Park Report: Black Hill Regional Park

Welcome to my first park report! It has been in my mind for the past few months to write trip reports on the parks I frequent in our area, the Washington DC metro area. My biggest pleasures in owning this blog is sharing with you all the places that I visit and give you the information that you need to find yourself in outside in nature. Over the years of visiting wild places, I have found that information on parks can be quite difficult to find at times! It is my hope to not only share my wild experiences with you, but also give you quality information that you can use in planning your days outside! Sometimes finding a place to recreate in nature requires a lot of research and I am planning to give you my research so that you don't have to look as hard as I do! I don't mind sharing my homework! Please share your comments as you read the park reports and let me know if you have any questions or information that you would like me to find out for you. Here we go!

I’m just back from a wonderful kayaking trip at Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, MD, using some of the complimentary tickets I received from Montgomery Parks for winning the #parkpics challenge. It was very exciting to go back on Little Seneca Lake after having recently gone with a few fellow Master Naturalists. Although I have lived close to this park for over 15 years, I am ashamed to say that I have only been there a handful of times. In all honesty, I think I underestimated the magnitude and beauty of this park. I have learned today that Black Hill offers a lot more experiences than I had previously thought. I also learned that the park is not always crowded, even on the weekends. I had previously stayed away from Black Hill in part because it can get very busy at times with family picnics and sport tournaments and events. I had mistakenly thought that it was busy all the time and I found out today that it isn’t. I picked up my boat around 8 am this morning and I was one of only a few boats on the water. It was truly perfect.

My #parkpics photo

My #parkpics photo

Park Features

Black Hill offers more than 10 miles of walking, biking and horseback riding trails. Most trails are natural surfaces, but some are paved like the Black Hill and Crystal Rock trails. Expect your hike to be mostly in wooded areas and you will find along the way a few spots to view Little Seneca Lake. You can take a breather on some of the benches available or on a rock by the water (my favorite choice!). There are a few hills, but the terrain is mostly flat, which is great for beginners. On the down side, the trails are not contiguous and can get a bit confusing at times. I have found that this is the case mostly everywhere I go. Make sure to either print a trail map or pick up a Black Hill Regional Park brochure or trail map inside the visitor center. If you are looking for mileage, you can take the Hoyles Mill Trail and make your way to through the South Germantown Recreational Park which will eventually dead end at Schaeffer Farms in Seneca Creek State Park. According to Montgomery Park, the Hoyles Mill Trail is 4.4 miles of natural surface trail and 1.8 miles of hard surface. The Hoyles Mill Trail sounds like a lot of fun to me and is on my Maryland trail bucket list.

I also found out this morning that Black Hill had a 2.4 mile water trail that will take you around for a self-guided tour of Little Seneca Lake. I did not know about the water trail prior to my visit, otherwise I would have probably done it this morning. The information on the water trail is a bit confusing to me right now, so I will get more information and report back my findings.

Cloudy day on the kayak

Cloudy day on the kayak

In addition to the trails, Black Hill also offers a dog park located on the Picnic Lane. You can also rent picnic shelters that can be used on a first-come, first-served basis. They can also be reserved from April 1 to October 31 by calling the Park Permit Office at 301-495-2525. If you have never been to Black Hill before, make sure to visit the Visitor Center. Saying that there is a lot to do in and around the Visitor Center is an understatement. There are tons of activities for kids found in the park’s Outdoor Classroom Activity Stations. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor Center or take a look at this online pamphlet for more information [Outdoor Classrooms PDF]. Inside the Visitor Center, there are nature exhibits, beautiful views of the lake and smiling naturalists ready to help you find what you need. There are tons of nature programs available for kids and adults. Stay informed by visiting Black Hill Park’s official website or browsing the WHO calendar.

If you are looking for volunteering opportunities, consider being part of the Friends of Black Hill Park’s Nature Programs (FOBHNP) volunteer group. For only a few dollars a year, you can be part of this wonderful group of people who are dedicated to this wonderful park as well as teaching families about nature. The FOBHNP group meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. This is your chance to be part of the Black Hill community, help naturalists to conduct nature programs and become involved with issues that affect the park and its programs. Please join me! Fill out an online application today.

My Experience

Paddling Little Seneca Lake is an absolute blast. It tooks me about 2 hours to paddle all the way past the Clarksburg road bridge towards the Ten Mile Creek and back. Depending on your fitness level (kayaking is a killer upper body workout!), I can see that it could take about 3 hours or more to complete the entire circumference of the lake. I would personally give myself extra time for exploring and nature gazing. There are beaver dams to see, many types of turtles and fish, amazing wildflowers including scarlet Cardinal flowers, foxes, deer, many types of birds. I have seen bald eagles and ospreys during all my visits at the lake. Today’s trip added Pied-billed grebe, Belted kingfisher, and Cedar waxwing to the list of birds I often see at Black Hill. I also found some sort of white geese that was hanging out with a group of Canada geese this morning. I will need to do a little bit more research on that fellow to find out if he or she is a mutt, a white domestic geese or a leucistic Canada geese if that is possible. The geese had all the exact characteristics of the Canada geese at the exception of its color. What do you think?

Main Features Recap:

  • Black Hill Regional Park is free
  • The Visitor Center office phone number is 301-528-3480
  • You can rent rowboats, canoes and kayaks for $8 an hour from May through September. Check out BlackHillBoats.com for more information.
  • Seasonal boating permits are available if you want to bring your own boat on the lake from March through mid-December. For more information on boating and fishing, please visit Black Hill’s web site.
  • Horses are welcomed, trailers must park in the overflow lot at the boat ramp.
  • Picnic shelters can be reserved or taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the Park Permit Office for reservations at 301-495-2525.

Important URLs: