Huntley Meadows Park - image courtesy Walter Sanford

Huntley Meadows Park

Nestled in Fairfax County's Hybla Valley, Huntley Meadows Park is a rich, natural and historical island of over 1,500 acres in the suburban sea of Northern Virginia. It harbors a nationally significant historic house, majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life.

Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is enjoyed here. From the 0.5 mile wetland boardwalk trail and observation tower, people have excellent views of beavers, frogs, dragonflies and herons. Huntley Meadows is well known as a prime birding spot, with over 200 species identified in the park.

Whether you come to hike, wildlife watch or simply to relax, Huntley Meadows Park will provide you with a premiere nature experience.

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Hours

The park grounds are open from dawn to dusk every day.

The hours for the Visitor Center and Gift Shop follow the Holiday Hours set for RECenters by Fairfax County (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/holidayhrs.htm) and change seasonally:

December 1 through February 28
11am-4pm all week (closed Tuesdays)
Exception: Holiday Hours

March 1 through April 15
9am-5pm on weekdays  (closed Tuesdays);
noon-5 on weekends
Exception: Holiday Hours

April 16 through June 30
9am-5pm all week (closed Tuesdays)
Exception: Holiday Hours

July 1 through August 31
9am-5pm on week days (closed Tuesdays);
9am-1pm on weekends;
Exception: Holiday Hours

September 1 through October 31
9am-5pm all week (closed Tuesdays)
Exception: Holiday Hours

November 1 through November 30
9am-5pm on weekdays (closed Tuesdays);
noon -5pm on weekends
Exception: Holiday Hours

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

There are no fees associated with Huntley Meadow Park

History

In colonial times, this land was part of the extensive plantation holdings of George Mason IV. Thomson Mason, a grandson of George Mason, built a home on the property in 1825. The villa, now known as Historic Huntley, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia Landmarks Register, and the Fairfax County Historic House Inventory. An exhibit of Historic Huntley is available online. Mason family ownership lasted into the late 1800s, with track of the land being sold to other farmers. The house, along with a large portion of land, was sold to Albert W. Harrison who converted the grain farm to a dairy operation.  

In the late 1920s, entrepreneur Henry Woodhouse reassembled many of the parcels, purchasing 1500 acres from 10 landowners. He dreamed of transforming Hybla Valley's dairy farms into a dirigible base. After he lost nearly all of the property, the federal government acquired the land. During the 1940s, the Bureau of Public Roads tested asphalt road surfaces. The Virginia National Guard's Battery D, 125th Gun Battalion used the land to provide anti-aircraft protection for the nation's capital during the 1950s.

Finally, the Navy conducted highly classified radio communication research before declaring the land surplus circa 1970.  President Gerald Ford signed 1,261 acres over to the citizens of Fairfax County for use as a park in 1975. Under the Federal Legacy of Parks Program, the County paid only one dollar for the land. In 1992 the Fairfax County Park Authority, with financial assistance from Ducks Unlimited, purchased an additional 165 acres of adjacent wetland and upland. Huntley Meadows Park is currently 1,557 acres.

Activities

There are many programs scheduled throughout the year on birds, wetland plants, trees, turtles, dragonflies and other wildlife. Huntly Meadow Park is a prime bird watching spot, with 200 species identified.

Facilities

Nature Center with exhibits, classroom and auditorium is located a short walk from main entrance and parking lot. In addition to 1/2 mile boardwalk wetland trail with observation platform, there is a 2 mile interpretive trail system and and hiking-biking trail.

Accessibility

From main parking lot the visitor center is a short distance on an accessible trail, as is the 1/2 mile boardwalk for wildlife viewing. Ask at the visitor center about accessibility of other trails.

Main image: Walter Sanford
Captain John Smith Trail
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