Welcome to a new year! It’s safe to say most of us have enjoyed plenty of time in front of screens over the last 12 months, so let’s turn over a new leaf by getting out into the lush nature of North Florida. The next time you’re looking for some entertainment, skip the TV binge and check out one of these six amazing hikes in Jacksonville.
1. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail
Feeling a little cooped up and looking for a full day of outdoor fun? Find your way to the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, a 14.5-mile point-to-point trail that follows a former section of the CXS railroad track. Its history as a railway means this trail is long and straight, a path right through the forest, with little elevation. Cruise along a tree-lined pathway shaded by forest canopies and enjoy several sections of wooden boardwalk. With so many miles in front of you, you can go as long and as far as you like. Tune into a good podcast series or enjoy the quiet of nature and decompress on this serene trail.
2. Castaway Island Preserve
At Castaway Island Preserve, you’ll get a great bang for your buck on a short but scenic nature walk. Located along the Intracoastal Waterway – a 3,000-mile waterway connecting Boston, Southeast United States, and South Texas – the Castaway Island Preserve offers great opportunities to spot marshland wildlife. People of all ages can enjoy a mile-long nature trail that takes hikers along a wooden boardwalk to an observation platform. Bring along the kayak and make use of the boat launch to explore the fascinating marshlands.
3. Timucuan Trail
There’s plenty to see in Jacksonville and North Florida, but there’s no excuse for missing the Timucuan Trail, a 6.3-mile out-and-back connecting Little Talbot Island State Park and Big Talbot Island State Park and culminating at beautiful Blackrock Beach. Meander through forest canopy and make your way to stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and sandy beaches marked by massive driftwood logs. Make this trip when you’re ready to be awed by the natural beauty of coastal Florida.
4. Julington Durbin Creek Preserve
Take the dogs along for a peaceful stroll on the wide and well-maintained trail at Julington Durbin Creek Preserve. This 5.5-mile loop offers an unpaved trail that makes for nice walking. Slow down from your busy life, and take your time exploring a network of nature trails crossing floodplain wetlands and dense green forest.
5. The Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails
The nature trails at the University of North Florida protect 500 acres of natural habitat for the purpose of “environmental education, research and low impact recreation.” The Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails, named for a distinguished UNF professor, are broken up into three main trails and two loop connector trails. Hiking through preserved local habitat, get lost in your thoughts picturing what Jacksonville looked like prior to European settlement. You’ll cruise along Lake Onieda, through cypress swamps, sandhills, and pine flatwoods. Make sure to find the mile-long Red Maple Boardwalk for a truly memorable nature experience.
6. Spanish Pond Loop Trail
Walk into your history lesson at the Spanish Pond Loop Trail, a 2.5-mile trail that begins across from the entrance to the Fort Caroline National Memorial. The Spanish Pond Loop, named to remember Spanish soldiers who marched and camped in this area prior to attacking Fort Caroline, meanders through a fascinating salt marsh ecosystem full of colorful mushrooms and mosses. As a bonus, you’ll have a chance to visit Fort Caroline, a memorial to the French presence in Florida in the 16th century that charts early contact between Native Americans (the Natives in this region were the Timucua) and European settlers.
Looking for more tips on things to do in and around Jacksonville? Check out our Cape House blog for recipes, activities, and more.