Jacksonville’s Wilderness Parks and Preserves: The Westernmost Park

We have been to the north, the south and the east as we get ready to celebrate National Take a Hike Day on November 17. Now we are headed to the westernmost park on our parks map, The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail. It is 14.5 miles of a 12-foot right-of-way with some spur trails along the way.

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail runs from Imeson Road west to the Town of Baldwin and is part of the nationwide “Rails to Trails” program which turned abandoned railroad lines into parks. The city acquired the land in the 1990s and created the 12-foot-wide paved trail that is a great place to bike, hike, ride a horse or rollerblade and it is accessible to wheelchairs.

Hike, Bike or Ride Horseback: You can park at either of the endpoints at 1800 Imeson Rd. or 89 Brandy Branch Rd. in Baldwin. There are also trailheads in between at 850 N. Center Street (the old train depot) in Baldwin, 1380 Otis Rd., 1398 Halsema Rd. and at Camp Milton Preserve. A dense tree canopy shelters much of the paved path. Along the trail, you will pass over intersecting roads and by many homes and fields. You will travel through a rural setting of hardwood uplands, wetlands and pine flatwoods. You could catch a glimpse of wildlife including hawks, wood storks, kingfishers, deer, turkeys, rabbits, gopher tortoises, snakes and even alligators. For those looking for a place to ride your horse, an equestrian trail starts at the Imeson Rd. trailhead and runs along the adjacent tree line. You can remain separate from most of the paved trail except where tree crossing brings trail users together. There are also about 8.5-miles of spur trails off the main paved path that hikers and horse riders can take through adjacent conservation lands on unpaved trails.

Shorter Hike: If you aren’t up for the entire 14.5 miles and back, make the hike your own. You could start at the Halsema Rd. trailhead and take a 2.1-mile hike to Otis Rd. Or for an even shorter hike, you can walk from Halsema Rd. to the Camp Milton trail and take the trail around the preserve and back for about a 1-mile hike.

Did you know? The City of Jacksonville purchased the railway from CSX in 1992 to build the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail. The railway where the trail now sits was once part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad which was formed in 1900. The Atlantic Coast Line served the Southeast and contributed greatly to Florida’s economic development in the 20th century.

Jacksonville Wilderness Parks and Preserves – We have now taken you north to south and east to west for a closer look at our parks but there are plenty of others. To check out a park near your neighborhood, visit our parks page.