Hey, peak azalea bloom started around April 20th, and will only last into early May. Let's go enjoy the azaleas at the National Arboretum!
I know, 8:00 am is early, but the cool of the morning is the best time to see the azaleas. But there's another reason: folks really pile in for this event, so if we don't get there early, we'll have quite a crowd and a lack of close parking to contend with. Let’s get in first thing for some quality time with the azaleas and then stretch it out with a nice hike through the Arboretum!
This year there's a large Bald Eagle Nesting Buffer Zone in place around Mount Hamilton to protect the two nestlings (check the Eagle cam below!), but don't worry: we'll see plenty of azaleas!
We'll meet in front of the Arbor House and head straight for the Azalea Collection, winding our way uphill through the network of woodland trails to exit the Azalea Collection to the south onto Azalea Rd NE.
From there we'll head east along Crabtree and Hickey Hill Roads to the Asian Collection, where we'll detour onto the winding pathway through the collection.
Popping back up onto Hickey Hill Rd, we'll walk north past the Dogwood Collection and circle around the Conifer Collection along Conifer and Holly Spring Roads. At Meadow Rd we'll turn right and follow it to Beechwood Rd, where we'll turn south to walk past the National Capitol Columns before returning to our starting point. The Bonsai Garden opens at 10 am for those who wish to linger longer and tour the tiny trees.
The hike is an easy to moderate circuit (loop) of 3.75 miles of smiles and should take about 2 hours, given the slower initial pace in the azaleas. The path is a mix of paved and fine gravel/wood chips, with hills and some steps here and there.
Google map: http://tinyurl.com/jtcbkmc
How to get there:
• Metro is not recommended. See the driving directions at the Arboretum’s website here: http://tinyurl.com/3yueul
• The approximate street address to the gate is 2371 R St NE, Washington, DC 20002, GPS =[masked],[masked]
NB: Try to arrive early! Cars usually queue up along R Street NE, waiting for the gates to open so they can snatch all the good parking spots, immediately to the left after you enter the gate.
Parking: The main parking lot is on the left just past Hickey Lane. If that lot is full, there's more parking south along Eagle Nest Road.
What to bring: Water, comfy shoes, and your furry friend if desired (leashes are required). It will be overcast and a little chilly (50F as we start), so the layered look is a good idea.
Weather: The forecast is overcast and a high of 63F degrees, with a 15% chance of showers. Updates here: http://tinyurl.com/6zgvhz (http://tinyurl.com/o9hrs7m)
Advisory: As a reminder, this is an adult group, and you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and well-being during events. No one under 18 years of age is allowed at this event, either as members or as guests, to include babies in carriers and/or strollers.
Administrative stuff: The Arbor House, immediately to the right as you enter the park, has drinking fountains and restrooms. There are also porta-johns positioned here and there in the park.
• US National Arboretum: http://www.usna.usda.gov/
• Azalea Blossom Watch: http://tinyurl.com/6wswsue
• PDF map of the grounds: http://tinyurl.com/2r2gc8
• Bald Eagles Return to the National Arbor (pdf): http://tinyurl.com/j65ueor
• Bald Eagle Nesting Buffer Zone map (pdf): http://tinyurl.com/hz8oj52
• Bald Eagle Nest Cam: http://dceaglecam.org/ (Photos from the Eagle Cam are © 2016 American Eagle Foundation, EAGLES.ORG (http://eagles.org).)
Event illustration photo is by Lana