Family Weekender: Washington, D.C.

Capital Family Adventure Within Two Hours of the White House
By Mary Burnham
Page 1 of 6   |  
Go Guide: Mason Neck State Park
Who can go : All ages.
Activities : Bald eagle viewing, hiking, canoeing.
Distance from D.C.: 30 minutes.
Getting there : From I-95 south, exit at Lorton. Take Route 1 south to Gunston Road (Route 242), then turn right onto High Point Road and enter the park.
Contact : Mason Neck State Park, (703) 550-0362, or visit and click on the link to Virginia State Parks.
Reference : The Audubon Society's Field Guide to the Bald Eagle by David Gordon (Sasquatch Books, 206-467-4300).
Extra treats : For longer hiking trails and more eagle viewing, call Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, (703) 490-4979. Tour nearby Gunston Hall Plantation, home of George Mason IV, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, (800) 811-6966.

Timing traffic on the beltway will be your biggest challenge in getting to any one of these family-friendly, hassle-free D.C. area destinations. You can bald eagle watch, ride horses, backpack, kayak, bike, and even rock climb in any number of easy day trips, most just off the interstate.

The best bets around town are closer than you think! Here's what you need to know.

Mason Neck State Park

Mason Neck is home to upward of 60
American bald eagles

You're all but guaranteed a view of our magnificent, resurgent national bird at Mason Neck State Park: Adjacent Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge reports up to 30 pairs of nesting bald eagles at any given time. Wintertime, from December through February, finds upward of 40 adults diving for fish in Belmont Bay. You can reach a bird-watching blind by hiking just a half-mile on Kane's Creek Trail.

In summer, a guided canoe trip is your best chance for catching a glimpse of the eagles, which shy away from the noise of motorboats. You can bring your own boat, or choose from a variety of outfitters who will supply you with everything, including life jackets.

For a nice hike, try the Bay View Trail, which features a series of boardwalks that are great for viewing turtles, frogs, and other aquatic life. Families with smaller kids will enjoy the Beach Trail, which is just two tenths of a mile long and is stroller accessible — it features an observation deck and a large eagle nest replica.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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