This trail guide is provided to help you plan your hiking and wildlife viewing activities for National Wildlife Visitor Center trails.
Each trail listed with a brief description of the area through which it passes. Patuxent is a research refuge where the air, land, and water are managed specifically for wildlife. To better protect our wildlife and its habitat, we ask our visitors to abide by posted signs and regulations. If you have any questions, we will be happy to assist you. Enjoy the wildlife and habitat. Take only pictures and memories, leave only footprints.

Note: See hours and days open for the trails and grounds at the National Wildlife Visitor Center and for the National Wildlife Visitor Center building.

Loop Trail The Loop Trail - (0.5 km/0.3 mi.) is a paved and fully accessible trail. It leaves the visitor center gallery door and offers views of both Lake Redington and Cash Lake. Plantings inside the loop offer a demonstration of the PEPCO power line right-of-way management program, meadow management, and a mitigation wetland. This trail also provides access to the other trails.

Goose Pond Trail - (0.3 km/0.2 mi.) parallels the woods' edge as it wanders first through a forested wetland area as it leads to Goose Pond. Goose Pond Trail terminates at Goose Pond where one can sometimes see waterfowl and several waterfowl management practices. There is also an outdoor education area and access to Cash Lake and Laurel Trails.

Fire Road Trail - (1.5 km/0.9 mi.) begins at the intersection of Valley and Laurel Trails, and crosses the exit road before ending at the edge of the Visitor Center parking lot. This wooded trail in a pine and hardwood forest travels through an old experimental tree cutting area and follows an old fire road.

Laurel Trail - This woodland trail (0.6 km/0.4 mi.) was named for the many Mountain Laurels found along the trail. Visitors have the opportunity to see woodland songbirds, mammals (esp. deer) and evidence of their habitat use in this mid-successional forest. This trail is dedicated to Chandler S. Robbins, one of the researchers here at Patuxent Research Center who has spent over 50 years studying migratory birds and effects of habitat fragmentation on bird populations. Visitors can continue along Valley Trail and return to Goose Pond via Cash Lake Trail.

Valley Trail - (0.9 km/0.6 mi.) connects Cash Lake and Laurel Trails, and follows a gully up a slight grade next to a woodland valley . Along this trail, visitors can see features of a predominantly oak and beech hardwood forest.Cash Lake Trail

Cash Lake Trail - (2.3 km/1.4 mi.) travels along the edge of Cash Lake, the largest impoundment at Patuxent Research Refuge. This trail offers many opportunities to view the lake and its waterfowl, as well as a beaver lodge and evidence of their activity. There is also a seasonal fishing program at Cash Lake, with fishing by permit from the accessible pier and along parts of the shoreline. Information and permits are available at the information desk. Parts of Cash Lake trail beyond the fishing pier may be closed seasonally during wet conditions and to avoid disturbance of nesting waterfowl.

Forests of Patuxent Discovery Hike - (2.8 km/1.7 mile) is a self-guided hike, which begins at Goose Pond Trail and leads to Cash Lake, Valley and Laurel trails. This discovery hike is marked with numbered posts corresponding to numbers in the trail guide (PDF 300KB). The trails were built to let people enjoy nature without disturbing the environment. Please remember to stay on the trails, as the environment comes first. As you hike, be aware of all the life that is around you; think about the interactions between plant and animal life in the forest.

Forests of Patuxent Discovery Hike trail guide (pdf)

The tram route - (2.6 km/1.9 mi) is not a hiking trail and is closed to the public with the exception of scheduled tram tours. The tram tour offers a ride through woodland and wetland areas guided by an interpreter. A variety of wildlife and evidence of ongoing research here can be seen along the way. Tickets can be purchased in the bookstore.

Although designed to accommodate the human visitor, the National Wildlife Visitor Center continues to maintain the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats. As a visitor, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that wildlife has a place to grow and survive for future generations by respecting Visitor Center regulations and obeying posted signs.

  • Please stay on marked trails to prevent erosion, disturbance of wildlife habitat, and research that is being done throughout the area. Hiking trails are for pedestrians only.
  • Recreational activities are not permitted on the entrance and exit roads and in the parking lot.
  • Help protect and preserve our wildlife and its habitat. Please do not damage any plants or trees. Removal of wildlife or plants from the refuge or introduction of new species is not permitted.
  • Recreational activities such as camping, open campfires, cross country skiing, picnicking, ball playing, and sun bathing are not related to our wildlife management goals, and are not permitted.
  • Possession of firearms or alcohol is also prohibited.
  • Please check at the information desk to ensure your activity is compatible.
  • Please dispose of all litter in designated containers.
  • Pets are permitted on the trails, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6feet and under immediate control at all times.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Patuxent Research Refuge National Wildlife Visitor Center 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop Laurel, MD 20708-4027 (301) 497-5760 fax: (301) 497-5765.