Huntley’s unique habitat requires special attention and care from visitors. Huntley provides some of the best wildlife viewing in the region. Please help us maintain this experience.
Huntley Meadows Park’s Heron Trail (the boardwalk) is an immersive nature experience. You will walk through the heart of the wetland and be close to wildlife. The boardwalk is narrow, so remember these guidelines.
Walk. Running and jogging create vibrations that disturb other visitors and wildlife. Walk slowly for the best experience and the best chance to see wildlife.
Wheels. The only equipment with wheels allowed are strollers for children and ADA mobility devices. Bicycles, tricycles, scooters, segways, skateboards, etc. disturb wildlife and create potentially dangerous situations for people. A collision could lead to a fall into the wetland.
No dogs or other pets on the Heron or Restoration Trails, including the boardwalk. Many park visitors use the boardwalk for study, wildlife observation and nature photography. Pets on the Heron and Restoration Trails, including the boardwalk, create dangerous situations for people and wildlife. Leashed pets are allowed on all other park trails. It is vitally important to keep pets on leash. The park is large and has sensitive habitats that are home to breeding/nesting species like wild turkeys. Please keep Huntley a safe place for people and wildlife. Please remember to pick up after your pet. Trash cans are in front of the Visitor Center and in the parking lot. Although pets are not allowed on the Heron and Restoration Trails and the boardwalk, Fairfax County has off-leash dog parks and hundreds of miles of on-leash, pet-friendly trails.
So why can’t I take my pet on the Restoration or Heron Trails and boardwalk?
We understand that people would like to take their favorite pets onto all the trails and the boardwalk. However, the rule banning pets from sensitive areas is important and comes from both experience and scientific study. The main reasons: 1) Several studies show that even a leashed, well-behaved dog is perceived by nesting birds as a predator. This can prevent successful nesting. Studies show that a dog's presence can cause a 40% drop in bird numbers and a 35% drop in bird species. Several bird species that nest in the wetland do not breed anywhere else in Fairfax County. 2) The boardwalk is narrow. There is no shoulder or off-trail area. If two pets meet and have an altercation, there could be injuries or there could be pets or people falling into the wetland. If a pet attacks a person, there is nowhere to go. Several people and dogs have been bitten and injured on the boardwalk in these circumstances. Even well-behaved pets can instigate a fight with a more aggressive pet, and animal behavior experts cannot predict how any two animals will react to each other. While your pet may be well behaved, not all people are comfortable around certain animals. The narrow boardwalk means that they cannot avoid your pet.
Many people come to Huntley Meadows for peace and respite from the hustle of urban living, to commune with nature, to take photos or to take a walk. Green space is important for people and is a sanctuary for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. As you walk the trails, be mindful of your voice volume. Remind children to use inside voices. Speaking in normal conversational tones is less disruptive to wildlife and other visitors and means you will have more opportunities to see animals.
AMPLIFIED MUSIC AND SOUND/BIRD CALLS
Please use headphones or earbuds on mobile devices as you walk the trails. Music and other sounds of technology startle wildlife. The more people and the more noise, the more disruption to wildlife and visitors. Be courteous to the animals, yourself and each other.
Playing recorded bird or animal calls in the park is not permitted. Birds use songs to attract mates and establish territory. Recorded calls cause birds to stop feeding, caring for offspring, resting, and interrupt other important activities. This can cause birds to leave established territories, lose mates, not forage adequately, or not raise offspring. Please do not play recorded bird calls in the park.
STAY ON TRAIL
Keeping to marked and maintained trails does more than you realize to protect the park. Staying on trail ensures that plants do not get trampled and that breeding and nesting animals are not disturbed. It also means invasive plant seeds or wildlife diseases won’t be tracked into wild areas.
SHARE THE TRAIL
Huntley’s trails are wide and flat. The daily dramas of the natural world unfold around you and can easily take up all your attention. The park is a popular destination for adults, families, photographers, birders, and many other groups. Share the trail, and keep an eye on small children.
TOUCHING, TAKING, AND FEEDING
Please do not touch or interact with wildlife. At all. In any way. Wildlife perceives humans as potential predators. If you are respectful and keep your hands away from them, animals are more likely to continue their normal activities (breeding, nesting, feeding), and you’ll be able to watch. It is illegal to remove anything -- plant, animal or other -- from the park.
Please do not feed the wildlife. Human food can cause serious and sometimes fatal health issues in wild animals. Feeding wildlife can also create aggressive wildlife that will anticipate food from people.
It is illegal to release wildlife or pets in the park. It is illegal in Virginia to trap and relocate an animal to another area. Releasing animals into the park can introduce diseases to the existing populations. Relocated or released animals have a very low survival rate.
FISHING AND NETTING
Huntley Meadows Park is a wildlife sanctuary. Fishing and netting are not permitted. The wetland is shallow with limited access points. Fishing can create dangers to visitors and wildlife. Netting is disruptive to the wetland bottom and to plants, fish, invertebrates and other wildlife. Please observe only from the boardwalk. Huntley offers seasonal programs where, guided by a naturalist, you can have a greater degree of interaction with nature. Keep an eye on our programs if that interests you.
Can I have a picnic with my family at the park? Yes! Huntley has one reservable picnic shelter. Picnic information is on the Park Authority’s website. Amplified sound, music, and balloons are not permitted.
BICYCLES, TRICYCLES, SCOOTERS AND WHEELS
Bicycles, tricycles, scooters, etc. are welcome on the Hike/Bike trail at the S. Kings Hwy park entrance only. The Hike/Bike Trail entrance is. at 6901 S. Kings Hwy, Alexandria VA. This trail is 1.1 miles of flat, paved surface that is perfect for bike riding, running, skateboards or jogging with your dog. The trail will lead you through forest and meadow habitat. There are no facilities at this entrance. The other trail system (accessed at 3701 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria VA) is meant to be enjoyed at a slower speed. This trail is 1.9 miles and includes the wetland boardwalk. There is a bicycle rack in the parking lot for your convenience. Bicycles and other wheeled devices can be locked in the parking lot rack or left in cars. The wildlife will appreciate your consideration.
Keep Huntley clean for all those who come behind you. Trash is more than unsightly. It can create dangerous situations for people and wildlife. Please take all trash out of the park. There are trash cans in front of the Visitor Center and in the parking lots.
Huntley Meadows Park is a sanctuary for more than just wildlife. It is an important place for humans seeking peace, refuge and a respite from the concrete jungle. It is a home and nursery for wildlife. Together we can keep it beautiful!