Riverbend Park was more than a decade in the making. The 680 acre preserve near Jupiter is an ideal destination for hikers who want a taste of the wilds of Southwest Florida without getting their feet wet. More than 15 miles of interconnected trails and roads make up the trail network. The hiking trails are engineered, broad walkways of compacted limestone. Signage and kiosks make it nearly impossible to get lost. It’s nature, tamed, making it accessible to city dwellers who’d otherwise never take a hike.
Length: A network of more than 15 miles of trails and roads
Lat-Long: 26.933152, -80.175023
Fees / Permits: None
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: Portable toilets
The park is open sunrise to one hour before sunset daily. Strollers are welcome. Trails, which are fortified with crushed limerock, are shared with bicycles. The equestrian trails afford a more natural surface. There are portable toilets at several spots within the park. An outfitter at the entrance rents canoes and kayaks for paddling the Loxahatchee River and relict river remnants tied together as watery trails. Address: 9060 Indiantown Road, Jupiter, Florida 33478
Riverbend Park is 2 miles west of the I-95 / Florida Turnpike interchange with Indiantown Road in Jupiter. Follow Indiantown Road west and turn left after you cross the Loxahatchee River. Access the Florida Trail through Riverbend Park via the Hunt Camp Trail and Pine Walk. Plan a paddling trip, too—the park has an outfitter on site
Your hike starts at the entrance kiosk, which is topped with chickee thatch. It’s a theme you’ll see reflected throughout the park—lots of chickee thatch kiosks, plenty of signs, and big chickee huts. The Seminole theme pays homage to the historical and archeological significance of this site. This is sacred ground, with a Seminole encampment, and an open green field recalling the Battle of the Loxahatchee, January 24, 1838, when Federal troops attempted to remove the Seminole from this region to the west.
The entrance to the extensive trail system – 15 miles of interconnected roads and trails – starts with a boardwalk through a lush stand of cypresses and ferns near the Loxahatchee River. The Ocean-to-Lake segment of the Florida Trail defines the eastern edge of the trail system. It is a broad path, passing impoundments where ospreys and egrets perch in the trees. There is no shortage of wildlife here. We spotted armadillos, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys as well as woodpeckers and wading birds on a three-hour hike, making a rough loop around the perimeter of the trail system.
Hiking the perimeter of the trail system takes about 3 hours and about 6.5 miles. To walk clockwise around the park, start on the Hunt Camp Trail, which begins at the end of the entrance boardwalk, and follow it to the Pine Walk, which skirts around a wildlife refuge area where you’ll likely see deer. When it meets up with the Ocean to Lake Trail, turn right and follow this segment of the Florida Trail as it meanders over small creeks, past cypress domes, and past the Seminole Village. While you could take it all the way to the gate exiting to the Loxahatchee Slough, better to turn right and follow the Grove Trail to the Orange Grove Picnic Area, with its big chickee pavilion.
A side loop along the Grove Trail to the Hunters Loop provides some great birding along South Pond. From the picnic area, head north on the Grove Trail and when you reach Reese Blvd, turn left. This long causeway leads through a floodplain forest to the Big Hammock, where the Hammock Loop Trail circles the picnic area. Either return on Reese Blvd or take the West Equestrian Loop to get to the north edge of the park, where Portage Trail and Wildlife Loop Road meet. Follow the River Walk Trail from here. It’s one of the most scenic walks in the park, paralleling the Loxahatchee River. Tall cabbage palms shade the trail, and ancient cypress stand sentinel. Use the Military Loop Trail to return you to Reese Blvd and walk a short distance back under the dense palms to the Hunt Camp Trail to exit.
Download a detailed map from Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation at http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/nature/riverbend/pdf/WebMap_200901.pdf