In the wet prairies and tropical hammocks of Apoxee Park, the first urban wilderness area in Palm Beach County, you’ll walk over and through the water supply of West Palm Beach. A fascinating 4.7-mile day hike showcasing the sheet flow of water through habitats that thrive in humidity and dampness, the Apoxee Wilderness Trail features a mix of boardwalks, crushed limestone, and natural surfaces underfoot on a loop that includes a section of the Owahee Trail, a lengthy berm that runs through all of Grassy Waters Preserve.
Location: West Palm Beach
Length: 4.7 miles
Fees / Permits: free
Difficulty: moderate to difficult, depending on water levels
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: portable toilets
Open 7 AM – 6 PM. Pets are not permitted. Except in winter, expect to get your feet wet. A shorter accessible trail, the Butterfly Orchid Trail, is also a part of this hike and can be walked directly from the trailhead for a brief loop through the tropical hammock. We used a portion of the Owahee Trail of Grassy Waters Preserve to turn the trails of Apoxee Wilderness into a loop.
From I-95 at Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach, drive west for 4.6 miles to Jog Road. From Florida’s Turnpike, exit at Okeechobee Blvd and drive west 0.9 mile to Jog Road. Turn north off Okeechobee Blvd and watch for the park entrance on the left, just as the road starts a curve to the right, at 3125 N Jog Road.
Starting out on the paved Butterfly Orchid Trail into a tropical hammock, you soon come to the turnoff at a kiosk for the Apoxee (Ah-PO-EE) Trail. Turn right and follow the trail along boardwalks and between (and sometimes in) large prairie ponds beneath power lines to reach the beginning of the large loop at a kiosk with a chickee top. We walked it counterclockwise, ensuring that the bulk of the wading we’d do would be along our return trip. Highlights include tunneling through tropical hammocks, a lengthy boardwalk across a large wet prairie, and plenty of wildlife sightings – particularly wading birds – along both the Apoxee Trail and the Owahee (Oh-WHA-Hee) Trail. Both trails are well marked.
Atop a dike, the Owahee Trail lets you look across prairies and a broad canal lined with cypress; it is multiuse, but provides a connector between the two sections of the Apoxee Trail. Returning along the Apoxee Trail, you’ll walk across several boardwalks and through lush palm hammocks before encountering a fork in the trail. To the right is the shorter route; the left side follows a prairie rim. After they come together, expect more wading where prairies slosh into each other in the wet season. There is a chickee on a small hill, usable as a rain shelter. When you reach the kiosk again, you’ve completed the big loop. Turn right to exit, crossing under the power lines again. Back at the paved trail, turn right to walk the remainder of the Butterfly Orchid Loop, which ends a little farther down along the parking area. Turn left to complete the loop.