Ashland Nature Center
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:3511 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, DE
Hours:8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
Fee: Adults, $2; children, $1
Bathrooms: Near visitor center
Water/Snacks: None

Displayed, with paper copies available, at entrance kiosk

Walk easy nature trails in woods and meadows along the Red Clay Creek.

Ashland Nature Center
Photo by: Susan Charkes

At Ashland Nature Center, it’s easy for kids to learn about nature while enjoying walks through the woods and meadows that line the wadeable Red Clay Creek. Ashland is the headquarters for the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), a nonprofit organization that works to preserve open space and educate the community about nature and the environment.

Four self-guided interpretive trails wind through the 242-acre preserve (owned by the Red Clay Reservation, a private land trust). Each trail features a different habitat. You can pick up brochures at the entrance kiosk that are keyed to numbered posts along the trails. Each trail takes about 45 minutes to an hour to walk.

Take the easy Floodplain Trail from the visitor center down a gently sloping hill through a young woods to get down to the creek, where kids can look for small fish zipping around the shallows or crayfish hiding under rocks. A spur from this trail takes you to an old mill dam and railroad bridge. On your return, if you continue along the creek instead of going back uphill, you’ll get to see the restored 1850 covered bridge.

The three other trails have some slightly steeper sections, but all are designed for children, and all loop from the visitor center. Nature’s Bounty Trail focuses on the ways different local cultures use common plants that you encounter along the trail (such as sassafras and willow trees) and the animals that live in the various habitats. Succession Trail descends to the Birch Run and back along the Red Clay Creek floodplain, leading through hillside meadows and both pine and deciduous woods; it shows how trees and shrubs take over cleared fields. Along the way, kids can learn how to tell the age of a tree. Treetop Trail explores a hillside woods, teaching visitors about native trees and plants; in wintertime, you can enjoy expansive views of the valley from hilltop meadows.

A seasonal butterfly house next to the headquarters building allows kids to get up close and personal with caterpillars and butterflies. A sledding hill is below Succession Trail, and the trails can be hiked with snowshoes in winter.

The DNS offers numerous programs at Ashland for families that encourage exploration of nature at the preserve, ranging from toddler programs on such topics as seeds, wings, or snakes, to a Young Naturalists Club for 9- to 12-yearolds, to a beginning family backpacking course.

Remember: Dogs must be leashed. A small picnic area is near the entrance.

Plan B:

Winterthur is nearby, with walking trails and the Enchanted Woods.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to bring a picnic.


Get outdoor tips & trips
Yes, I want to receive expert advice on getting my family outside!



Marsh Creek State Park »
Playing in Brandywine Creek
675 Park Road, Downingtown, PA

Haverford College Arboretum »
Large duck pond with giant snapping turtle
1 College Lane, Haverford, PA

Wissahickon Valley Park »
Restored historical village in park's south end
300 Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia PA

Blue Marsh Lake »
Sensory trail, orienteering trail, and nature trail
1268 Palisades Drive, Leesport, PA


Nockamixon State Park »
Waterslide at the swimming pool
1542 Mountain View Drive, Quakertown, PA

Core Creek Park »

Fishing spots along the shore
Tollgate Road, east of PA 413, Middletown Township, PA

Marsh Creek State Park »
Playing in Brandywine Creek
675 Park Road, Downingtown, PA

Struble Trail and Uwchlan Trail »

Ruins along Uwchlan Trail
Norwood Road near PA 282, Downingtown, PA

© 2023 Appalachian Mountain Club | 10 City Square, Boston, MA 02129
About | Privacy Policy | Contact Us