When you see a big sign with a park name, of course you’re going to want to know more about the park. At least that’s how we think.
But the entrance to Audubon Park off the paved East Central Regional Rail Trail didn’t seem set up for cyclists. A gap next to a gated forest road that vanished up a hill.
As the name suggests, it’s a nature park. The core of the park is almost equally distant from the bike path and the park’s own trailhead.
It’s a nature park where birders will find several different habitats to slowly explore, including a large series of man-made marshes and ponds that serve for stormwater cleanup.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 1.6 mile loop & round-trip
Trailhead: 28.8596, -81.2004
Address: Corner of Lush Ln and Doyle Rd, Deltona
Land manager: City of Deltona
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Multiple signs say no horses or other livestock permitted.
Despite the handicapped parking and steep paved path to the edge of a stormwater marsh from the parking lot, the trail is not accessible. Roots make it rough underfoot in places.
From SR 415 in Osteen, follow Doyle Rd west from the the traffic light that’s just north of the big bridge for the East Central Regional Rail Trail. After crossing Courtland Blvd, within the next half mile keep alert for a narrow paved lane on the left heading uphill under a power line. Turn left and the park sign and chain link fence with gate marks the entrance on the right. Drive all the way in, as the trail starts where the park road loops back through the parking area.
Look for the signage at the far end of the parking area. A steep sidewalk leads downhill, ending at a fence along the edge of a stormwater ditch dense with vegetation.
Turn left to follow the fence to where a grassy area has more signage. This is where the trail enters the gap between the trees.
Large brown signs identify native plants and trees, and we figure those to have been placed by the Cub Scout troop mentioned on the sign, or as an Eagle Scout project.
The trail quickly dips beneath the cool shade of an narrow avenue of sand live oaks, with a dense thicket of saw palmetto beneath them.
After tunneling through the oak hammock, it’s a surprise to emerge at the start of a boardwalk.
The orange netting fence next to it is blocking off a footpath which we guessed might be closed due to flooding.
The long, narrow boardwalk spans a large marsh, an excellent location for birding, with willows and wax myrtles rising from the grasses.
While much of the marsh it is dense with vegetation, there is an open water pond hiding within it, dotted with water lilies.
Leaving the boardwalk at a quarter mile, the trail enters another short stretch of oak hammock with interpretive signs.
It’s a surprise to the senses when it emerges into a vast open grassy area with man-made pond and marsh basins.
This is the stormwater park portion of the park, with a picnic table provided under an oak tree. Wading birds like herons and egrets come and go from the impoundments.
Since the trail just seemed to end here without a clue, we guessed at a route, striking out along the right side of the near pond to walk around them.
Less than a tenth of a mile later, we spotted a post along the wooded edge of the grassy area. It marked the entrance to a trail, so we followed.
The habitat differed from the others thus far as the trail led into a climax sandhill, with lots of oaks and pines. Pine needles draped over lower vegetation and formed a cushy footpath.
We’d thought the trail would lead to the bike path, but instead it reached a two-track road that led to someone’s home.
So we turned around and headed back to the impoundment area, figuring this trail had been built specifically for birding. It was a 0.2-mile round-trip diversion away from the ponds.
Back at the ponds, turn right to walk counterclockwise around them. There is no marked trail here, just the grassy berm, but the fence keeps you within the park.
Walk along the grassy berm around the large man-made marsh. Once around it, it’s easy to make a diagonal past the far pond to the forest road leading away from it.
Around the large pond, there are signs warning that alligators may be present. No need to go close to the water.
Aim for the ditch beyond the pond. The forest road traverses a gap between the ditch and floodgates that release water out of the marsh you crossed on the long boardwalk on the way in.
Walk by the floodgates. Not far beyond them, in the woods, we found orange plastic fencing across the other end of the nature trail that started at the far end of the boardwalk.
The forest road continues, however, through the dense shade of the tree canopy. It’s a little rough in spots but broad and easy to follow.
A mile into your hike, you reach the back gate of Audubon Park, which has a pass-through next to it so you can walk out onto the East Central Regional Rail Trail.
This is a part of the bike path (between Garfield and Providence Blvd) that is in a tree tunnel, one of the more pleasant sections. It’s worth more mileage in either direction if you want to extend your hike.
To get back to the Audubon Park trailhead, return back the way you came along the forest road. Once you pass the floodgates, continue straight ahead in line with the fence line.
It’s easy to stay within the shade of the trees that edge up to the grassy stormwater park, and it doesn’t take long at all to return to the picnic table, completing a loop around the ponds.
Turn in to the woods behind the picnic table to find the path back to the long boardwalk over the marsh. The walk across it seems shorter on the return trip.
Continue straight ahead through the oak tunnel past the interpretive signs. Pop out into the grassy area at the bottom of the slope up to the parking area and follow it back up to complete a 1.6 mile hike.
A more direct walk to the East Central Regional Rail Trail would be along the route you just took back, a 1.2 mile round-trip.
If the closed nature trail around the marsh reopens, we think you could use that to make a 1.5 mile loop out to the rail trail without actually walking around the stormwater ponds.
Learn more about the East Central Regional Rail Trail
See our photos of Audubon Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Florida’s best place to see a Florida scrub-jay up close is Lyonia Preserve, with 2.2 miles of loops through the highest ground in Volusia County.
Just east of Osteen, Hickory Bluff Preserve provides a 1.5-mile loop to a bluff of notable size along a scenic stretch of the St. Johns River
For a quick dip into the beauty of the St. Johns River floodplain, the 1.6 mile Kratzert Trail offers a walk beneath ancient oaks and cabbage palms of enormous size