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South Tract is open to public 10 AM - 5:30 PM. Portion of trail closed during spring waterfowl nesting season.

Cash Lake Circuit Hike is comprised of several trails in the South Tract offering a look at various habitats, the managed wetlands, and the birds and animals that make the refuge home. Begin from the visitor center's middle parking lot walking to the rear and entering Fire Road Trail, a mixed woodland of pine and hardwoods. Notice the lovely blueberry bushes that dot the understory. In less than half-mile, the trail turns right, crosses Exit Road, and ends once it reaches Telegraph Road. Hike onto Laurel Trail also known as Robbins Trail, dedicated to Chandler R. Robbins, a gentleman that researched migratory birds and their habitats over a period of 5 decades. As you hike this path, notice the profusion of its namesake, the mountain laurel. The trail is loveliest in spring when the whitish-pink flowers come into bloom. However, this is the time of year when rains tend to flood the trail and the time when the administration closes a portion of the circuit trail due to nesting waterfowl. The low-growing mountain laurel is a favorite habitat for a variety of songbirds including warblers, chickadees, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, jays, swallows, nuthatches, creepers, wrens, kinglets, waxwings, tanagers, towhees, cardinals, grosbeaks, and finches. Keep to the right when Valley Trail enters from the left. This trail does offer an extended look of the refuge and its mature oaks and birches. From Laurel Trail, Goose Pond is reached at 1.2 miles. Notice the managed wetland where refuge staff drain the area providing suitable habitat for plant growth including a waterfowl favorite, wild millet. When the pond is re-flooded in early fall, it provides a much-need food source for birds traveling the Atlantic Flyway. Note that at this juncture, you can take a short cut back to the visitor center that lies just 0.3 mile away. To do the Cash Lake Loop, turn left onto Cash Lake Trail. A spur trail at 1.3 miles offers an up-close view of the resident and depending on the time of year you hike, migratory birdlife. Back on the main trail, head to the right where you'll come to a break in the woodland offering sweeping views of the lake. Within several feet, Valley Trail enters from the left; continue to the right. At 1.9 miles, you'll come to another open area this time sporting an ADA fishing pier. As you hike past the pier, you'll come to Cash Lake Trail, which is the segment that is seasonally closed. If it is, retrace your steps back to Goose Pond and the trail that carries you to the visitor center. If not, proceed down the path coming to a floating footbridge at 2 miles. Upon re-entering the woodland at 2.3 miles, you'll make a sharp right then a sharp left skirting the northern edge of Lake Reddington where you're likely to hear the loud peeps of tiny tree frogs. At 2.7 miles, turn right onto the ADA Loop Trail hiking across the tram road and back to the visitor center.

Directions: From Baltimore, MD, South Tract: Take Baltimore/Washington Parkway (295) to Powder Mill Road exit, south of Laurel. Go east onto Powder Mill Road and go approximately 1.5 miles. Main gate is on right side (Scarlet Tanager Loop). Follow entrance road to visitor center parking area.

Elevation: 150 feet

Elevation Gain: 90 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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