Habitats with history: that’s what a walk down the Buncombe Hill Hiking Trail reveals. It starts with its trailhead at Indian Lake.
A kiosk at this recreation area in Tiger Bay State Forest explains its former use as the earliest known Boy Scout camp in the Central Florida Council.
Scouts and their leaders in uniform are shown in various camp activities, and buildings on the site are documented.
We confirmed this camp location and patches in the photos against artifacts displayed at the Boy Scout Historical Exhibit at The Casements in Ormond Beach.
But the camp didn’t last, and we don’t know why. A timber company next owned the land, working the pines for turpentine and felling the ancient cypress to cut at a sawmill at this spot.
Commercial forestry persisted until the state of Florida bought the land in 1994 and it became Tiger Bay State Forest.
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Location: Daytona Beach
Length: 2.1 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.1660, -81.1622
Fees: $2 per person day use fee
Restrooms: Portable toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Leashed dogs welcome. The trailhead has a covered picnic pavilion and a boardwalk / fishing pier out onto the lake.
Hunting is permitted in the Rima Ridge Tract. Check ahead regards scheduled hunt dates and wear bright orange if you plan to hike during those dates.
All artifacts along the trail are protected under state archaeological laws. Do not remove any plants or objects you encounter.
From Daytona Beach at Interstate 95, follow US 92 (International Speedway Blvd) west for 4.2 miles. Turn right at the traffic light for Indian Lake Rd. The drive along it to the trailhead is 2.4 miles. After passing county government buildings and a shooting range, the pavement ends and there is a sign-in kiosk for the forest. Sign in and continue north to the intersection with Rima Ridge Rd. Turn west and follow Indian Lake Rd to where it ends at the recreation area. The hiking trail kiosk is on the right as you enter.
Walk up to the kiosk and grab an interpretive brochure if there is one. Numbered posts along the loop correspond to it.
The trail is blazed with lime green blazes, which can be tricky to spot but the footpath is generally well worn and obvious.
The trail is on Rima Ridge, a north-south landform of high ground running through a vast swamp forest, dividing Bennett Swamp from Tiger Bay.
Rains that fall on these upland forests trickle into the swamps and recharge the waterways they feed, which include the Tomoka River.
Although you walk through a succession of scrub habitats along this loop, they’ve been altered by past forestry practices.
The trail starts out in a sand pine scrub that has replaced a sandhill habitat. Marker 2 calls your attention to the scrub.
Entering an oak hammock, keep left at a T intersection. Sand live oaks provide a canopy over the oak scrub, with dense saw palmetto beneath them.
By Marker 3, the habitat shifts to planted slash pines. Beyond them, a bayhead lines the shore of Indian Lake to the northwest.
Passing through another pretty oak hammock, the trail leads from that into a sand pine scrub dense with rosemary as its understory.
This is a small but very immersive rosemary scrub, one of Florida’s rarer habitats, surrounding Marker 6. The sand of the footpath is bright white.
A half mile into the hike, pass Marker 7 at a yucca plant. Partly planted pines, partly sand pine scrub, the forest shifts from broad open spaces to dense ones near a bench.
The younger sand pines almost feel like bamboo as their slender trunks are crowded together.
Where the trail turns onto a forest road, you enter a clearing. This was once a work camp for turpentine workers tapping the longleaf pines that dominated the old forest.
There is nothing here but a clearing at Marker 10, but two decades ago, artifacts remained. Once the pines were no longer useful for turpentine, the timber company cut them down.
The trail goes through a gate before crossing Rima Ridge Road at 1 mile. This is the northern tip of the loop.
The footpath turns south and parallels the road through planted pines, dense with small blueberry bushes in the understory.
Crossing back over Rima Ridge Road, the trail continues through obvious rows of planted pines.
Once you pass Marker 8, natural habitats start seeping in and taking over. Skyblue lupine blooms in spring, and showy plumes of blazing star in the fall.
A bench near Marker 12 sits next to an old forest road and a patch of blueberries.
Heading south, the trail re-enters the sand pine scrub and pulls within sight of the power lines on Rima Ridge Rd.
Keep alert for a hiker symbol on a green marker at 1.5 miles, where the trail turns away from the road.
It follows the ecotone between oak scrub and mature pines, passing a turkey oak at Marker 14.
Gradually curving into the scrub forest after an intersection of firebreaks, the trail emerges onto the entrance road into Indian Lake Recreation Area.
Turn right and follow the blazes to the trailhead kiosk, then continue down to Indian Lake.
The best views you’ll get of this 66-acre lake are from the observation deck at the end of a long boardwalk over the lake.
Learn about other hikes and outdoor activities at Tiger Bay State Forest
See our video of the Buncombe Hill Hiking Trail
See our photos of Tiger Bay State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Stretching 5.2 miles through an primordial forest of sluggish, fern-lined waterways, ancient live oaks, magnolias, and cabbage palms, the Bulow Woods Loop is one of North Florida’s most scenic hikes
At De Leon Springs State Park, the Wild Persimmon Trail is a 4.4 mile wild walk along the edge of habitats in the floodplain forest created by the springs
Six miles of trails meander through wide open spaces preserved for wintering waterfowl at 21,500-acre Lake Woodruff NWR along the St. Johns River.