Spanning nearly 5,000 acres between US 1 and the South Fork of the St. Lucie River, what is now Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park was once a cattle ranch.
It is now well hidden by surrounding subdivisions. You won’t find road signs to guide you to this state park in Stuart, and you need a gate code to get in.
Resources for exploring the area
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Entrance: 27.10585, -80.2448
Address: 8120 SE Paulson Ave, Stuart
Fees: $6 per vehicle
Restrooms: Portable toilet at the trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to 5 PM. A gate code is necessary to enter the park. You must call the number above in advance to obtain it.
Leashed dogs permitted. The large parking area accomodates horse trailers and has picnic tables. Expect mosquitoes.
With the exception of the footpath portions of the River Hammock Trail, trails are multi-use.
From Interstate 95 exit 101, Kanner Hwy, follow SR 78 north. Turn right at the second light, Cove Rd. Make an immediate right onto Paulson Ave and turn left in front of Hosford Park to stay on Paulson Ave. The pavement ends in a half mile. Continue through the neighborhood to the park gate, which has a turnaround in front of it. Once through the gate, pay your fee and drive up the park road to the trailhead / picnic area across from some storage sheds.
About the Park
Managed by nearby Jonathan Dickinson State Park, this low-key day-use preserve protects upland and floodplain habitats along the waterway.
While a network of nearly 30 miles of marked ranch roads is popular with equestrians, we found it tricky for off-road biking due to stretches of soft sand and grass.
However, hikers will find a network of trails to explore along the St. Lucie River basin, directly across from South Fork Nature Trail at Halpatiokee Regional Park.
Blaze colors and markings differ along the route, which hovers close enough to the river we’re calling the full series of loops the River Hammock Trail.
Spur trails lead to scenic overlooks. Footpaths weave deftly down narrow passages through tall saw palmetto and tropical hammocks.
Bridges cross narrow but deep drainages in healthy pine flatwoods, and intersections are presently marked with “Trail” and “Exit” signs.
Utilizing one of the ranch roads, River Road, as a backbone for the loops, the marked trails tallied close to five miles of hiking on our route shown on the map below.
Hiking at Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park
See our photos of Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Halpatiokee Regional Park
Beyond its prominent ballfields, Halpatiokee Regional Park hides a rich network of hiking, off-road biking, and paddling trails along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River
An easy trail through pine flatwoods and mangrove marsh leads to an overlook at the confluence of waterways.
Tunnel through mangroves after pausing to watch birds in a freshwater wetland in this habitat-rich preserve along the St. Lucie River.
Seabranch Preserve State Park
Find a wonderland of white sand and small shrubs at Seabranch Preserve State Park, which protects a sand pine scrub and more along the Atlantic Coastal Ridge