For Karen Roman, growing up among shady oak trees and spending summer days exploring the creeks and wooded pathways near her Carderock Springs home was like living in a secret and enchanted forest.

“We played outside so much and it was so much fun to have my friends all around me and we knew all our neighbors,” said Roman, now 35 and the mother of two.

She so loved the Bethesda neighborhood that when she and her husband, Shawn, were looking to settle down in the area, they chose Carderock Springs.

Located in just outside the Beltway, Carderock Springs is a secluded woodsy community of 350 homes off Seven Locks and River roads tucked between Congressional Country Club and Cabin John Regional Park.

The neighborhood has matured from its 19th century beginnings as the Stone Farm into a cozy suburb in a parklike setting with a 1960s vibe.

Carderock Springs is filled with families who spend summer evenings at the pool. Community activism and neighborhood parties are the norm.

“We were looking for a place with good schools and access to downtown,” said Sandy Dembski, who moved to Carderock Springs eight years ago from Kensington. “The atmosphere here with smaller homes and friendly neighbors has really been wonderful.”

Carderock Springs was created by developer and builder Edmund Bennett, who traveled around the United States and Europe to study planned communities. After much research, he decided house-hunters looking to leave the city for the suburbs would be attracted by low-profile, contemporary designs tucked into natural settings, said Mary Lou Shannon, a real estate agent who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years.

“Bennett was influenced by the California climate and the windows of these houses really allow us to appreciate the natural setting,” she said. “Bennett planned out the streets and homes in such a way that the mature hardwood trees would not have to be taken down.”

Instead of clear-cutting to make room for uniform lots on a grid pattern of streets, Bennett convinced county planners to allow him to build clusters of homes with irregularly shaped and sized yards. In Carderock Springs South, this means that almost half of the 45 homes back onto a 4.5 acre common green park that is accessible to the whole community.

The first six model homes were constructed on Fenway Road and went on the market in June 1962 and were priced in the low $30,000s. While the homes, some with mature perennial and shrub gardens, appear small on the outside, their open floor plans maximize use of interior space, which range from 2,300 to 3,000 square feet. The seven different Bennett models have four bedrooms, three full-size baths and a separate living and dining room.

One of the neighborhood’s biggest draws is the public schools, which rank among the best in Montgomery County. Walt Whitman High School and Thomas Pyle Intermediate School both boast a strong reputations and Carderock Springs Elementary is being rebuilt into a completely “green” school.

“I have a 13-year-old boy who actually tolerates middle school and likes his teachers,” Dembski said. “So they must be doing something right!”

Top reasons to live in Carderock Springs

Carderock Swim Club
The community pool and clubhouse is the place to be during the dog days of summer. And speaking of dogs, Carderock Springs residents love their canine pets so much that pool sponsors hold an end-of-the-summer dog swim competition. Tennis courts provide the space for lessons and neighborhood matches. During the cooler months, community organizers hold holiday parties and other gatherings inside the clubhouse.

Great public schools
Many residents say they moved to Carderock Springs from other communities so their children can attend Walt Whitman High School. Whitman, which ranked 69th in a Newsweek survey of “Best High Schools in America,” has a diverse student body, an award-winning student newspaper and drama club as well as a championship athletic program.

Minutes from Beltway’s River Road exit, Carderock Springs makes for an easy commute to downtown Washington and job centers in Rockville and Bethesda. There are also two nearby Metro stops on the Red Line. The neighborhood has easy access to Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery (better known as Montgomery Mall), which is anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s and Sears. Carderock’s location is also convenient for nature lovers and joggers, with the C&O Canal towpath within walking distance.

Strong citizens association
Edmund Bennett, Carderock Springs’ original developer, created the citizens’ association in 1964 and began publishing a newsletter called “Esoterica.” Most notably, the association lobbied to get Carderock nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and sponsors house tours and myriad other social gatherings. The association also oversees land covenants and has an architectural review committee, which has helped preserve the natural contours of the heavily wooded neighborhood.

Carderock Springs at a glance

2008 through August
Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20817: $1,133,781
Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20817: $1,260,841
Average days on market for homes sold: 69

Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20817: $1,013,523
Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20817: $1,056,025
Average days on market for homes sold: 54