Few Central Florida destinations offer such a surprising contrast in elevation than you’ll find along the trail systems of Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve.
From tall bluffs made taller by ancient middens to mangrove flats along Rose Bay, where the creek seeps in at high tide, the trails to trod, bike, or paddle provide an immersion in a scrim of wild dividing the spill of Daytona Beach south towards New Smyrna Beach.
Four prominent trail access points are easy to find along US 1. Three others, well hidden, offer a gateway to expansive trail systems that swarm along bluffs and ridges.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: New Smyrna Beach
Trailhead: 29.0709, -80.9886
Address: 2317 Creek Shore Trail, New Smyrna Beach
Restroom: Portable toilets provided at several locations
Land manager: Volusia County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Insect repellent strongly encouraged.
Trails open to hiking, off-road biking, and equestrian use except where exclusions are posted.
Some bike trails are one-way only. Hikers should be aware off-road bike traffic is heavy on weekends.
From Interstate 95 exit 249, New Smyrna Beach, take SR 44 east one half mile to Sugar Mill Dr. Turn left. Continue 1.3 miles and turn left on Pioneer Trail. Turn right on Turnbull Bay Rd, passing the Martins Dairy access (West Trailhead, which is at the end of a long, rough unpaved road) and continuing 2 miles to Creek Shore Trail, just before the railroad tracks. Turn left and follow this dead-end road for 1.1 mile to the park entrance on the left. Once you’re inside Kaye Access, there are several parking areas to choose from, depending on your destination. This complex includes access to hiking, biking, and equestrian trails; a disc golf course; a picnic area; and a launch for paddlers along the one way loop drive.
About the Preserve
Once providing home and sustenance for Florida’s original residents, Spruce Creek rises from marshes north of Maytown and flows northeast to empty into Strickland Bay, meeting the Halifax River just north of Ponce Inlet.
Extensive oyster flats and mangrove forests rise from the salt flats. Above where the tides dilute the freshwater, evidence of ancient villages exists atop the high bluffs.
Known as the Spruce Creek Mound Complex, this nationally-significant archeological site lays under layers of dense hardwood forest.
Thanks to nonprofits coming together to help preserve the landscape — and local artist Doris Leeper championing the effort in the 1990s — this ribbon of wild persists within earshot of a regional airport and Interstate 95.
Between the East and West Trailheads off Turnbull Bay Rd, local equestrian clubs and mountain bike clubs carved out extensive trails across the undulating upland landscapes.
Off US 1, Volusia County provides several gentle access points, with easy-to-follow short trails frequented by anglers.
Hiking is permitted on all trails found within Spruce Creek Preserve, but do pay careful attention to one-way signage to avoid collisions with cyclists.
Accessed via Spruce Creek Park (29.0945, -80.9723) along the southbound lanes of US 1 south of Port Orange, the Rose Bay Trail offers a 1.9-mile round-trip walk through coastal habitats.
It starts at a picnic pavilion with restrooms just inside the park on the right, with a grand, broad bridge marking the transition from county park to preserve.
Built and maintained by school students, the trail and its facilities provide an outdoor classroom. A major highlight of the trek is the Bird Observation Tower.
Spruce Creek Park itself is circled by a 0.7-mile multi-use trail through coastal hammock, providing access to a launch point and a long boardwalk to a curve on the creek.
Along northbound US 1, Sleepy Hollow (29.0804, -80.9552) juts out into the mangrove marshes. While the trails are not explicitly blazed, they are breezy and scenic.
Enjoy a half-mile loop with several spur trails to scenic spots. A large picnic pavilion anchors the complex, which may be busy with anglers.
Just north of Spruce Creek Park along northbound US 1, Bayou Bay (29.0969, -80.9701) has a 0.4 mile loop that connects to a linear segment of old US 1 along the marshes.
From a set of benches just south of the loop, you can see the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in the distance to the east.
Kaye Access (East Trailhead)
The address /coordinates provided on this page are for Kaye Access (East Trailhead) which offers the largest parking area with the longest attached trail mileage.
On the left where the entrance road turns right past the picnic area, the Ford Loop provides an easy to follow 1.7 mile loop through mature scrub and hardwood hammock.
It connects to the Kaye Loop, a mile walk on a dirt road in an old-growth hammock close to Spruce Creek, via a 0.4-mile linear trail called Our Trail.
Our Trail offers a gateway to the off-road bike system as well as access across the marshes via a causeway to the trail system extending from the West Trailhead.
Martins Dairy Access (West Trailhead)
While road access to the West Trailhead (29.0671, -81.0013) can be dicey at times, this smaller trailhead offers direct access to the Overlook and Sunset Bluff Trails.
Both hikes lead to outstanding views on tall bluffs above Spruce Creek, with side trails that loop through the forest where an ancient village once stood.
Hikers wanting to ramp up the miles can string together any number of named singletrack or double-track trails to extend the two hikes, which are round-trips.
The first overlook of the Overlook Trail is a half mile from the trailhead, or you can continue out to see them all for a 2.5-mile round-trip.
For Sunset Bluff, follow the Overlook Trail as above until you get to the trail junction at 6 Corners. Turn left onto the Bluff Trail, which makes a beeline for the bluffs, a 2.4-mile round- trip.
Stanaki Tract (West Trailhead)
Starting at the same West Trailhead, the trails of the Stanaki Tract came about as an addition to extend the trail system for equestrians all the way out towards Interstate 95.
Follow the side road past the West Trailhead map to where it dips down to cross a creek on a bridge. The trail system begins on the other side.
Utilize local bike club maps to determine the routes of the singletrack that dives into the woods, or stick with the broader double-track for a round-trip of more than 4 miles to a pair of large ponds within sight of the interstate.
Off-road biking is permitted at all of the access points for hiking with the exception of Rose Bay. Please follow all directions for one-way trails and Leave No Trace by not utilizing wet/muddy trails until they dry.
The biking trails of Spruce Creek Preserve are maintained by the Spruce Creek Trail Hogs, a chapter of Flagler Area Biking SORBA. Look for detailed maps on their website.
On southbound US 1 south of Spruce Creek Park, the Divito Access trailhead at 90 Divito Dr is explictly set aside for hand-launch of watercraft.
Paddlers can also put in at Spruce Creek Park itself, and along the Kaye Trail at the Kaye Access Tract. It’s possible to launch at Sleepy Hollow, but a longer carry for your watercraft.
See our photos from Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Canaveral National Seashore protects 58,000 acres of maritime hammocks, dunes, and coastline surrounding Cape Canaveral, a natural sandy cape that formed where ocean currents meet.
Spanning 36.2 linear miles across southern Volusia County, the East Central Regional Rail Trail offers a long ride that also makes up a portion of several major Florida bike trails
At Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach, the 2-mile hiking trail is a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, with side trips off to the sea via more rugged approaches.