Mason Neck State Park, Virginia (Photo: Renee Sklarew)
Join Rachel Cooper and Renee Sklarew, authors of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C., as they lead a fall excursion to the Lorton, Virginia, area to explore a trio of distinctive sites in Fairfax County.
In 1969, Mason Neck State Park became first federal sanctuary for bald eagles. Located on the banks of Belmont Bay and adjacent to Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge, Mason Neck's mixture of wetlands, forest, open water, ponds, and fields make it ideal for ecological study, wildlife surveillance, and hiking. After a brief presentation at the visitors center, get a look at the native landscape on an easy 3-mile hike over trails that cross the wetlands on a series of boardwalks and meander through a hardwood forest of oaks, hickory, and holly.
Next, picnic on the grounds of George Mason’s home Gunston Hall as you learn about this American statesman and his contributions to development of the Bill of Rights. Then enjoy a guided tour of the 18th-century mansion, whose straightforward Chesapeake-plantation exterior contrasts with elegant rooms that cover the full range of English rococo style, reflecting French, neoclassical, and Chinoiserie influences.
The final stop is Lorton Workhouse Art Center, a 55-acre complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A docent-led tour of the Workhouse Prison Museum includes an exhibition on some of its most notable inmates, the American suffragists held here after their arrest for picketing the White House in 1917. Explore some of Workhouse Art Center’s 60 art studios on your own during free time.
Fringe stop at about 9:30 a.m.
Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes; picnic lunch provided; bring a day pack and water bottle.