The route: Make your way to River Road/Route 190 toward Potomac and Poolesville. Your destination is McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (River Rd., Poolesville; 410-356-9272), where, typically in mid-July, 30 acres of sunflowers bloom into Instagram eye candy. That can mean crowds, which you want to avoid—so consider visiting midweek, or on weekends for sunrise or sunset shots. For updates on the blooms, go to dnr.maryland.gov and search for McKee-Beshers. This route through Montgomery County farmland has other joys, including worthy detours off River Road.
Other possible stops along the way:
Blockhouse Point Conservation Park (14750 River Rd., Darnestown; 301-495-2595), home to more than seven miles of hiking trails, and Riley’s Lock (Rileys Lock Rd. at mile 22.7 of the towpath), the only aqueduct on the C&O Canal that was also a lift lock—it sits on a stretch of the C&O Canal Towpath with views of the river. (It and Violettes Lock, at milepost 21.2, also offer prime bird-spotting). Just off the path here lie the graffiti-covered ruins of a mill where Seneca red sandstone quarried on-site was cut to build the Smithsonian Castle; across the river is Trump National Golf Club. Calleva Farm Store (19936 Fisher Ave., Poolesville; 301-216-1248; open Wednesday through Saturday) stocks local produce, meats, eggs, bread, chocolate-chip cookies, and locally made gifts. At Lewis Orchards (18901 Peach Tree Rd, Dickerson; 301-349-4101; open for the season mid-June), you can pick up fresh pies (Thursday through Sunday) and produce—it’s particularly known for its peaches in-season. Sugarloaf Mountain (7901 Comus Rd., Dickerson; 301-869-7846; voluntary donation of $5 per car) is a private, nonprofit park that features 16 miles of hiking trails.
Picnic stop: Rocklands Farm Winery (14531 Montevideo Rd, Poolesville; 301-825-8075), where you can enjoy a picnic (reservations required)—bring your own or buy there from rotating food vendors—with a glass or bottle of its wine. You also can purchase pasture-raised local meat out of freezer cases in the market. Another winery where you can sip and picnic, if you’re returning home by looping onto Route 28, is the newer Windridge Vineyards (15700 Darnestown Rd., Darnestown; 301-750-9463).
Approximate round trip from DC: 90 miles if you go all the way to Sugarloaf.