Bay View Trail boardwalk Mason Neck SP

Hiking and Eagles at Mason Neck

With 9,000 acres of national, state and regional parkland, the Mason Neck area of Fairfax County Va is an overachiever of exploring fun. One of our FuninFairfaxVa Facebook friends described Mason Neck as “the hidden heaven in NoVA,” and we don’t disagree.

Mason Neck State Park, Lorton Virginia

Mason Neck State Park, Lorton, Virginia

 

We focused our recent visit on hiking in Mason Neck State Park and the Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge. Both parks offer peaceful, shady hikes and gorgeous views of diverse waterways. The park refuge was one of the first in the country established specifically to protect bald eagles, and we were lucky enough to see adult and juvenile bald eagles at the state park during one visit.

Mason Neck State Park

Stop in at the Visitor Center for a trail map and a nice overview of the area, some interactive displays and touchable fun for the kids, and beautiful views of Belmont Bay.

Eagle display Mason Neck SP

Eagle display at the Visitor Center

Interactive displays Mason Neck SP

Interactive displays at the Visitor Center

 

Many first-time visitors and families like the mile-long Bay View loop trail, which combines views of the bay with inland exploration. The trail is popular for a reason, featuring beautiful scenery and long boardwalks as you transition from Bay to marsh to woods. The marshes here are particularly lovely when the foliage transitions to fall colors.

Bay View Trail boardwalk Mason Neck SP

Bay View Trail boardwalk by the bay Mason Neck SP

Marsh boardwalk Mason Neck SP

Bay View Trail boardwalk over the marsh

Bay Trail marsh view Mason Neck SP

Bay Trail marsh view

 

In spring and summer, we like to hike out the Kane’s Creek and Eagle Spur trails, which end at a bird blind overlooking Kane’s Creek. This is where we watched cruising bald eagles, red-winged blackbirds and dragonflies and enjoyed the peace. The hike to Kane’s Creek is 2 miles each way, shady the entire time, and moderately hilly so it’s good for active adults and kids.

Kane's Creek Mason Neck

Kane’s Creek from the bird blind

 

For a shorter and easier view, we love the quarter mile Marsh View Trail, which ends at a large platform overlooking the marsh at the upper end of Kane’s Creek. The platform is shady, peaceful and a fantastic spot to watch the birds.

Marsh platform view Mason Neck

Marsh View Trail platform view

 

If you don’t want to hike, Mason Neck State Park also offers biking, boating, fishing, playground and picnic areas, and ranger-led activities. You can rent bikes and boats at the Visitor Center.

Beach and boating at Mason Neck SP

Beach and boating at Mason Neck SP

 

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Driving out from the state park, we stopped at the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, on your right as you leave the park. The park’s name honors the activist who fought to preserve this area from threatened development, providing a refuge for bald eagles and other wildlife. The refuge is home to the 250 acre Great Marsh, one of the largest fresh water marshes on the Potomac River.

Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge

Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge

We hiked the 3-mile round-trip Woodmarsh trail—more wood than marsh—and were a little disappointed in the limited views of the wetlands.

Woodmarsh platform

Woodmarsh platform

For a better marsh view, you can also walk the paved, 3/4-mile Great Marsh Trail, accessible from further south on Gunston Road. There is a lage platform at the end of the trail with expansive views of the Great Marsh.

Great Marsh platform at Mason Neck

Great Marsh platform at Mason Neck

Great Marsh Trail view

Great Marsh Trail view

 

If you have the platform to yourself, like we did, you can soak up the silence and feel a million miles from the nearby burbs.

Mason Neck State Park

7301 High Point Road
Lorton, VA 22079
703-339-2385
Mason Neck State Park
Map

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge

High Point Road
Lorton, VA 22079
703-490-4979
Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Map

The Mason Neck area of Fairfax County Va is an overachiever of exploring fun with excellent hiking and lovely views on national and state parkland.

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  1. 8 Great Winter Walks in Northern Virginia - FuninFairfaxVA - March 3, 2015

    […] Mason Neck is a wonderful place to watch bald eagles and other birds in winter, when you won’t be fighting the humidity and bugs. Start your visit with a walk on the 3/4 mile paved Great Marsh Trail (head south on Gunston Road past the turn for High Point Road). The trail ends at a platform overlooking Great Marsh. Next head to Mason Neck State Park and stop at the Visitor Center for interesting displays and advice on the hiking tails in the park. The Bayview Trail is a popular loop hike that begins near the center. […]

  2. Beautiful History at Gunston Hall - FuninFairfaxVA - July 6, 2015

    […] you want to make a day of it, you can combine your Gunston Hall visit with a trip to nearby Mason Neck State Park or Pohick Bay Regional […]

  3. 8 Great Summer Hikes in Northern Virginia - Fun in Fairfax VA - August 18, 2015

    […] 7. Mason Neck State Park and Pohick Bay, Lorton […]

  4. 8 Great Fall Hikes in Northern Virginia - FuninFairfaxVA - September 21, 2015

    […] 2. Mason Neck State Park […]

  5. 5 Fun DC Area Places to Visit on Christmas Day - December 16, 2015

    […] Mason Neck State Park for birding and hiking along the marshes and bays of the Potomac. […]

  6. 21 Romantic Places in Virginia and DC, No Reservation Required - February 8, 2016

    […] are beautiful trails and views all over Mason Neck State Park, but if you want to limit your walking, take a short stroll on the quarter mile Marsh View Trail. […]

  7. Leesylvania State Park Hike Through History - February 22, 2016

    […] Mason Neck State Park […]

  8. 5 Fun Spring Break Outings in the Northern Virginia Area - March 22, 2016

    […] are wonderful state parks throughout Virginia, and we have some beauties close by. Head to Mason Neck State Park for excellent hiking and birding. Trails at Sky Meadows State Park climb the Shenandoah foothills […]

  9. Northern Virginia Craft Beer and Breweries - May 16, 2016

    […] Again, we hear great things about the beer, and we know this could be the perfect after-hike destination the next time we visit Mason Neck State Park. […]

  10. Fantastic Ways to Celebrate Fall in Northern Virginia - Fun in Fairfax VA - October 6, 2016

    […] a hike on local trails. If you prefer an easy, level path  you’ll love the Bay View Trail in Mason Neck State Park. The boardwalk along the bay and over the marsh is especially pretty in the fall. For a more […]

  11. Celebrate National Kids to Parks Day in Northern Virginia - April 16, 2017

    […] and there are expanded hours so that you have plenty of time to experience it all. If time allows, take a hike to explore more of the park 10:00 – […]

  12. 20 Must See Northern Virginia Hidden Gems Rich in Nature and History - May 30, 2017

    […] the many bald eagles that nest in the protected marsh. Extend your visit with a stop at Mason Neck State Park for beautiful birding, hiking, and boating. […]

  13. Boating on Beautiful Burke Lake - FuninFairfaxVA - August 19, 2017

    […] at Occoquan Regional Park and Riverbend Park, and at parks along the Chesapeake Bay including Mason Neck State Park, and Fountainhead and Pohick Bay Regional Parks. More about them in future […]

  14. Northern Virginia Fall Foliage: Best Places to See Fall Colors In the Region - October 31, 2017

    […] colors often emerge first near water at low elevations. Visit Mason Neck State Park early in the foliage season for pretty colors along the Bay View and marsh trails. History buffs […]

  15. Start 2015 with a Virginia First Day Hike - FuninFairfaxVA - October 31, 2017

    […] Neck State Park is a wonderful place to view eagles and other birds, and is a great spot for a hike even if you don’t want to participate in the […]

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