Bryan Lindenberger

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Top 5 Nature and Hiking Trails in Putnam County, Florida

Field of purple flowers

Top Five Trail Hiking and Nature-Viewing Destinations in Putnam County, Florida

We often think of great outdoor viewing and nature hiking as somewhere far away - maybe a place we'll visit on our next vacation. But every faraway place is someone's home.

Suppose your home is little Paltatka, Florida in Putnam County. Did you know of all the great and often overlooked trails there are to hike, right nearby?

I've explored many of them, and here are my top five.

5: Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area

Tree in field of flowers 
Just a bit down the road from Caravelle Ranch Conservation Area on Florida 19, Caravelle Ranch WMA offers miles of hiking and biking opportunities! After pulling over into ample parking, you can grab a map that leads you through 8-10 miles of hiking loops through the woods with the longest, single loop being 4.5 miles. Whether on bike or foot, you will enjoy your time here and could likely spot deer, birds, and even bears. As always, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints. Visit Caravelle Ranch WMA page for hiking and destination map plus pictures!

bridge over creek in autumn

4: Ravine Gardens State Park

This beautiful destination would be higher on the list except that anyone in the area likely already knows it. Ravine Gardens State Park was the first conservation park I visited when I moved to the area, and it remains one I keep going back to. Some of the major pluses include clean and far less buggy trails, and the fact that scenery changes with every season. Best known for its colorful azaleas in February and March, you will find amazing changes in flora and fauna throughout the year. There is a welcome center, plenty of paved trails for biking, a playground and much more. Visit my location and trail map plus photos.

3: Dunn's Creek State Park

Lake with forest behind it
I've added a good number of lesser-known places to Google Maps, but here is an instance of a beautiful Florida state park where it took some convincing to get Google to believe it exists. And what a wonderful place it is! The park, just south of Satsuma, FL, is very well maintained with a short loop of a couple of miles, picnic benches both covered and uncovered, and even grills for family gatherings You'll encounter all manner of wildlife, including birding opportunities, but I have a fondness for bugs and turtles. Where the park really shines is with the very large Blue Pond accessible from two trail locations for great viewing and relaxing. Check out more pictures plus location and trail map!

2: Florida Trail at Buckman Lock

winding trail in foggy forest
Here's one off the beaten path! The trail back here has many beautiful views including several ponds and great hiking views, yet remained a mystery to me on initial visits. The trails are made of old roads shaped like a tiny neighborhood, yet I saw no homes, abandoned or otherwise. I have since learned this area is a failed and abandoned subdivision known as the Mondex Complex. It is comprised largely of wetlands with the ponds I saw intended as retention pools. The trail is easy to follow with orange markers and I understand leads to FL 20. I turned back after a few miles in, with a 7.2 mile hike round trip. Very peaceful and nice back there, and the ponds offer great viewing, especially if you like dragonflies! Check it out with location and trail maps plus pictures.

1: Rice Creek Conservation Area

frog resting on palmetto leaf

My favorite hike in Putnam County, an easy five-mile hiking loop with plenty to see in deep woods and across fields covering 4200 acres. After parking in the wide parking area, a dirt road continues beyond a simple gate and soon splits. Here you will follow a segment of the Florida Trail that takes you through canopy forest, marshlands and a creek that flows year around, with well-maintained bridges throughout, and even an observation platform. That "back to nature" feel comes with the downside of lots of mosquitoes and ticks. Banana spiders - big ones - build webs throughout the trail in summer, so carry a stick to clear the way. WORTH IT - so check out location map, trail map, and more pics at

More Nature Trails in Putnam County

Plenty of gorgeous hiking trails near Palatka and Interlachen did not make the list. Find more at my Putnam County hiking page and leave feedback on where you like to visit. Most importantly, get outside and enjoy. Often, the most beautiful places are the closest to home - you just have to look!