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If you’re looking for a spot to go hiking, look no further than Jacksonville, Florida.
While there are plenty of picturesque places all around the United States, Jacksonville should be given more credit for the gorgeous landscapes that it provides. Besides hikes along the estuaries, there are also a handful of hikes along the beaches along with short hikes in urban parks that are ideal for families.
During these hikes, you’ll encounter scenic views of waterways and marshes along with spotting local birds and wildlife. Whether you consider yourself to be a hiking novice or someone that’s a seasoned hiker, there’s a sense of accomplishment when you get to take in that incredible, natural landscape. Here are some of the best and most beautiful hikes in Jacksonville, Florida to suit all levels of hikers.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
There are plenty of hiking trails to explore at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. If you’re looking to start with an easier hiking trail, you can do the 0.3 miles Lake Loop that features a man-made lake and is home to both animals and a variety of plant and tree collections.
For moderate hiking trails, there’s the Upper Ravine Trail that’s located on the south side and offers picturesque views – especially during the winter months. You’ll get to see red maples, poplars, and slash pines. There’s also the Live Oak Trail which is home to a few oak trees that are at least 100 years old. As you leisurely meander through the terrain, you’ll also encounter pine flatwoods and honeysuckle azaleas.
For those that want a bit of a challenge, you can try the Rosemary Ridge Trail that brings you to several habitats with delightful views and encounters with an arboretum that has been protected for at least 30 years. You can also try the Aralia Trail for a lovely view of Jones Creek.
Castaway Island Preserve
If you want to get away from the bustle of the city and enjoy a breath of fresh air, Castaway Island Preserve is the perfect place to head to. It protects more than 300 acres of coastal habitats along the San Pablo River and will transport you into a different world. You’ll stroll through a gentle mile long walk and see beautiful flowers along with a number of species that inhabit the area.
At Castaway Island Preserve, you can also head onto a long wooden bridge that’s close to the Intercoastal Waterway. After you’ve crossed the bridge, you can sit by the bench to take in the breathtaking views. This trail is also suitable for individuals who have dogs as it’s dog-friendly.
At this preserve, you can embark on a 21.3 trail that’s of moderate difficulty. The Julington-Durbin Preserve is full of greenery and is home to a beautiful and scenic lake. If you enjoy taking photos, remember to bring along your camera to snap some gorgeous shots of the surrounding scenery.
While the hike is relatively easy with flat terrain, it can also get a bit sandy. Hence, be cautious of the shoes you decide to wear. During the summer months, there can also be quite a lot of mosquitoes around the preserve, take care by wearing something to prevent them from biting or putting on some bug spray.
Tillie K Fowler Regional Park
This is Jacksonville’s largest city-maintained park and stretches more than 500 acres. It features a number of trails along with a nature education center and even a wildlife watchtower. One of the gems in this regional park is the Island Hiking Trail which is a hike of nearly 2 miles that take you through the upland and floodplain forest habitats along the Ortega River.
This trail can be tricky as most of the cross-trails and firebreaks are unmarked. You’ll also encounter quite a few swamps of the Ortega River, but avoid wading through them in case you run into a nasty surprise. The view at the end is incredibly rewarding, as you’ll be immersed in the beauty of the forest and take in the astounding view.
This trail is relatively popular as it follows a railroad route with historical ties. This route sparked the Battle of Olustee during the Civil War and is a total of 14.5 miles from Jacksonville to Baldwin. During the course of this trail, you will traverse through wetlands, pine flatwoods, and hardwood uplands. You’ll encounter various birdlife as the 15-mile paved path is sheltered by a tree canopy that houses hawks, stilts, wood storks and more.
As you head further along the trail, you may also see turkeys, rabbits, and alligators. Be careful along the trail as it’s also home to a venomous species of snake called the coral snake. It is a scenic and picturesque trail though, and midway you’ll even run into the home of the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War.
Amelia Island State Park
This park is absolutely stunning and protects 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the island’s shore. You’ll also get to take in the gorgeous views of the Atlantic Coast beach along the southern tip of Amelia Island. Either than beaches, you’ll also encounter salt marshes and coastal maritime forests. If you fancy horseback riding, you can even take a leisurely ride along the beach.
For hikers, there’s a treasure trove of hiking trails at Amelia Island State Park to whet your appetite. It’s one of the premier sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, so you can also be sure to spot some incredible wildlife such as least terns, Wilson’s plovers, and royal terns. During the winter and early spring months, you may even spot bald eagles fishing these waters.
Due to the size of Amelia Island, it’s made up of multiple sections such as American Beach, Big Talbot Big Pine Trail, Black Rock Trail, and more. There are multiple trails which offer scenic and unique views that’ll take your breath away. On the black rock trail, for example, you’ll witness formations that look like black lava rocks but are actually made of sand. The Big Talbot bluffs beach walk is also incredibly popular with rewarding views at the end of it all.
If you prefer a nature trail, head to the Cary Nature Trail that’s in the 3,413-acre forest to soak in some greenery, there’s also the Island Hiking Trail which provides you with views of dunes over the stunning Atlantic Ocean.
There are different types of trails for you to explore in Jacksonville, Florida. From beach trails to urban park trails, there are many choices for your hiking pleasure. Whichever hiking trail you decide to embark on, remember to soak in the beautiful and scenic views of the different landscapes and appreciate all that Jacksonville has to offer. For more destination guides and accommodation reviews, check out Trip101.