June 5 is National Trail Day, a day of service and advocacy for hometown trails! Did you know that there are many “hidden gem” trails in our area? Nature seekers love the thrill, peace and beauty of a hike with scenic views along the waterways and marshes offered in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Intracoastal and Marsh areas that provide the majestic landscape of our area. But incredible hiking areas extend out to the western parts of Jacksonville too, so many are willing to hop in the car and explore all that the surrounding area has to offer. Whether it’s your first or one-hundredth hike, there’s undoubtedly something new to see along the trails of Jacksonville and the coast. Lace up your favorite hiking shoes and plan to explore the trails of some of the gorgeous landscapes Duval and St. Johns County has to offer. Just don’t forget the bug spray, because after all … this is Florida!
Dutton Island Preserve – Dutton Island Preserve is perfectly located west of Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach, It’s the largest park with over 9,000 feet of natures trails and also includes fishing and observation piers, kayak, canoe and paddleboard launch, picnic areas perfect for family break time, newly constructed pavilions to get in the shade and camping areas.
Hanna Park – Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is nestled in Atlantic Beach along the ocean providing over 20 miles of trails to explore on foot or by bike. Interested in fishing, kayaking, boating or canoeing? The 60-acre lake is the perfect spot. You can spend the day or plan to camp in one of the many campgrounds. Some of the extras available at Hanna Park include Kids Splash Park, picnic areas and facilities available to rent for special ocassions.
Tide Views Preserve – Another hidden gem in Atlantic Beach is Tide Views Preserve made up of 8 acres of panoramic marsh views – it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset on any evening. The preserve includes over 2,500 feet of trails and boardwalk, piers for fishing and gazing at the views plus a kayak launch. Tide Views is a nature lovers delight.
Guana River Wildlife – Guana River State Park is like “one stop shopping” for the outdoor lover. Whether it is hunting, fishing kayaking, biking, running, walk, exploring, horseback riding or paddling, GRSP has it all for you! Diverse wildlife and beautiful scenery are truly unending.
UNF Nature Trails – Over 500 acres of natural habitat with three three main trails and two loop connector trails. These trails are open to the public daily, 365 days per year.
Castaway Island Preserve – Escape the city life and come on out to Castaway Island Preserve along the Intracoastal Waterway. Castaway Island is the perfect place to find all the marshland wildlife along the 300 acres bordering the San Pablo River. The Preserve’s boardwalk provides the perfect setting to observe the waterway. Kayak launches make taking exploration of the marshes even easier! The Preserve is open 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset.
Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens – The Arboretum includes seven trails for different levels of exploring and is notably known as “the hidden gem” in Northeast Florida. The Arboretum is open 7 days a week with a small entry fee of just $3.
Talbot Island State Park – The views from Little Talbot and Big Talbot Islands are breathtaking to say the least. Hikers will love the treasures to be seen along these marvelous paths while bird watching enthusiasts take in all the wildlife they are sure to spot. Talbot Island State Park offers biking and hiking trails, camping, fishing, and kayaking made available by Kayak Amelia. Surfers will love the north beach area of Little Talbot Island. Looking for the perfect outdoor wedding location? Consider Little Talbot Island!
Nocatee Preserve – Great hiking and biking in Ponte Vedra along the 7 mile of trails within 2,400 acres of nature preserve including 3.5 miles along the Intracoastal Waterway. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding and the scenery of natural Florida flora.
Julington Durbin Creek Nature Preserve – This large preserve in Mandarin’s Durbin/Bartram Park area offers 2,013 acres with over 9 miles of trails along two creeks leading to the St. Johns River. Looking for wildlife? Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagle, osprey, bobcat, turkey, gopher, deer and various birds. Manatees have been known to swim into both creeks as well. Enjoy the day hiking, picnicking or even horseback riding.
Baldwin Rail Trail – The abandoned railway that once belonged to CSX is now home to over 14 miles of walking, jogging, running, roller blading or biking trails from Imeson Road in Jacksonville to the Town of Baldwin. The 100 foot wide paved right-of-way trail is part of the “Rails to Trails” program turning abandoned rails into linear parks. The Rail Trail also includes over 8 miles of off trail paths for hiking and horseback riding.
These are just a few of the many trail parks in the Greater Jacksonville area. You can find more parks HERE. Have a special park you would love us to know about? Let us know in the comments! We’re always up for hiking a hidden gem!!
Jenn Heller is the Operations and Marketing Manager with The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, with over 17 years experience in Real Estate. She is a Jacksonville resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a crafter, chalk painter and an avid fitness enthusiast.