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Mason Neck State Park

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Hike Summary

After the previous week’s hike of exciting snowy wilderness, I decided to try something different and headed in the opposite direction, through suburbia, to Mason Neck State Park. It’s located in Lorton, VA, a little foot that kicks out into the Potomac as it starts to turn into the Cheasapeake Bay.

I’d been holding off on some of these hikes in this direction, because I had been saving them for winter time when they’d be less crowded, but also because I was a tiny bit leery of driving in the direction of DC during commute hours. I do almost all of my hiking during the week, and that has its pluses and minuses.

Still, it was not a problem, although there was traffic, none of it was particularly nasty, and I took an alternate route and avoided the crowded and busy interstates on the way.

It was a blustery winter day as I arrived, only one of a couple of cars there in the parking lot at the visitor’s center. The gift shop was closed (only open on the weekends,) but there was a ranger there who helped me out with my out of date map from my guidebook, and also pointed out that their website map is out of date as well. They’ve added an additional trail, the Meadow View trail, and she showed me where it linked up to the others.

The sun was starting to burn off the early morning haze as I set out. There were a few birders along the way, who gave me slightly dirty looks, as I had a dog with me. I try to be very accommodating towards other people when I am out hiking with my dog: I never let him off leash, I curb my leash very short when I see other people, and I yield to hikers automatically. The only thing remotely naughty that I do is I use a flexi-lead leash, which breaks the “6 ft rule” of many parks, but I also keep a 6ft leash in my backpack in case anyone complains. I always make sure my dog stays on the trail with me and doesn’t go running off to chase anything, as much as he would love to. I know that dogs and dog owners often get a bad rep because of their misbehavior, and I definitely don’t want to contribute to that.

So I make a squid like route on the map this day, first following the Bay View trail out to the first observation blind, that looked out over a salty smelling marsh area. Not much in the way of wildlife was immediately visible, but I could hear plenty around me, particularly the distinctive knocking of woodpeckers.

Back around I went, and then turned onto the Dogue trail and then the new Meadow View trail. You could tell this trail was relatively new, as it was very well maintained with a lot of gravel strewn along it. I kinda think that there were a couple of approaches where they could have been better served by using a switchback instead of a steep climb, but none of them were particularly insurmountable. Compared to the hikes I’ve been on lately in more wilderness areas, this was … a walk in the park.

The sounds of civilization were never very far away as I continued on my way. The railroad was near, and there were often small airplanes flying overhead. I could hear cars at times. Such is the drawback of being close to suburbia.

On I went to the Eagle Spur trail, that led out to another observation blind. I had kind of been hoping to possibly see a bald eagle or two, as they supposedly nest in the area, but there were none to be seen. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled in other parks along the Potomac, as winter is supposed to be a good time to see them.

In my efforts to get as many miles as I could out of this hike, I hiked almost every trail in this park, even the little paved beach trail at the end. It was worth going on, as there was a nice view at the end, made a lovely end to the day.

Hopefully some weekend soon, I can try to make a super long hike, something around 20 miles or so. The registration for the One Day Hike is coming up, and they say that if you want to do the full hike you should be able to do at least a 25 mile hike to test yourself.

More Pictures of Mason Neck State Park
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