Mason Neck State Park is a ~1800 acre state park in Northern Virginia that is roughly 15–30 minutes outside of Washington D.C. Now I have to admit, I have visited a number of parks and state parks around D.C. and so far this has been one of the better ones. I’ve decided while I am staying in D.C. for the course of my graduate school years, I will make a point to visit as many state parks in the surrounding areas and write about them to create awareness about how amazing these state parks are!
I particularly am a fan of state parks due to my love of the outdoors and especially hiking. State parks offer more than just hiking though, as Mason Neck will show as an example. Another reason I really enjoy state parks is that due to their generally smaller size, they are more time friendly for those who may not always have a weekend, or a day, to devote to hiking. There are usually shorter trails that can still be very entertaining to undertake, while still being easily doable in a couple of hours or less. A short trail at the end of the day in a state park is always nice,especially for someone who has a busy schedule.
So what makes Mason Neck so amazing? Well, you have a lot of different things to enjoy at this state park. Mason Neck has nice short trails, very nice bike paths that go through well shaded forests, bird blinds that allow you to watch eagles, and surprisingly great views of the Chesapeake bay and some meadows for an area that is relatively low and flat . The Bayview Trail in particular is quite enjoyable to walk and see the Chesapeake (it also has access to a beach to wade in the water), as well as a short board walk through a swamp that is covered in lily pads that were blooming when I visited. It was really a beautiful sight to behold while completing this trail. About halfway into the loop, there is a bird blind that allows you to look over a part of the swamp where you could hear Bald Eagles. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any that day, but they were certainly vocal and around. Most of the trails take you through shaded forest and it’s pretty easy going. The only issue is that there are patches of soft ground or mud, but since the trails are close to water, this is to be expected. This slight negative doesn’t take away from the overall experience at all though.
There is one other trail that I completed there that I definitely want to note to anyone that ever goes to Mason Neck. The Marsh View Trail is extremely short but leads to one of the nicest views in the site which overlooks the meadow around Kanes Creek. The trail’s overview has you sitting on top of a hill overlooking the spreading meadow with birds and other animals going through the meadow eating. It’s also easy going and suitable for casual walkers and hikers. There is also a large sinkhole near the entrance of the trail that is an interesting geological feature to notice.
With a lot of praise being heaped on this park, there are a few cons. There is limited parking near the Marsh View Trail (I believe there were only 5 spots total). There is a similar situation at the parking lot near the Wilson Spring Trail. This is just something to consider when planning your park visit to Mason Neck. When I first arrived in the park, both were full, but on my way out of the park there were spots available.
I really enjoyed Mason Neck State Park. It’s a beautiful park with stunning scenery. The trails are definitely easier than the ones that I tend to hike, but most of them are easy going and would be manageable for the average person. If you are ever in Washington D.C. and are looking for a day away from the city, I would definitely recommend visiting this park.