Discover the best things to do at Jones Point Park in Alexandria Virginia from fascinating history to beautiful views and fun outdoor activities for every age. Looking for a unique free outing close to Washington DC? Jones Point Park is a hidden gem with a dramatic setting, tucked under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, perfect for cool photos and easy adventures.
Jones Point Park is managed by the National Park Service as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The GW Parkway, one of our favorite scenic drives near DC, connects historic and natural sites along the Potomac River. Like Great Falls Park and Theodore Roosevelt Island, Jones Point Park offers a wonderful combination of history and nature.
Activities at Jones Point Park will appeal to different ages and interests. There is excellent information for history buffs, fun places for kids to play, romantic spots for couples, and plenty of places for everyone to relax and enjoy the natural setting. The park is also a popular spot for dog walkers, just keep your furry friend on a leash.
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Free parking and well-maintained facilities make this Northern Virginia hidden gem perfect for a quick visit or a longer day trip. Read on for the best things to do at Alexandria's Jones Point Park plus essential information for your visit.
Explore History on the Jones Point Interpretive Trail
Jones Point Park is a must-visit for DC area history lovers. We have visited the park several times over the years and the historic information keeps getting better. Today, visitors can follow the 1-mile Interpretive Trail with excellent signage and markers explaining the park's important role in American history.
Head under the bridge from the parking area to get oriented. Large signs introduce the park and show a map of the park's historic sites, trails, and facilities. There are clean restrooms and a water fountain in the nearby building.
The Jones Point trail is a flat, easy walk on paved, gravel, and natural surfaces. While the entire trail is level, there are mulch and gravel sections that can be muddy and uneven. A rugged stroller or wheelchair should be able to navigate most or all of the trail.
In addition to the highlights listed below, other informational signs tell the story of the park's earliest visitors, a “ropewalk” rope-making factory, the “lost village of Cameron”, and more. Allow an hour or more to explore all of the historical information on the Jones Point Interpretive Trail.
See Washington DC's Original Boundary Marker
The 22-acre park is home to what some consider the oldest federal monument in the country. Washington DC got its start here when the first boundary stone for the new capital was laid.
Washington DC was originally laid out in a diamond shape that included the ports of Alexandria and Georgetown. Virginia and Maryland ceded land to the future capital and Major Andrew Ellicott undertook the initial survey. He was assisted by Benjamin Bannaker, a free African-American and self-taught astronomer and mathematician.
In 1791, the very first boundary marker for Washington DC was laid at Jones Point Park, marking the capital's southern point. The initial marker was replaced in 1794, and that historic boundary stone remains today on the south side of Jones Point Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, the stone is difficult to see because it is below the current ground level and under a protective cover. Still, you can stand here and imagine the time when this modest spot marked the very beginning of America's capital, Washington DC.
In addition to the protected original boundary marker, replacement stones mark the earlier boundaries between Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland. (DC's land west of the Potomac River was ceded back to Virginia in the 1800s.) Have kids in your group? Challenge them to run state to state to district.
Admire the Jones Point Park Lighthouse
In the mid-1800s, the federal government built the Jones Point Lighthouse to help guide heavy traffic on the busy Potomac River. The lighthouse design is unique as it was one of the first to combine the keeper's house and the beacon into one building. It is also the last riverine lighthouse in Virginia.
The interior of the historic lighthouse is closed to the public, but you can walk around the outside and learn about how the beacon system changed over the years.
Learn About Shipbuilding at Jones Point Park
In the early 1900s, Jones Point played a new critical role as the base for the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation. Built in record time, the new shipbuilding facility worked at a feverish pace to complete steel cargo ships needed for World War I.
It's hard to imagine huge steel ships docked at the riverside. Get a unique perspective just north of the bridge where a ship-shaped lawn shows the size of the SS Gunston Hall, the first ship built here.
The last remnant of this thriving shipbuilding effort is the huge wooden rudder under the bridge. The rudder, used on steel cargo ships during World War I, was found on the riverbank nearby. Learn more about the Virginia Shipbuilding Site on the Interpretive Trail.
See the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Up Close
It's hard not to feel small when you look up at the massive Woodrow Wilson Bridge from Jones Point Park. The park is tucked right under several spans of the bridge, from the entry to the river.
Most of the area under the bridge is paved and you may see children practicing their biking skills here. Use caution as the Mount Vernon Bike Trail cuts right through the paved area. As you walk toward the river you'll pass the park's basketball courts.
You'll have a great view of the Wilson Bridge from the edge of the Potomac River. There are benches on the north side and a large wooden fishing platform on the south side.
Bike or Hike the Mount Vernon Trail
The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail stretches from Theodore Roosevelt Island south to George Washington's Mount Vernon. The paved bike trail passes right next to and through the park. Jones Point Park is about 8 miles south of Roosevelt Island, so this is a great starting point to cycle the trail.
If you bike north from Jones Point you'll enter Old Town Alexandria where you have to navigate some busy streets. Head south to enjoy a more scenic route that stays close to the Potomac River. One section of the trail crosses Dyke Marsh Preserve on a pretty wooden boardwalk.
Enjoy Kid-friendly Fun
There are lots of fun things to do with kids at Jones Point Park. There are two playgrounds geared to different ages plus lots of open space to play.
- Kids 2 to 5 can play in the nice tot lot playground on the north side of the parking area. The fenced playground gives kids plenty of room to climb, slide, and explore on a soft, colorful surface. A separate area has several swings. There is no shade though, so this play area gets very hot in the summer.
- On the south side of the bridge, a smaller fenced play area is designed for kids 5 – 12. The play structures are abstract and encourage bigger kids to climb and balance.
- Next to the south playground, fun tracks in the pavement encourage kids to “lumber like a bear,” “rummage like a raccoon” and more.
- The open paved area under the bridge is a great place for kids to practice bike-riding skills. Just make sure kids stay out of the way of fast-moving bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail.
- Basketball fans will enjoy the courts so bring your ball when you visit.
- Older kids should find the Interpretive Trail interesting to explore and it's a nice easy walk for little ones.
- Kids are sure to be impressed with views of the bridge and Potomac, and the fishing platform offers both.
Walk to Old Town Alexandria
On foot or bike, the 1-mile walk to Old Town Alexandria is interesting and scenic. Just north of the park is a small woodland area frequented by several bird species. Further on you pass through Ford's Landing Park which has several interesting historic markers.
Next up as you head north is Shipyard Park which offers a pretty view of Old Town. Just across the street, Windmill Park has a big playground and athletic fields. For a unique and somewhat eerie experience, walk through Wilkes Tunnel.
Jones Point Park is often our first stop on a day trip to Alexandria. We like to check out the historic sites, enjoy some fun in the park, then take a leisurely walk to Old Town for lunch. You can't beat the free parking. Just save some energy for the walk back to Jones Point.
Picnic by the Potomac River
Alexandria's waterfront parks are some of the best picnic spots in Northern VA. There are several picnic tables at Jones Point Park including one near the lighthouse and another on the south fishing pier. There is also plenty of grassy space to spread out a blanket.
If you want to picnic close to the river, consider bringing folding chairs. The areas closest to the water tend to be dirt or muddy, but if you're lucky you may score one of the benches just north of the bridge.
Fish and Relax
Jones Point Park is a popular place to fish. There are two designated fishing piers on each side of the bridge. In addition, you can fish from the edge of the river near the Interpretive Trail.
The south fishing pier was completely rebuilt in 2017, but it sits on concrete footing from the park's time as a shipbuilding center. The wooden pier is kid-friendly and it's a nice spot to teach new anglers.
Fish commonly caught in the Potomac River include catfish, rock bass, and American eels. Remember that anglers 16 and older must have a fishing license and follow Virginia fishing regulations.
Check Out the Fantastic Views
Even if you ignore all the historical information at the park, Jones Point is a wonderful place to just relax and enjoy the view. Post up by the water and you can watch boat traffic on the Potomac River and a steady stream of planes heading to National Airport. It's not the quietest place (did we mention planes?) but the view of the river and bridge is pretty unique.
At the southern end of the island, near the lighthouse, you'll have a great view across the river to National Harbor and the Capital Wheel.
Catch a Beautiful Sunrise
Jones Point Park is one of the best sunrise spots in Northern VA. Head to the southern side of the park to capture the sunrise bordered by the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Or use the sunrise as a backdrop to photos of the lighthouse.
This is a popular spot for local photographers (check out pics by @caroljeanphotography), so you may not be alone. The tree next to the lighthouse turns a vibrant orange in the fall so you can catch morning photos like this one by @milliman12.
Of course, the golden hour also makes for great pictures of the bridge. However, the sun sets behind the trees so you won't catch a “sunset in the water” photo here. Head south to Riverside Park for a better angle on water sunset photos.
Watch for Birds and Wildlife
Bird watching is a popular activity at parks near the Potomac River because the mix of water and woodland habitats draws diverse species. Jones Point's 80-foot trees are home to a variety of birds with more in the marshy areas at the river's edge. In fact, eBird lists over 190 bird species observed at Jones Point Park including hawks, owls, osprey, eagles, and more.
In addition to the many birds at the park, visitors may encounter a variety of wildlife. Deer, foxes, raccoons, snakes, and other small animals are seen in the park.
Tip: Another excellent bird-watching spot, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, is just 1.5 miles south via the Mount Vernon Trail or GW Parkway.
Paddle the Potomac from the Kayak/Canoe Launch
The park service provides a basic canoe or kayak launch under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge at Jones Point Park. The river access is a fairly short walk from the parking area over a level paved surface. We've heard talk of plans to improve the kayak launch so upgrades may be in the works.
Attend Ranger-Led Events
During the summer months, Park Rangers usually lead two regular events at Jones Point:
- Learn to Bike Classes teach children how to bike safely and confidently. The paved area under the bridge is shady so it stays comfortable even on hot summer days.
- Lighthouse Life programs teach kids about the life of lighthouse keepers on the Potomac River.
Unfortunately, the park website does not have updated schedule information about these events but suggests interested parties call 703-235-1530. In previous years the events were held on Saturday mornings in June, July, and August.
Admire the Community Garden
If you visit during the warmer months, be sure to see what's blooming in the Jones Point Park community gardens. We usually see a mix of flowers and vegetables growing in this non-profit community garden. The garden is located near the parking area, toward the park entrance.
Jones Point Park Alexandria VA Essential Info
Here is essential information for your visit to Jones Point Park. Visit the NPS park website for the latest alerts and updates.
How to Get to Jones Point Park
Jones Point Park is located on Jones Point Drive in Alexandria Virginia. To reach the park from the George Washington Parkway, take Green Street to South Royal Street then turn onto Jones Point Drive at the end of the cul de sac.
Jones Point Park Parking
There is ample free parking at Jones Point Park. While there are a lot of spaces in the parking area, they do fill up on busy weekends and holidays. You can also look for parking in nearby neighborhoods, but most street parking is restricted. Alternatively, park at one of the paid lots in Old Town Alexandria.
Jones Point Park Hours, Fees, and Rules
- Jones Point Park is open 6:00 to 10:00 daily and is free to enter.
- Clean restrooms and drinking fountains with pet bowls are available.
- There are trash cans located around the park so it's easy to keep this beautiful park clean.
- Pets are allowed but must be on a leash at all times.
- Wading and swimming are not allowed in the Potomac River.
Whether you stop by for a quick visit or spend the day, Jones Point Park is one of the most unique places to visit in Alexandria Virginia.
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