During World War II, the U.S. Army opened Camp Murphy near Jupiter as a training station for soldiers to learn a brand-new technology that would help win the war: radar. When the base was decommissioned, it was turned over to the state of Florida and became Jonathan Dickinson State Park, an ever-evolving outdoor playground serving one of the densest populated areas in Florida.
Location: Hobe Sound
Fees: $4-6 per vehicle
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome but may be limited to certain areas. Check ahead.
On a wild ride down the Camp Murphy Off-Road Bicycle Trail, you’ll come across bits and pieces of the former base emerging like Greek ruins out of the vines and mosses. The hills here – ancient sand dunes – are the highest south of Lake Okeechobee, including Hobe Mountain, topped with an observation tower that provides a sweeping view of the Intracoastal Waterway, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Loxahatchee River.
JD, as my hiker buddies call it, is the hottest backpacking destination in Southeast Florida, with weekend loops and linear trails that interconnect with the 62-mile Ocean-to-Lake Trail. Paddlers flock here to experience one of the last wild and scenic rivers in Florida. And those who love Old Florida take the journey to Trapper Nelson’s island and learn the legend of the Wild Man of the Loxahatchee.
With two campgrounds, modern cabins, plenty of picnic tables and more than you can do in a weekend, it’s a place that many families, including ours, return to year after year.
There’s little that Jonathan Dickinson State Park doesn’t offer (the beach, mainly, which is just up the road). There’s mystery and intrigue with the tale of Trapper Nelson and his island in the river – it can be visited on a guided tour if the water’s high enough – dozens of miles of backpacking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, and two campgrounds, one with spiffy new cabins. Paddling on the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first designated Wild and Scenic River, is world-class. Spend several days and you might see a tiny slice of this more than 11,000 acre state park.
Explore the park
- East Loop Trail - An immersion into vast pine flatwoods that includes scrambles over ancient dunes, the East Loop at Jonathan Dickinson State Park provides both day hikers and backpackers a delightful getaway.
- Florida Trail, Lucky Tract to Kitching Creek - A hike of extreme contrast, this 10.5 mile segment of the Florida Trail between Lucky Tract and Kitching Creek in Jupiter provides an interesting backpacking trip.
- Hobe Mountain Trail - Catch a sweeping view from an observation tower atop the highest natural hill south of Lake Okeechobee on the Hobe Mountain Trail at Jonathan Dickinson State Park
- Kitching Creek Loop - Burrowing deep into the backwoods of vast Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Kitching Creek Loop showcases the beauty of pine flatwoods and cypress drainages towards the Loxahatchee River.