A truly hidden gem is The Spanish Pond located across from Fort Caroline. This trail is our new favorite after last weekend! It is located apporoximately 15 minutes away from where we live, which is pretty close compared to other trails, and we were shocked at how well maintained it was.
The Parking at the Spanish Pond is completely free, and generally plenty of parking to go around. Like I stated in the title this is truly a Hidden Gem, and when we were there was only 2-3 other cars.
There is no parking or any entrance fee at the Spanish Pond which is a huge plus! Because the park is free if you really like what they are doing and you want to support them you can donate Here On their website it also says "You can help protect America's national treasures. Supporting your favorite park can be as simple as picking up a piece of trash during your visit, or as generous as volunteering your time long-term. Even the souvenirs or books you purchase to remember your visit contributes funds for special events and programs. Parks can also accept donations. The National Park Service works with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. Partners like the Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation help the preserve achieve it's mission. Thank you for supporting America's national parks!" Having an amazing hiking trail like this that is completely free is very rare. Doing your part to atleast help keep it clean goes a long way!
The entire hiking trail is completely dog friendly. We saw a few other dogs throughout our hike. They have signs around the area requesting all dogs must be on a 6ft leash.
The Hike begins with a boardwalk leading to a split in the path. If you go to the left you get pratically no where but if you are tall enough you can look over the high brush and see a small pond. This is not what you drove across the city to see! This is a Real Hike!
To get an understanding of why this is such a hidden gem you have to go 1.2 miles one way and 1.2 miles back. Trust me it is soooo worth it! Back at the split in the road at the very begining go Right! The trail is very wide, and very well maintained. The beginning of the hike is mostly on boardwalks which I assume is because the original trail probably used to flood.
There are signs along the way that warn hikers that the boardwalks get slippery when wet so be careful. The next split in the road get you eventually to the same place but are completely different terrain. We decided to continue on the red path and basically stay straight until we reached the Observation Tower on the way there. This path stay wide, and is generally flat with only one small hill to walk so if you have older folks or really small children this is the way you want to go, and stay on your way back. The trail stays wide, and is in the woods so not much scenery but once you get to the look out tower it will take your breathe away.
You can get off the trail a little towards the water, and find thousands of fiddler crabs in the mud. You can also hear the hundreds of oysters clamping closed practically every second. Make sure you take a second out around the lookout pouint, and really take in the beautifulness of the Spanish Pond.
On the way back we decided to take the green trail (See Map at Top). This trail is much tougher and is constantly going straight up or straight down it is also a lot tighter so you have to walk in a line instead of side by side. So if you are looking for a more rough trail to hike in Jacksonville, FL this is probably one of the best. The terrain on this hiking trail switches from dirt to shells to sand throughout, and offers viewpoints similar to the Observation Tower at it's high points. The trail is only .2 miles longer, and also offers so breakoff points that take you back towards the marsh. We decided to take one of the breakoff points, and were greeted by thousands of fiddler crabs to the point it felt like the ground was moving. A lot of people probably don't visit that area on their hike, and the fiddler crabs were out, and about shocked to see us.
Eventually the Green Trail meets back up with the red trail, and the remainder of the hike in is on familiar territory. You revisit the boardwalks, and the spacious trail on your way back towards the parking lot. This is a truly amazing hike that we list as the best to do in Jacksonville, FL it truly is a Hidden Gem.