Protecting nearly 950 acres of lush oak hammocks, palm hammocks, and wetlands areas along the northwest rim of Lake Monroe, Gemini Springs Addition is always a busy place, thanks to an extension of Volusia County’s popular Spring-to-Spring Trail. Step off the pavement and into the woods to be rewarded with wildlife sightings and beauty spots off the beaten path.
Length: Up to 9.8 miles
Lat-Lon: 28.86654, -81.31462 (Dirksen Dr), 28.84006,-81.31973 (Lake Monroe Park)
Type: round-trip and loop
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: at Lake Monroe Park and in Gemini Springs Park
Mosquitoes can be troublesome at dusk and dawn in shaded areas, and generally during the summer months because of standing water. You’ll find many benches and picnic tables along the paved route.
There are several access points off US 17/92 to Gemini Addition, including one across from the DeBary SunRail station. Trailheads are at the north end along Dirksen Drive just east of US 17/92 and about 1.5 miles west of Interstate 4, and at the south end at Lake Monroe Park off US 17/92.
Access this pretty preserve by biking or hiking north or south from either trailhead. At both ends, deeply shaded live oak hammocks dominate, making for a pleasant start to your walk. As this is an out-and-back hike, you can tailor your exploration on each visit and manage not to do the same route twice.
Starting at the Dirksen Drive trailhead, walk south along the paved path, passing a sign for “Primitive Campsite” on the right. That side trail, should you take it out of curiosity, leads to a tent-only campsite beneath the live oaks, managed by Gemini Springs Park. The paved trail curves back and forth through the live oak hammock, where sunlight streams through the Spanish moss overhead. Occasionally the trail has a yellow line painted on it, where visibility is low around curves. Pay attention to that, as cyclists often zip around corners quickly.
When you emerge onto a broad prairie with high-tension lines across it, you may see eagles roosting on the top of the power tower. Here’s your first option for an off-trail trip: immediately off to the left is a mowed path. It leads along DeBary Bayou towards the dam at Gemini Springs, but before you reach the giant fallen live oak along it, turn right to follow another mowed path south. This path tacks towards an oak hammock along the bayou, then gives you the choice of returning to the paved path to the west, or continuing to the next oak hammock along the bayou. These hammocks are beauty spots, well worth the walk.
Leaving the last hammock, the mowed path will eventually swing you back towards the paved trail. Continue south. You’ll see another mowed path on the right. It leads over to the SunRail station. Two more paths off to the right create a small loop through the hammock. The paved trail zigzags through the hammock and emerges under the power line again. This open corridor has no shade, but a parade of seasonal wildflowers keeps the wetlands on the right in a blaze of color.
When you see the hiker marker on the left near the pines, it signals the start of the upper loop at Gemini Addition. This optional loop leads through more oak hammocks with massive live oaks. At the T intersection, a long spur off to the left is of interest of birders, since it gets close to the bayou. But that trail is often wet, and it dead-ends. Take the right to continue through the loop, where you may scare up a flock of wild turkeys before you emerge on a man-made wetland. Walk counterclockwise around the wetland, catching a glimpse of Interstate 4 off to the left. A marker points into the forest on the left soon after, leading you through wet pine flatwoods where big puddles form in the trail. It reaches the paved trail at a 90* turn in the paved trail.
Keep walking south on the paved trail, which wiggles and curves through the pine flatwoods and oaks before it reaches a broad boardwalk over a cypress swamp, one of the must-see beauty spots in this preserve. If you continue past this point, the pavement leads you to Lake Monroe Park, where you’ll find restrooms and a picnic shelter. Turn around for your walk back to the Dirksen Drive trailhead along the Spring-to-Spring Trail.