Huntley Meadows Park is a hidden gem of Northern Virginia with a half-mile accessible boardwalk, woodland trails, and a unique hemi-marsh wildlife habitat. The park is one of those great Fairfax County surprises—a peaceful, unusual and beautiful wildlife habitat in the midst of our busy streets and neighborhoods.
A KidsPost article prompted our first visit, and we’ve returned every season. Half a mile of boardwalk, woodland trails, and a unique habitat? Count us in.
Find more great hikes in 6 Beautiful Boardwalk Hikes in Northern Virginia.
The energetic voices of many elementary school children greeted our first visit. Happily, the students were about to leave, and they really were adorable with all the hand-holding and matching t-shirts. Older students did a great job walking quietly to observe birds from the boardwalk.
Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center
Stop in the Visitor Center for a little history and some excellent info on the park’s Hemi-marsh habitat. With over 1400 acres, Huntley Meadows is FCPA’s largest park, and it was once used to test asphalt, provide anti-aircraft protection, and conduct secret radio research.
The Visitor Center has nice interactive dioramas and other touchable exhibits. Add very easy trails, a long boardwalk, and extensive wildlife and you have the perfect destination for inquisitive kids.
Find more NoVA fun in our guide 20 Must-See Northern Virginia Hidden Gems Rich in Nature and History.
Woodland Trails at Huntley Meadows
The wooded Cedar Trail and Deer Trail are full of beautiful big trees and worth the walk. Beavers build and adjust dams throughout the park, and changing water levels make every visit unique.
You can head straight for the boardwalk on the Heron Trail if time is short, or you have toddlers or folks with mobility issues along. Huntley Meadows has one of the only ADA accessible wetland boardwalks in Northern Virginia.
Boardwalk Trail at Huntley Meadows Park in Northern Virginia
The Huntley Meadows boardwalk, and the 2-story observation tower, is the prize at the end of all three woodland trails. From the boardwalk you can explore the marsh, watching for birds, amphibians, beaver dams, and unique plants. In fact, this close access to nature makes Huntley one of the most family-friendly parks in Northern Virginia.
Water levels and plant life vary throughout the year, but the park always offers a lot to see. Bird-watchers and photographers gather year-round to look for local and rare birds. Try to visit during fall foliage season when trees surround the wetland with color.
The observation tower at one end of the boardwalk offers a broad view of the wetlands. We observed a fawn right next to the tower thanks to a sharp-eyed youth picnicking with his Mom.
If you move slowly and quietly, you may see red-wing blackbirds, herons, ducks, frogs, snapping turtles (huge!!), snakes, skinks, and other wildlife. On one visit the beavers had built their dam right on the edge of the boardwalk. What a fantastic up-close look at nature in action.
To protect wildlife, dogs are not allowed on the Huntley Meadows boardwalk. However, leashed dogs are allowed on the woodland trails in the park. Note that you need to be on the boardwalk to enjoy views of the wetlands.
Visit Neabsco Creek Boardwalk in Prince William County for more wetland wildlife views.
Huntley Meadows Location and Hours
Huntley Meadows is in Hybla Valley, a neighborhood between Route 495 and Route 1 in Northern Virginia. 495 is often the most direct route to the park, but you can also take Fairfax County Parkway to 611 to avoid heavy beltway traffic. There are Hike-Bike and Pond trails available from South Kings Highway, but they don’t connect to the boardwalk area.
The park is open dawn to dusk year-round, closed Tuesdays. Hours vary seasonally, but the Visitor Center is generally open noon to 5:00 weekdays and 9:00 to 5:00 weekends. Admission is free for individuals and families.
Visit the Huntley Meadows Park website for more information and for special events. The park frequently hosts after-hours and sunset hikes, and special nature-focused events for kids.
Please share your feedback in the comments below or join us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for more places to visit, things to do, and travel in and from Northern Virginia and the Washington DC region.
This article was published in 2014 and updated in 2020.