One of the lesser-known sections of the Florida Trail is also one of its more beautiful and difficult hikes in South Florida. For more than a decade, the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association has shepherded this project along, with a dedicated crew of trail maintainers working in Palm Beach and Martin Counties to create the Ocean-to-Lake Trail along a ribbon of greenway stretching from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean.
As you’re hiking through the wilds of DuPuis Reserve, Corbett WMA, Loxahatchee Slough, and the backcountry of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, it’s hard to imagine over a million people live in the West Palm Beach metro nearby. The trail touches a few residental areas between its wild spaces, including down the sidewalks of downtown Hobe Sound and behind homes in Jupiter Farms, but the vast open pine flatwoods, haunting cypress swamps, and open prairies that hikers immerse in – literally, as the hike can be like a mini-Big Cypress in sections – makes this a compelling destination for backpackers.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: information on closure and alternate route between Indiantown Rd and Hobe Groves Canal. Posted 2/7/16.
7.8 miles. Connecting the heart of the DuPuis Reserve loop trail system with the Ocean-to-Lake Trail’s western terminus at Lake Okeechobee, the trail spends a short stretch in agricultural/industrial lands near the lake before diving into the dense pine flatwoods and cypress domes of DuPuis Reserve, a destination rich with wildlife.
9.7 miles. One of the most wild and scenic pieces of the Florida Trail in southeastern Florida. It’s necessary to backpack in from one end or the other to experience this immersion in the Northern Everglades, a landscape where pine trees grow large on the edges of open savannas, and colorful bromeliads dangle from diminutive cypresses.
11.7 miles. Corbett WMA is a place of superlatives: vast prairies, enormous trees, and landscapes that seem to go on forever. Painted with colorful wildflowers in every season, it echoes the beauty of its bigger cousin, Big Cypress, including a notable cypress strand called Hole-in-the-Wall.
12.1 miles. Traversing a genuinely wild tangle of pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, and wetlands along the rim of the Loxahatchee Slough, this portion of the Florida Trail dips through old agricultural lands for a portion of the hike. Lush, shady tropical hammocks and boardwalks along cypress-lined ponds are highlights along this journey.
11.6 miles. A hike of contrasts, connecting wild tropical hammocks with vast pine savannas and shady glades along the Loxahatchee River via a levee walk along the C-18 Canal through the backyards of Jupiter Farms and the shellrock paths of popular Riverbend Park. You will get your feet wet on this section.
Florida Trail, Ocean to Lake: Kitching Creek to Hobe Sound Beach
8.5 miles. Showcasing the vast pine flatwoods of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, this easternmost segment of the Ocean-to-Lake Trail takes a dramatic turn across giant sand dunes – South Florida’s largest – before exiting the park at US 1 for a roadwalk to downtown Hobe Sound, where the trail finishes up down a sidewalk through a tunnel of tropical forest to end at the Atlantic Ocean.
NENA Trailhead [26.949959,-80.609974]: Along US 441 on the Lake Okeechobee side of the highway 3 miles south of the junction of SR 76 and US 441 at Port Mayaca. Junction with the Okeechobee East section. A bridge across the small canal to the dike is planned.
Corbett WMA Trailhead [26.855395,-80.302809]: From I-95 in West Palm Beach, follow Northlake Boulevard west for 12 miles to its end. From the Florida Turnpike, take Okeechobee Boulevard west 1 mile to Jog Road. Turn right and drive north to the Beeline Highway. Turn left and follow SR 710 for 1.2 miles to where it meets Northlake Boulevard. Turn left and drive 8.9 miles to the end of Northlake Boulevard. Turn right onto Seminole-Pratt-Whitney Road. Almost immediately, you see the Corbett WMA sign. Continue north as the road becomes a hard-packed dirt road; keep to the left at the fork. After 3 miles, you reach the sign that says “Everglades Youth Camp.” Turn left. Stop at the self-service pay station and drop off your entrance fee before continuing down the forest road for 0.5 mile. After you pass the lake, take the right fork to drive into the Youth Camp. Just before the gates, make a left at the “Hungryland Boardwalk” sign and follow the one-lane road down to where it ends in a clearing ringed by picnic tables.
Beeline [26.871771,-80.246359]: The trail follows the berm of the Beeline Highway for about a mile before crossing it. Park on the shoulder but be aware of high speed traffic and soggy spots on the sides of the road.
C-18 Canal [26.903711,-80.17633]: In Jupiter Farms, 154th Rd N ends at the C-18 Canal, which the Ocean-to-Lake Trail traverses in this stretch. From Florida’s Turnpike, follow Indiantown Rd west for 2.1 miles to Jupiter Farms Rd. Drive south on 100th Ave N for 2.6 miles. Turn left on 154th Rd N and follow it 1 mile to its end. Do not block the gate or neighboring driveways.
Riverbend Park[26.933152, -80.175023]: The Ocean-to-Lake Trail can be accessed from the trail system at Riverbend Park, which is just west of Florida’s Turnpike and I-95 in Jupiter along Indiantown Rd. Park in the main parking area and follow park maps / trail description.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park [27.003877, -80.101422 or 26.992473, -80.146502]: The Ocean-to-Lake Trail can be accessed from either the East Loop Trail or the Kitching Creek Trail in Jonathan Dickinson State Park off US 1 just north of Tequesta and south of Hobe Sound. See those trail descriptions for details.
Hobe Sound Beach Park [27.066293,-80.116013]: The trail’s eastern terminus at the Atlantic Ocean. Busy on weekends. From US 1 in Hobe Sound, follow Bridge Rd east through downtown to Jupiter Island and straight into the park at the end of a long green tunnel of ficus trees.
INDIANTOWN ROAD, where the trail briefly emerges from Jonathan Dickinson State Park to cross the Loxahatchee River on a highway bridge, has a plaza with a convenience store, pizza parlor, and Mexican restaurant. This is the only resupply along the hike and well worth the stop! Downtown HOBE SOUND, which the trail marches right through after a short roadwalk along Old A1A, has several eateries. Restroom facilities and parking are available at trail’s end at HOBE SOUND BEACH.