The refuge will be closed on the following dates for deer management hunts:
- November 14, 2023
- November 28, 2023
- December 5, 2023
This 2,227-acre refuge encompasses approximately 2,000 acres of mature hardwood forest, the largest freshwater marsh in northern Virginia, and nearly six miles of shoreline. Because of its unique blend of habitat, Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge supports a diverse mixture of wildlife throughout the year. Visitors of the refuge can view wildlife along our 4 miles of trails, while encapsulated in the tranquility of the surrounding forest. Whether you're here for the wildlife, scenic views, solitude, or all of the above, the refuge is a great place to learn about the history of land use on the Neck, and to connect with the wildlife that call it home.
Know Before You Go
- Summer - Hot and humid. Drink fluids and use sunscreen while engaging in refuge activities.
- Spring and Fall - Mild and pleasant.
- Winter - mild with occasional cold, blustery winds across meadows and off the river.
- Biting Insects – Use repellent when hiking during from April to October to deter mosquitoes, and biting flies.
- Ticks - Avoid walking through tall grasses and stay on trails. Ticks may transmit disease; visitors are encouraged to check for ticks following a visit.
- Poison Ivy - All parts of the three leafed plant may result in skin rashes.
- Northern copperhead – To avoid the venomous snake, stay out of high grass and watch your step on trails.
Though exploring the refuge is restricted to established nature trails, you’ll find that these winding forested corridors are rich in nature and history.
Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. Great Marsh Trail
The Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. Great Marsh Trail is a paved, ¾ mile long, fully accessible trail, that is located on Gunston Road, one mile east of High Point Road. This trail follows a forested ridge, and ends at an observation platform overlooking the 250 acre Great Marsh. Benches spaced at intervals provide quiet rest stops along the 20 minute walk. This trail affords the best opportunity to see bald eagles and wintering waterfowl, and is open tofoot traffic and pets on leash up to 6 feet.
The trail is named in honor of Joseph V. Gartlan Jr., who served in the Virginia State Senate for 28 years, from 1972 until 2000. He earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues by being an outspoken protector of the environment, and champion for the rights of Virginians with mental and physical disabilities. Senator Gartlan lived on the Neck until his death in 2008.
The Woodmarsh Trail is a 3-mile circuit that begins at a marked parking lot off High Point Road, and winds through a mature, eastern deciduous forest. A large, covered platform with a telescope is located just over 1 mile from the parking lot, and provides a sweeping view of the central portions of the Great Marsh. This trail is composed of compacted soil and gravel. Some portions may become muddy after rains, and some sections have steep up and down segments. Comfortable walking shoes are sufficient for navigating this trail. The lower portion of the trail is divided into three loops, with the Fern Pass and Hickory Pass crossovers. A portable toilet is located off of the lower loop near Sycamore Road. The trail is open to foot traffic and pets on leash up to 6 feet. Portions of the Woodmarsh Trail may be closed from December 1 through the middle of June if eagles are nesting near the trail.
High Point Trail
The High Point Trail is a 3-mile, ADA compliant, paved trail, that leads hikers and bikers from Gunston Road, along High Point Road, through the, to the Mason Neck State Park visitor center. Access to the trail is available at the Woodmarsh Trail Parking lot on High Point Road, 0.6 miles off Gunston Road. This trail is open to hiking, biking and pets on leash up to 6 feet.
Other Facilities in the Complex
Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
In 1998, Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge, were reorganized into the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Reorganization allowed for better apportion of staff and resources for all three refuges. The refuges border Occoquan Bay at the junction of Fairfax County and Prince William County.
Rules and Policies
Help staff ensure that wildlife has a place to grow and survive for future generations by respecting refuge rules and obeying posted signs. In addition to standard recreation, the Service encourages adult and youth groups to use the refuge for wildlife-dependent interpretive and educational programs, but they must obtain a permit from the headquarters office.
Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is located about 18 miles south of Washington D.C. From the north: take I-95 south to exit 163 (Lorton). Turn left on Lorton, right on Armistead Rd, and then right (south) on RT 1. Go to light at top of the hill and turn left on Gunston Rd. (242) and go about 4 miles. The refuge shares a common entrance (High Pt. rd.) with the Mason Neck State Park. From the south: take I-95 north to exit 161 (Rt 1, Ft. Belvoir), go north on Rt 1, turn right on Gunston Rd, go about 4 miles to refuge entrance.