One of the more fascinating short hikes in the Florida Keys, Curry Hammock Nature Trail showcases the largest known thicket of Florida thatch palms (Thrinax radiata) in America.
While they are often seen in South Florida landscaping, Florida thatch palms are a rare and endangered species in the wild.
This dense thicket of thatch palms survived Hurricane Irma just fine, although we discovered the nature trail shortened since before the hurricane.
Given the wild tropical nature of this hammock, bushwhacking is not a smart idea. Stick to the established route, which is narrow and rocky.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Grassy Key
Length: 0.4 mile loop
Trailhead: 24.7413, -80.9972
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. No bicycles permitted on the footpath. It’s not a good idea to bring dogs or small children here because of the poisonwood.
The mosquitoes are fierce. Slather on bug spray and wear long pants and long sleeves. A headnet might be a good idea.
It is found all along this trail, and is much more irritating than poison ivy. An important food source for endangered white-crowned pigeons, its fruit is deadly.
Park at the Grassy Key trailhead along US 1 south of the state park’s main entrance, north of Vaca Cut in Marathon. To reach the trailhead kiosk, you must walk north on the paved Grassy Key Trail.
Start at the state park trailhead for the Grassy Key Trail (a portion of the Overseas Heritage Trail) along US 1. Walk north along the paved path.
The tropical hammock is a dense wall to the left, although you can make out distinct trees.
Pass a rest stop along the Grassy Key Trail with a kiosk and bench in the shade of several trees on the right.
The wall of hammock is no less dense, but now some gangly cacti poke out of it.
Reach the trailhead kiosk for the Curry Hammock Nature Trail. The route shown on the map on the kiosk is not the route we discovered when we revisited this trail in 2018.
Follow the worn path into a mangrove forest, which may be soggy and sticky underfoot as you walk through the marl.
There are a couple of spots with nice views across Florida Bay. We’ve seen anglers along the shoreline but it takes tolerance of sticky muck to be able to cast a line.
Leaving the mangrove forest through a narrow corridor of vegetation, enter the tropical rockland hammock.
Note the interpretive sign that says “Look, don’t touch.” It shows you what poisonwood is and why you should avoid it.
There is a poisonwood tree right next to the sign. The forest crowds closely. Avoid touching any tree with oozing sap.
The footpath is quite rocky, with solution holes looking like Swiss cheese in the bedrock.
Wind through the thatch palms, breaks in the forest canopy streaming sunlight to glance off the rocks.
A cairn of coral rock is topped with bits of sea glass and sea shells. Rocks are everywhere in this forest.
Some smaller limestone chunks have fossilized coral. The flat pieces of limestone pavement underfoot are shot through with small solution holes.
Pass an interpretive sign that discusses how hurricanes affect and shape the habitats of the Florida Keys.
Tunnel more deeply into the thatch palm hammock in deep shade.
The trail continues winding between the diminutive thatch palms until it reaches an arrow on a signpost.
It points away from what used to be the trail loop that reached Florida Bay. Curve left between thatch palms and tropical trees.
Light is visible through a gap in the trees. After 0.4 mile, emerge under a power line pole right at trailhead. Look behind you.
If you hadn’t noticed this warning sign at the start of the hike, it’s what keeps people from casually walking in from this direction.
The recreation area and campground at Curry Hammock State Park is on the opposite side of US 1. A fee is charged for entry.
Curry Hammock State Park
Bring your binoculars for fall birding at Curry Hammock State Park, where migrating raptors cruise overhead by the hundreds following a major flyover route.
Our photos of Curry Hammock Nature Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Grassy Key Trail
A pleasant piece of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail that is entirely a paved bike path, the Grassy Key Trail runs 4.4 linear miles through Curry Hammock State Park.
Overseas Heritage Trail, Middle Keys
43.6 miles. With the most island-hopping of the ride, the middle portion of the Florida Keys delights with its aquamarine waters and coconut palms, a very tropical vibe.
Crane Point Hammock
Part native, part cultivated, Crane Point Hammock is 63 acres of tropical hammock in the heart of Marathon, with one of the most extensive trail networks in the Florida Keys.
Golden Orb Trail
Showcasing some of the Florida Keys more rare and unusual habitats, the 1.2-mile Golden Orb Trail at Long Key State Park swings an arc through the heart of Long Key, ending up at views of the Atlantic Ocean.