Huntley Meadows Park3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Website ~ Map Link
Bottom Line: It's a great place to get out and get some exercise and get close to nature. The boardwalk is really fun to walk on and look for creatures. 4/5 stars.
Things To Do: hike / walk, explore nature / spot wildlife. Bike*
Good For: Nature lovers of all ages, stroller-friendly. Bathrooms in visitor center.
Be Aware: Mosquitoes! (Bring the bug spray). The boardwalk has no shade (tho the rest of the trail is quite shady). The boardwalk also has almost no railing - which can be a little nerve racking if you have a precocious two-year old on foot. Also, I found the visitor center was a little underwhelming -- not too much for the preschool crowd to get excited about.
Huntley Meadows is a 1,425 acre Fairfax County Park in the Hybla Valley area (south of Alexandria off Rte 1). The park is a wildlife sanctuary and features two miles of trails through forests, meadows and wetlands. The county website states:
Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is enjoyed here. From the ½ 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.
So, about our visit. We arrived and started down the trail. It was extremely shady and pleasant.
I foolishly assumed my 2 yr old would want to walk on foot like his big brother, so I didn’t even think to bring the stroller. That mistake would come to haunt me. After a short stop in the visitor’s center, we headed out along the trail towards the boardwalk. Because it was a hot day, the lady behind the desk didn’t think we’d see too much wildlife, but what we saw was pretty exciting for little boys (and their momma). Just as soon as we got on the boardwalk, the sound of bull (?) frogs was everywhere. We stopped and try to find them in bushes/water, but they were hard to spot.
When we did find them, it was pretty cool. Look how well camouflaged he is.
We continued along the boardwalk, where it was HOT. The tall grasses were quite tall. We saw a red wing blackbird, which I wasn’t quick enough to capture – I was too busy making sure my 2yr old didn’t take a nose dive over the edge.
Along the path, there were occasional signs that provided more insight about our surroundings.
In the distance we spied some beautiful white birds, some kind of heron or ibis, I’m guessing. There were also ducks to be seen. This is my attempt at a stitched panorama from the boardwalk.
Further along the boardwalk we came to this cool observation tower.
From there you could see where the beavers had created a dam. Alas we didn’t spy any beavers. From this point on, my camera was put away. I had a two year old meltdown on my hands. He didn’t want to walk or be carried so I basically threw him on my back and dragged the 4yr old along to high tail it out of there.
I was glad we went, and even gladder that I had packed a lunch, which I used to lure the hungry children back to the car. Overall, it really is a neat oasis tucked in a very surburban/urban area. I look forward to going back — only this time I will be better prepared and have my stroller!
Here’s some of our nature finds:
*About Biking: the website states the park has a biking trail but it is not accessible from the main parking lot. Biking is prohibited on the main trails that we were on. When I consulted a brochure with a map, it shows a separate entrance to the park close to where South Kings Highway and Telegraph Rd converge. From there, a 1.2 mile hike-bike trail runs into Huntley Meadows. We may come back sometime to try that for my budding bikers.
ps– to read another great review of Huntley Meadows, check out this entry at Summer Sky: Learning As I Go.
Find more parks by visiting my Arlington Parks & Playgrounds page.
Find more parks by visiting my main Arlington Parks & Playgrounds page.