Rock Creek Park has 32 miles of trails, many of them with spectacular views. (Ann Cameron Siegal/For The Washington Post)

This story was first published in September 2013.

Hooray for fall! Okay, you’ve waved goodbye to summer and said hello to school. Even though you’ve put away your bathing suit, there are lots of new outdoor adventures for the crisp, cool days ahead.

One of the best ways to spend free time this fall is to savor the beauty of leaves once their bright green color gives way to incredible hues of oranges, reds and yellows.

You don’t have to join travelers heading to Skyline Drive to enjoy autumn’s splendor because there are plenty of local parks to explore. Let’s look at some free fall foliage spots nearby . . .

Ian McKinley, 11, explores the rocky base of the waterfall at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean. (Ann Cameron Siegal/For The Washington Post)

Patuxent River Park, 16000 Croom Airport Road, Upper Marlboro. (

Wetland and river views offer a wonderful opportunity to see nature at its finest. Enjoy a special “Kids Day in the Kountry” on October 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event includes pony rides, pumpkin decorating and woodworking and blacksmithing demonstrations.

(For more information, go to Ask a parent before going online.)

Or, your family can enjoy a Sunday-only drive through the park, featuring woods, fields and marshes along the Patuxent River. The 4.3-mile route includes opportunities to get out and enjoy the setting.


Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, 7400 Georgetown Pike, McLean (use the parking lot at the intersection of Route 193 and Swink’s Mill Road). (

Some paths require scrambling over rocks, but the most direct route to the Potomac River is by a wide, rolling, half-mile gravel path at the back of this parking lot. Have fun crossing the creek twice on concrete steppingstones. At the river, you’ll find gorgeous views and a surprise waterfall.


Rock Creek Park, 5200 Glover Road NW. (

Few fall scenes can top those found in this urban park. Winding paths, huge rocks, gentle streams, an amazing nature center . . . Rock Creek Park has it all. The nature center offers free maps of the park’s 32 miles of trails.

The park will celebrate its 123rd birthday Saturday with the Rock Creek Park Day Festival from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event includes two hikes, animal programs, a Civil War program, pony rides and a history of the park.

— Ann Cameron Siegal