The essence of primordial Florida still echoes through Bulow Hammock, a dark and mysterious place running like a ribbon of the “Land of the Lost” trapped between the flow of traffic on Interstate 95 and the sluggish quiet of Bulow Creek, a freshwater outlet just a mile or two from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Bulow Woods Trail is a linear trail, part of the Florida Trail System, connecting Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park and Bulow Creek State Park. The deep shade of ancient magnolias and oaks and a dense undergrowth of coontie, once a staple food of the native peoples who lived in this hammock, make this a particularly interesting hike.
Location: Flagler Beach
Length: Take your pick! 4 mile loop, a 6.8 linear trail, or a 13.4-mile round trip, plus two short nature trails at each end
Lat-Long: 29.434900, -81.137983
Fees / Permits: Park outside the gate at Bulow Plantation Ruins, where the trail begins, and there is no fee. Bulow Creek State Park is free.
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to intense
Restroom: At either end
Interpretive trails at the two ends include the Sugar Mill Trail (1 mile loop) at the historic site, and Wahlin Trail (0.3 mile loop) at the Fairchild Oak.
From I-95 exit 90, follow Old Dixie Hwy east for 0.9 mile to Old Kings Rd. Drive north 1.9 miles to Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park. Turn right. The trailhead sits just outside the park gate. To Bulow Creek State Park, follow Old Dixie Hwy several miles, passing Walter Boardman Rd before coming to the park entrance on the left.
The Bulow Woods Trail can be hiked either as a scenic loop starting at the Bulow Plantation Ruins park gate, as a 6.8-mile one-way trip by parking a second car at Bulow Creek State Park, or as a 13.4-mile round-trip. The primitive campsite on Bulow Creek has been closed. There is a rough map in the park brochure.
From the park gate, the trail snakes through thick old-growth forest with a high canopy of large live oaks. Keep to the orange blazes when you reach the loop junction for a walk along a primitive creek and views of the marshes.
Returning along Cisco Ditch, turn right to follow the blue-blazed loop (if hiking the Bulow Creek Loop) or left to continue past Boardman Pond, with its observation deck, following forest roads through pine plantations, hydric hammock, and across a salt marsh to end up in front of the huge Fairchild Oak at Bulow Creek State Park.
Some highlights include plantation ruins, old growth forest, giant-leather-fern-lined creek,dense undergrowth of wild coontie, birding on Boardman Pond, and the 2,000-year-old Fairchild Oak.