Flowing towards the St. Johns River, Dunns Creek winds through extensive floodplain forests as it drains massive Crescent Lake.
Encompassing 6,200 acres on the south shore of the creek facing Long Swamp, Dunns Creek State Park protects the cypress-rimmed waterfront and the uplands above it.
While for many years the only park access was at the Blue Pond picnic area along US 17, a two-mile entrance road now offers a scenic drive to a landing and launch on the creek itself.
At the end of the park road? Picnic sites and miles of trails. The Piney Bluff trail system has a series of three interconnected multiuse trails and a hiking-only loop to explore.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Pomona Park
Length: 15.4 miles in six trails
Main Entrance: 29.52581, -81.58938
Address: 320 Sisco Rd, Pomona Park
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Restroom: Vault toilets at picnic areas
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. Accessible access to fishing pier along the creek.
Most trails are multi-use. Fat tires are recommended for tackling soft sand.
From Interstate 95, take the Flagler Beach / Bunnell exit for SR 100. Drive west on SR 100 for 28.8 miles, passing through Bunnell, to where it meets US 17 in San Mateo. Follow US 17 south for 9.2 miles, crossing Dunns Creek en route on a high bridge. The Blue Pond entrance to Dunns Creek State Park is along US 17 and signposted first. Watch for the turnoff for Sisco Rd a quarter mile farther on the left. Follow Sisco Rd for 2.2 miles to the park’s main entrance on the left. After paying the entrance fee at the gate, proceed 2.2 miles to reach the parking area at Dunns Creek Landing. The Piney Bluff trailhead is another quarter mile past the landing at the end of the road.
About the Park
Botanical diversity is a major reason why this landscape is protected as a Florida State Park.
Along the park’s main road, habitats range from sandhills and scrub to bayheads and pine flatwoods.
Exploring the park on its trails leads you up and over rolling hills, on wades through cypress strands, and along the edge of sinkhole ponds.
A paddle along the six-mile meander of Dunns Creek between Crescent Lake and the St. Johns River reveals extensive floodplain forests.
Hidden in the backcountry of the park are steephead ravines and some botanically important species.
Among them are populations of the rare Etonia false rosemary (Conradina etonia), otherwise only seen at Etoniah Creek State Forest in northern Putnam County.
There are two main day use areas for visitors. The Blue Pond picnic area along US 17 provides picnic tables and a vault toilet.
It is the starting point for the Blue Pond Trail, a relatively flat and sandy multiuse trail leading to a sinkhole pond.
Dunns Creek Landing is deep within the park via the Sisco Rd entrance. The parking area allows for wheelchair access to a pier and landing on the water.
A boardwalk leads to it, or you can amble through the picnic area to the water’s edge below the launch at the landing.
Picnic tables are scattered under a canopy of tall pines and oaks not far from a vault toilet. The hiking-only Yellow Trail has prominent blazing leading away from this day use area.
The Piney Bluff trailhead at the end of the road offers access to the Yellow Trail and a collection of three multi-use trails that start out from this point.
In the opposite direction of the trails is a picnic spot and natural beach along the creek where you can hand-launch or land watercraft.
A large grassy area between the two attracts visiting sandhill cranes.
Blue Pond Trail
Starting within sight of US 17, the Blue Pond Trail is open to cyclists but the sand makes it challenging for anything other than fat tires.
There are two parts to the trail, a 2 mile yellow-blazed loop with a shortcut dividing it lengthwise and a 1.5-mile round-trip on a red-blazed spur leading to Blue Pond.
The lower portion of the Yellow Loop makes for a 1.5-mile loop through scrub and sandhills, with nice views of a prairie where the trail meets the red spur.
Piney Bluff Trails
Starting out from a prominent live oak at the Piney Bluff trailhead, cross to the treeline to see the park sign and map outlining the trail system.
Four trails begin together, which makes the blazing somewhat colorful through a tunnel of sand live oaks out into an expanse of pine flatwoods.
At a junction after a quarter mile, the trails start to break apart. To the left, the blue, red, and yellow blazes follow the “Flatwoods Trail” route.
We have not hiked these loops yet, but the map at the trailhead did not match this intersection, so we strongly suggest carrying a GPS when you take on these hikes.
Each trail name matches its blaze color. According to the sign at the trailhead, the Blue Trail offers a 6.1-mile loop with a shortcut option.
The Green Trail makes a loop north from this junction, edging the floodplain of Dunns Creek for a 1.4-mile hike.
The Red Trail continues east, culminating in a turn-around loop. The full round trip is posted as 2.3 miles.
Once it diverges from the Flatwoods Trail, the Yellow Trail is hiking-only.
While the Yellow Trail shares partly shares its route with the multiuse trails at Piney Bluff, it diverges from the Flatwoods Trail on a narrower path through the pine flatwoods.
Halfway along its arc, it crosses the park road, entering soggier habitats. Expect some wading in bayheads and cypress strands.
The ending point of the not-quite-loop is after 1.8 miles at the picnic area by Dunns Creek. Follow the park road back to Piney Bluff trailhead to make a 2 mile loop.
See our photos from Dunns Creek State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Protecting more than four miles of deeply forested waterfront on the St. Johns River, Welaka State Forest provides a glimpse at a Florida that botanists John and William Bartram saw on their 1700s expeditions.
A stop along the Bartram Trail, the Beecher Run Nature Trail at Welaka National Fish Hatchery provides a walk beneath ancient pines along the edge of the hatchery ponds, which are fed by historic Beecher Spring.
With hiking in scrubby flatwoods and sandhills above forested slopes draining to Murphy Creek, as well as on Murphy Island in the St. Johns River, this water management preserve provides two places to explore.