Learn to Hike at Jacksonville Arboretum

Jacksonville Arboretum is a city park that is managed by a non-profit organization and maintained by volunteers. Its stated goals are to:

  • Sustain biological diversity
  • Maintain a natural area that can be used for research
  • Educate the public about nature and natural resources
  • Provide a peaceful place where people can self-reflect and enjoy nature

[Resource Management Plan, December 20 2010]

For those who are considering taking up hiking, Jacksonville Arboretum is a good place to start. With 3.5 miles of looping and interlacing trails, it’s a great place to practice trail navigation while sampling terrains common to Florida. Since even the longest loop is moderately trafficked, one is unlikely to become lost for long, or remain unnoticed if injured.

From the parking lot, you enter the Lake Loop Trail, which is paved and affords scenic views of Lake Ray, the park’s centerpiece.

Lake Loop Trail is actually a central, paved loop that connects with additional unpaved trails.

North of Lake Loop, routes are longer and lead through scrubland. They include:

  • Live Oak Trail
  • Sand Ridge Trail
  • Deer Moss Trail is a connector which cuts across the middle of Sand Ridge Trail, allowing one to shorten the route.

South of Lake Loop, routes are forested and travel across streambeds and around gorges. They include:

  • Jones Creek Trail
  • Lower Ravine Trail
  • Aralia Trail
  • Upper Ravine Trail is a connector, which links the Lake Loop Trail entrance to Jones Creek Trail.
Stream at Jacksonville Arboretum

Most of the trails have sub-loops, and most of these are extremely short. You won’t get lost if you take one of these. Just remember whether you need to turn right or left when you exit.

During the spring and summer, the Arboretum is a good place to learn about native plants, since various trees and shrubs are labelled.

For pictures of native pines taken at the park, click here.

During today’s hike, I encountered a trail token, a little gift left by another hiker in an obvious space.

This trail token will be added to a shrine at my house.

During other hikes, I’ve found a coin with the Lord’s Prayer on it and a tiny gnome. Note that I am not recommending people leave trail tokens. If everyone did this, the forest would soon resemble a flea market. But it is something that people sometimes feel motivated to do.

This 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) gnome was
hiding in the crevice of a tree stump at
Suwannee River State Park.

People also seem compelled to chisel their names and initials into things. Below, a creative volunteer must have attempted to add a bit of whimsy by carving a turtle from a felled tree.

But others are whittling it away as they add their own marks. Again, not something I recommend doing, since it degrades the experience for others and forces the replacement of benches, railings, and sculptures before their time. And in this park, “all of the trails, benches, board walks, and picnic tables were built by volunteers from the community.” [Arboretum web site].

As I walked, spiky palmetto fronds cast barber-pole stripes across a sapling. I also encountered lichens growing in the shape of a mask.

When one hikes frequently, they’ll occasionally discover items which have fallen off of heads or packs. When possible, it is the custom to post these at eye level, so that they can be seen and recovered by those backtracking their steps. Today someone found a hat.

It is customary to post found items at eye-level,
although I draw the line at discarded socks.

Jacksonville Arboretum is located at 1445 Millcoe Road, Jacksonville Florida. A small donation of $3/person is requested, which can be paid online. There is a single commode on the property which serves both men and women.

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She has a passion for day-hiking and nature, and also enjoys writing. Be sure to visit the TenPaths YouTube channel, which is still in its infancy.

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