Just 20 miles from downtown Washington, DC, Mason Neck State Park offers a range of mellow hiking, biking and paddling options in a wildlife-friendly zone on the shores of Belmont Bay that offers a fine example of Potomac/Chesapeake coastal ecology. Though I-95 is just a few miles to the west, tidal marshes and diverse forests host an assortment of wild creatures including a sizeable colony of bald eagles. Founding Father George Mason's Gunston Hall estate is just up the road, too.
The route is less than 3 miles long and should take less than 2 hours, depending on your pace, and it begins behind the MNSP visitor center. Bear left towards the beach, cross over the pond bridge and go uphill to reach the picknic area, then continue to the Bay View trailhead at 0.15 mile, where you'll go to the right, following the bay shoreline. Boardwalks are used to pass through low or marshy spots.
You'll reach a four-way trail intersection at 0.55 mile, where you'll make a hard right to take in the marsh loop, which returns to the four-way intersection. You'll take another hard right, soon leaving the Bay View Trail to take a right onto the Wilson Spring Trail (green blazes). Look for deer, turtles, etc. as the forest thickens.
At 1.4 miles you'll cross the paved park road/gravel parking lot. In 1.6 miles you'll reach the end of the Wilson Spring Trail, so bear right onto Kane's Creek Trail through lowland forest. Almost a mile later (2.6 miles from your starting point), you'll reach another four-way intersection: go left for Wilson Spring Trail, straight for the park road, left for the visitor center (0.2 miles away).
From Interstate 95, take the Lorton exit and head east on Lorton Rd to US Route 1. Take a right on US 1, then a left onto Gunston Rd (VA 242). In 3 miles you'll pass the entrance to Pohick Bay Regional Park, then Gunston Hall shortly afterward.
At that point the road becomes VA 600 -- continue until a sign for Mason Neck State Park directs you to take a right onto High Point Rd (VA 5733), which cuts through the Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge. Soon you'll enter MNSP.
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