10 Scenic Hikes in Jacksonville for All Experience Levels - Urban Outdoors
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Jacksonville, with its swampy location along the coast, offers tons of nature preserves and coastal areas to explore on foot or by water. While you won’t find super strenuous mountain trails or tricky elevation gain, there are plenty of interesting scenery within the city limits. Hiking in Jacksonville is a great way to get some exercise and experience some of the unique natural landscapes that the city has to offer! We created this guide to the best trails and hikes in Jacksonville, FL so you can get outdoors and enjoy some of the city’s best green spaces.

Know Before You Go: Jacksonville’s trails are beautiful, but they’re often hot, wet, and buggy. We’d recommend a good pair of hiking shoes (Chacos for drier trails and waterproof hiking boots for the wetter ones), as well as lots of strong bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay. A wide brimmed hat and reef-safe sunscreen would also be smart to bring along with you, as well as a large, insulated water bottle with cold water.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Best Hikes Near Jacksonville

Jacksonville Arboretum Trails

  • Trail Length: 2.7 miles total
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

When you’re looking for pretty trails for hiking in Jacksonville, one of the best places to start is at the local arboretum. The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a wonderful nature area in the heart of the city that’s home to hundreds of local plant and animal species. Rather than one long trail, the park is split up into lots of short, easy trails so you can choose your own adventure.

Explore the on-site Lake Ray and Jones Creek as you walk over wooden boardwalks and well-maintained dirt paths through the forest. This easy trail system is perfect for kids and families looking for a short, sweet adventure!

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

  • Trail Length: 14.5 miles total
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

One of the quintessential multi-use hiking trails in Jacksonville is the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail. Running nearly 15 minutes through the heart of the city, this mostly paved trail system is a local favorite for running, walking, and biking. It’s less of a traditional hiking spot and more of a place you can go to get some fresh air and exercise in a scenic setting. The trail mostly runs through forested areas, perfect for protecting yourself from the hot Florida sunshine.

Photo Credit: Craig ONeal (Flickr CC)

University of North Florida Eco Trails

  • Trail Length: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Jacksonville is home to the famed University of North Florida, and the university is home to many local trails that have some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the city. A hike through this trail system is a great way to escape the city and discover local wildlife. You’ll often see turtles in the waterways here, heads bobbing atop the still waters. There are some beautiful little boardwalks throughout the trail system that run over and around local waterways. All in all, hiking in Jacksonville doesn’t get much better than this!

Spanish Pond Loop Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 104 feet

Another incredibly scenic Jacksonville hiking trail is the Spanish Pond Loop trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial. This 2.5-mile trail runs through a variety of different landscapes, from wide open marshlands to mossy, spooky forests to tropical paradise. This area is a photographer’s dream, with plenty of scenic boardwalks and lookout points to enjoy the park’s landscapes from different perspectives. While there are a lot of great hikes in Jacksonville, the Spanish Pond Loop is a local favorite for its stunning scenery and variety.

Photo Credit: Gary Eyring (Flickr CC)

Hanna Park

  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is one of the most popular urban green spaces in Jacksonville, and for good reason – there’s beach access, scenery, and several hiking trails to explore the wilder areas in the park. A walk through Hanna Park’s south trail will bring you from urban Jacksonville to a tropical forest, with mossy trees, lush plants, and green swamplands that look like something out of Jurassic Park. It’s amazing how quickly the scenery in the park changes from swamplands to beaches in a matter of a few hundred feet!

Losco Regional Park

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Another Jurassic Park-like trail in the Jacksonville area is the Losco Regional Park Loop, which is located on the south side of the city a little farther inland than Hanna Park. Here, you’ll find mostly forested trails with lots of tropical plants and swampy areas that house many local plant and animal species. Locals love this trail because it’s a really cool landscape, with lots of large, leafy plants that look like they belong in a rainforest!

Photo Credit: Ken Lund (Flickr CC)

Willie Browne Trail

  • Trail Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Hiking in Jacksonville provides a lot of variety for those willing to put in the effort, and the Willie Browne Trail is a perfect example of a hidden gem in the city. There’s so much variety on this short trail that you’ll find something new every time you hike it. With shaded trails lined with mossy trees that connect to viewpoints of the local swamp and marsh lands, it will take you through many different elements of the Jacksonville ecosystem in a short, easy walk. There’s a good reason why so many locals come back over and over again!

Julington-Durbin Preserve

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Looking for a longer trail in Jacksonville? The 5.5-mile trail at Julington-Durbin Preserve is a wonderful spot for a half-day hike. While there aren’t many sweeping views here, the trail does provide lots of shade, as it runs largely though forests. It’s a nice, subtle change from some of the more tropical trails on our list. Perfect for an easy hike or a trail run, this trail is popular with dog owners and families because it provides the space on wide, well-maintained trails for a long walk in the woods.

Photo Credit: gary riley (Flickr CC)

Little Talbot Island Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.1 miles (Talbot Islands State Park)
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

Perhaps the most varied and beautiful hike on our list is the Little Talbot Island trail, located in its namesake state park. This 4.1-mile trail has everything you could ever want in a Jacksonville hiking trail – beach access, tropical forest sections, and lots of gnarly driftwood. Photographers in the area really love this park for its stunning natural beauty and peaceful environment, making it feel like a true, wild escape into nature. Bring a picnic so you can sit and enjoy the beach area, and don’t forget your bug spray, as mosquitos often tend to enjoy this trail as much as locals do.

Dutton Island Preserve

  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal

As one of the more scenic hikes in Jacksonville, the Dutton Island Preserve is the perfect spot to enjoy tropical wetlands and see some local wildlife, including turtles, crabs, and bald eagles. It’s a wildlife watcher’s paradise, and you could easily spend a whole day here wandering around the preserve’s trails and looking out for local animal species poking around the marsh. The views here are absolutely spectacular, especially toward the end of the day when the sun is low in the sky and the grass in the marsh turns a bright golden color.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Jacksonville

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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Kay Rodriguez is the founder of Urban Outdoors. She's also the writer and photographer behind Jetfarer. When she's not writing furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, paddling, or playing in the snow.

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