Grab your hiking shoes or sneakers, some water and go take a hike. November 17 is National Take a Hike Day and we are lucky to have over 80,000 acres of “wild” to explore. You could choose from any number of trails around Jacksonville where you can get your heart pumping and take in the fresh air. Are you looking for a long hike, a middle of the road hike or a quicker hike you can do on your lunch break—or before or after work or school? Our park system has it all. If you need some suggestions, we have a few of our favorites that you should definitely check out.
Theodore Roosevelt Area (TRA) and Fort Caroline National Memorial
The Theodore Roosevelt Area (TRA) and Fort Caroline National Memorial are favorites of our communications officer, Mayda, for their topography and diverse ecosystems. They are located close to each other off Mount Pleasant and Fort Caroline roads in East Arlington. TRA has about 600 acres with some slopes that provide a bit of a climb. Mayda also likes the middens of oyster shells, artifacts, and ecofacts that are reminders of the native peoples who called these areas home thousands of years ago. Enjoy the cool air under the tree canopies that range from towering hardwood trees to small-statured yaupon hollies to the knee-high grasses of the salt marshes. With more than five miles of hiking trails, you can connect from the Willie Browne trail to the Spanish Pond Trail and then walk across the street to Fort Caroline National Memorial. There you can hike the Hammock Trail and check out the Timucuan Village’s hut and shell mound exhibit. You can still visit the memorial fort exhibit while some of its walls are being refurbished; however, the Timucuan Preserve Visitors Center is closed until further notice due to the pandemic.
Cedar Point Preserve and Cedar Point
Our program and outreach director, Felicia, is a big fan of Cedar Point Preserve and Cedar Point on the Northside because of their remoteness and serene natural setting. You can’t hear traffic noise and there is rarely anyone else there. Cedar Point Preserve is a city-owned park with trailhead parking along Cedar Point Road west of Pumpkin Hill Road, and Cedar Point is National Parks Service land at the sound end of Black Hammock Island. They provide nearly 11 miles of trails to explore including upland hammocks, saltwater marshes, and tidal creeks. Felicia enjoys the way the sunshine peeks through the trees to give a “dappled sunlight” effect as you walk the pine-needley paths. She also enjoys the remote bridge which connects the parks. It provides opportunities for wildlife viewing over the marsh and a 360-degree view of nature. It is a perfect place for hiking, biking, and exploring on horseback. If you take the right path, you could also discover the Fitzpatrick ruins which date back to the 1780s and once anchored a plantation that supplied salt to troops during the Civil War.
Little Talbot Island State Park
A favorite of Mark, our executive director, is Little Talbot Island State Park which is on the Atlantic coast north of the mouth of the St. Johns River. He first fell in love with the park in 1983 when he moved to the area to take a job with The Florida Times-Union. Little Talbot has more than five miles of pristine beaches which Mark said is the longest and widest of anywhere he has seen on the east coast. He refers to this as a generational park. He and his wife brought their sons there when they were kids and now his sons are taking their children to enjoy all the park has to offer. Little Talbot is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in northeast Florida. You can hike, bike, kayak, surf, picnic, and camp. There is also a more-than-two-mile-long paved bike and pedestrian path that runs from the entrance to the southern tip of the island. There is an admission fee for this park but it is well worth it.
Leave It Better Than You Found It
Remember, whenever you hike the trails or enjoy activities at any park or preserve, make sure you leave it better than you found it. Practice “Leave No Trace” which is enjoying the outdoors while leaving nothing behind to mark your travels there. Enjoy your hike!