Oaks State Gardens, (904-445-3161),
has .4- , .5- and 1.2-mile trails and a ranger-guided option on the
Matanzas River side that permit views of its ornamental gardens, which
reach for 400 acres from the Atlantic Ocean to the Matanzas River. At
low tide, you can watch anemones, starfish and crabs doing their things
in small tidal pools. When you move inland, the dunes give way to huge
live oaks, hickories and magnolias.
Plantation State Historic Site,
(904-439-2219), offers a .4-mile trail that ends at the ruins of the
sugar mill and spring house and includes a spur that leads to the ruins
of the slave cabins. This is where Maj. Charles Wilhelm Bulow in 1821
built a plantation where slaves grew cotton, sugarcane, rice and indigo.
The St. Johns River
Water Management District, (904-329-4404),
has set up hiking options at several of its tracts: The district will
be happy to send you a handy little guidebook if you call or write to
P.O. Box 1429, Palatka, FL 32178-1429.
The Kratzert Conservation
Area, (407-897-4311), offers 3
miles of trail space through wetlands, the river and Lake Monroe.
Caravelle Ranch Conservation
Area, also on the St. Johns near Palatka,
has 17 miles of trails along the Cross Florida Greenway.
The Dunns Creek Conservation
Area provides 4 miles of trails through
The Lake George
Conservation Area has more than
12 miles of trails bordering the lake, hardwood swamps and pine flatwoods.
Fox squirrels, owls, bald eagles, herons, ospreys, hawks, deer and otters
are common to the area.
Conservation Area, (407-984-4940),
gives you nearly nine miles of trails through densely vegetated wetlands
that are home to several bird species.
The South Lake
Harney Tract provides seven miles
of trails in Cabbage Slough, a habitat for woodstorks, sandhill cranes,
roseate spoonbills and many other birds. Its also on Hwy 46, a
little west of Seminole Ranch.
another bird sanctuary (snowy white egrets, ibises, spoonbills, herons
and mottled ducks), has nine miles of trails.
Bull Creek Conservation
Area provides 17 miles of trails
inhabited by many of the same bird species as well as white-tail deer,
gopher tortoises and wild turkey. The entire length is part of the Florida
Three Forks Conservation
Area has 15 miles of trails that
have otters, alligators and numerous birds species along the way.Remember,
when it comes to water management districts, conservation areas and
forests, check in advance to make sure youre not planning on hiking
when gun- or even bow-toting hunters are in the area.
The Blue Cypress
Conservation Area offers a blister-raising
26 miles of trails through marshes, lakes and cypress swamps along
the St. Johns River. Its a good place to see endangered snail
kites as well as eagles, ospreys, limpkins and great blue and night
The Oslo Riverfront
Conservation Area has two miles
of trails and two loops that are wheelchair accessible. Its
dotted with hammocks, wetlands and flatwoods and provides a home to
20 rare plant species, including whisk ferns, coral-root orchids and
Amelia island / Fernandina Beach
Think of it as spring training. You can warm up with the 30-block
walking tour of Old
Fernandina, which combines the townís
historic scenery with a bit of exercise. The tour begins on Centre
Street, just east of the docks, at the depot of Floridaís first
cross-state railroad. A detailed itinerary, including descriptions
of historic sites, is available at the Amelia Island Tourist Development
Council, 800-226-3542 or 904-277-0717, 102 Centre St., Fernandina
Beach, FL 32035.
Amelia Island Plantation,
800-874-6878 or 904-261-6161, a 1,250-acre environmentally sensitive
resort on A1A near the islandís southern tip, has more than
10 miles of hiking and jogging trails through uplands, dunes and marshes.
St. Marys River
State Forest has about 15 miles
of trails in northeastern Nassau County, along the St. Marys River
and the Florida-Georgia border.
East of Jacksonville, straddling the Nassau-Duval County line,
Cary State Forest, 904-693-5055,
has 18 miles of marked forest trails. The best time to see some of
the forest's wildlife (deer and raccoons to wild hogs and, occasionally,
a black bear) is near sunrise or sunset. Maps are available by calling
or writing the forest office, 8719 W. Beaver St., Jacksonville, 32220.
Talbot Island State Park,904-251-2320,
has bluffs carved by erosion, a do-it-yourself trail along 11 miles
of primitive beach and five other marked trails through dunes, salt
marshes, tidal creeks, and prairies.
Talbot Island State Park, 904-251-2320,
a bird metropolis, has some five miles of beaches and a 4.1-mile hiking
Fort George Island
State Cultural Site, 904-251-2323,
offers a 4.4-mile trail through shell mounds to the summit (again,
itís all of 65 feet above sea level) of Mount Cornelia. For
maps or more information on the Talbot Island parks, call or write
to 12157 Heckshire Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32233. If you want to know
more about the Fort George Island park, call or write to 11676 Palmetto
Ave., Fort George Island, FL 32232.
Jennings State Forest,
904-693-5055, is a spot where you can improvise along several miles
of unimproved roads. Scenics include dome swamps, black water streams,
ravines and the scores of mammal, reptile and bird species that are
common to North Florida. For maps and additional information, call
or write to the Division of Forestry, 8719 W. Beaver St., Jacksonville,
Head Branch State Park, 904-473-4701,
has four marked trails that total about 1 mile one-way. They pass
sandhills, a steep ravine, springs, lush vegetation and an old mill.
The park (6239 Highway 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32356) is in Clay
County. The park also has a 3.2-mile section of the Florida National
Welaka State Forest,
904-467-2388 (P.O. Box 174, Welaka FL 32193-0174), has several trails
that weave through a mosaic of wetlands, hammocks, flatwoods, sandhills
and bayheads. Trails can be tackled individually (.6 miles to 4 miles)
or combined for 12 miles of hiking
River State Park,
904-825-5071 (2690 South Ponte Vedra Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
32082), has nine miles of old service roads between the Intracoastal
Waterway and the Atlantic..
Green Cove Springs
The Bayard Point
Conservation Area, located on the
St. Johns River just east of Green Cove Springs, has 18 miles of trails
along the river and inland.