite spot is one stand of hemlock trees where it smells like Christmas all year, says park authority spokesperson Dorothy Werner. 631-0549, weekends only.

* Pohick Bay Regional Park and Bull Run Regional Park "are the most popular among park users," Winslow says. "They actually handle thousands of people." Each has picnic groves, ball fields and hiking trails. Both are open 10 to dark and both are free to residents of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the cities of Falls Church, Alexandria and Fairfax. Others pay $4 per vehicle.

Pohick Bay is on Gunston Road, near Gunston Hall. Take I-95 south to Lorton and follow signs to the park. 339-6100. Bull Run is off U.S. 29 near Centreville. Take I-66 west to Centreville and follow park signs. 631-0550.

For more information on Northern Virginia Regional parks, call 352-5900.