This regional park offers several miles of hiking and biking trails easily accessible and marked. There is plenty of free parking, playgrounds, restroom facilities, an amphitheater, and a beautifully manicured picnic area with grills and walking trails. This park even has its own dog park for furry friends of all sizes.
For an easy hike through old Florida, the 1.2 mile Tower Trail reaches an observation tower in the middle that makes it more than worthwhile.
There is a nature center at the trailhead, complete with a butterfly garden that houses milkweed and pentas flowers. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a flash of yellow and black float by— the markings of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
The trail itself is shaded by tall pine trees that make the hike more than bearable even on a ninety-four degree day. It starts off as concrete, then alternates between boardwalk to cross the wetlands and a soft, sandy trail littered with pine needles. It’s easy to follow the blue blazes through.
The landscape changes with every round of a corner, making the hike even more interesting. In some parts, everything is green, from the brush that blankets the dirt to the trees that have made their way under the pines noble stature. In others, the pine needles have taken over, making the ground one note of mahogany brown. They circle puddles of thick black water where toads have made their home. And then, you’re on the boardwalk again, with a three-story observation tower in sight.
The top of the observation tower is shaded by a majestic pine tree, making it the perfect place for a mid-hike picnic. It looks out over wetlands, and in the distance you can see the Ortega River. Cricket chirps fill your ears. A breeze blows from the west, cool from touching the river, and you close your eyes and sit down in peace.
The park offers free admission and is open from dawn till dusk.