Sculpted into a ravine along Fern Creek between Robinson Street and Central Blvd in the Lake Lawsona Historic District of Orlando, Dickson Azalea Park is an urban gem.
In 1924, developer Walter Rose donated the ravine to the city for a park. Almost a decade later, he was elected to the Florida Senate and served through 1948.
Named for azalea enthusiast Colonel H.H. Dickson, the park hosted the first garden center of the Orlando Garden Club, which orchestrated the park’s lush plantings and design.
Initially funded by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, its distinctive architecture includes stone staircases, wooden footbridges, and narrow footpaths.
Arching across the ravine is the Washington Street Bridge, an architectural marvel from 1926 and a designated historic landmark.
The pathways are a delight to explore. Some have succumbed to erosion over time, but it is still possible to make a half mile loop while exploring the ravine.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 0.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.54255, -81.35747
Address: 100 Rosearden Dr, Orlando
Restroom: At neighboring Langford Park
Land manager: City of Orlando
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Do expect to encounter wildlife.
Park benches and picnic tables are placed in several spots along the trail.
From SR 408 in Orlando, take Crystal Lake Rd north 0.2 mile; from SR 50, it’s called Maguire Blvd southbound but is the same road, following the western edge of Orlando Executive Airport for 0.8 mile. Turn west onto E Central Blvd, which crosses Primose Dr and Bumby Ave at traffic lights before reaching a T sign where the road curves right onto Hampton Ave after 0.7 mile. Make the next left to stay on Central Blvd as it goes around the corner of Langford Park. The left before the neighborhood center is the nearest parking area. If it is full, continue along Central Blvd to a second parking area a block away at the Langford Park sign. Street parking might be possible at the address on Rosearden.
Like many urban parks, Dickson Azalea Park has no parking area of its own, so use the crosswalk from Langford Park to start up the trail behind the park sign on Central Blvd.
Adjoining the footpath, Fern Creek flows through a narrow channel defined by old stone walls, a literal sluiceway at this end of the park.
The water is surprisingly clear and a couple of feet deep. Walking the leaf-strewn path beside it, approach and cross the first wooden bridge. Join a path coming in from the left.
Continue upstream across another bridge, clambering up a small rise along a walkway outlined by rocks. Tiered terraces with limestone walls adjoin Fern Creek.
Near the third wooden bridge is a plaque on a rock noting the park and the white lamp-topped bridge ahead are Orlando Historic Landmarks.
The Washington Street Bridge is built in a style commonly used in Palm Beach and Miami during the Roaring 20s.
A wooden bridge crosses the creek to lead you to and under the archway of the Washington Street Bridge.
On the other side, the trail makes a sharp turn onto a bridge at a stairway up to Rosearden Drive. Near its base is a 1935 plaque from the Orlando Garden Club.
Dense with ferns, the ravine broadens, with paths leading in three directions ahead. Only one isn’t a dead-end: the bridge over Fern Creek.
Beyond the bridge, the walkway leads over a second bridge and up a grassy hillside with tall oaks and pines.
Past a clump of elephant ears is a clearing with park benches and a stage, a tiny outdoor amphitheater.
The next bridge is just after a trail junction. Keep right, and stay with the ravine path when you see the upward stairs to Rosearden Dr.
Narrowing, the footpath is on a ledge with Fern Creek down in a deep gully below the azalea plantings.
At the staircase leading down to the creek, cross the creek amid beautiful stonework. Turn right for another narrow path to lead to Robinson St.
The park ends here, but the pathway curves along a fence delinating the Fern Creek basin and heads back downstream.
Cross the creek again at the same bridge and take a left this time, continuing downstream high above the gully.
Veer left to rejoin the main path and pass the outdoor stage. It’s downhill all the way from here as Fern Creek seeks lower ground.
The broad ravine is dense with vegetation, cypresses poking out of the marsh within it. Cross the bridges to continue back under the arch of the Washington Street bridge.
Back to the narrows and terraces after the next bridge, take the path to the right of the creek to complete the half mile walk.
Across the street is Langford Park, where you can extend this walk along to tally at least a mile along the Fern Creek basin.
Langford Park is the gateway and parking spot for Dickson Azalea Park, and well worth a ramble while you’re here.
Mayor Carl T. Langford Park
A maze of paved trails provides an urban hike through hammocks of ancient live oaks and natural green spaces at this City of Orlando park.
See our photos of Dickson Azalea Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
Fifty acres of formal gardens hug Lake Rowena in this historic display of botanical diversity in Orlando.
Mead Botanical Garden
Established as a camellia showcase, this public garden has a nature trail first built in 1956 to explore natural habitats within a 47-acre urban forest.
Bill Frederick Park
Inside the city of Orlando, the urban Bill Frederick Park has a wild side, too, with more than 2 miles of trails to meander through scrub forest and along Turkey Lake.
Winter Park Chain of Lakes
A series of lakes connected by charming canals offers a unique paddling experience near the heart of historic Winter Park.