An easy to intermediate 3.5 mile loop, the Dunn’s Farm Trail at Jennings State Forest traverses a restored longleaf pine forest, seepage slopes, ravines and flatwoods.
Botanically, this is a fascinating area. Depending on the season, you may spot Bartram’s ixia, tarflower, and several varieties of orchids.
Because of the bluffs and ravines, there are quite a few small waterfalls along this hike, all of which are nicely signposted for viewing.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 3.5 mile balloon
Trailhead: 30.128337, -81.964311
Address: 1337 Longhorn Rd, Middleburg
Fees: $2 per person day use
Land manager: Florida Forest Service
Open sunrise to sunset, unless you are camping overnight. Only foot traffic is allowed on this trail. Leashed dogs welcome.
If camping, leave a note for the forest rangers on the vehicle dash. Campsites must be reserved in advance online and cost $10 per site.
Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and extra water and/or a water purification system.
From Jacksonville, take Interstate 10 west for 17 miles. Take exit 343 south onto US 301 toward Baldwin/Starke. After 10 miles, turn left on CR 218. Drive east on CR 218 for 6 miles to Long Horn Rd. Turn left and follow Long Horn Rd for 1.5 miles to Linda Lane. Turn right. This is the Jennings State Forest headquarters, and parking for the Dunn’s Farm trailhead is just past it.
At the trailhead, there are two picnic tables, a grill, and kiosk. Overnight parking is allowed if you are camping on the trail. Just leave a note on your dashboard.
To start the trail, follow the pink blazes. A few paces down, it turns left into a spectacular longleaf pine ecosystem, with a wiregrass and saw palmetto understory.
The forest service has spent the last thirty years culling the competing slash and sand pine as well as oak and other hardwoods. The result is a nearly perfect longleaf pine habitat.
The trail through here is flat and sandy. Crows and pileated woodpeckers chatter. Deer, wild hog, turkeys, and vultures are also common sights.
At a bench under a thicket of live oak, an Eagle Scout project, follow the trail to the left.
After 0.8 miles, cross Powell Ford Road, a sandy forest road. Bear left to exit the longleaf pine forest.
The trail descends into a mixed hardwood forest along the North Fork of Black Creek ravines.
At 0.9 mile you’ll reach a kiosk and a 4-way intersection of trails. Here is where the Dunn Farm Trail converges with the Pioneer Trail.
You’ll see both pink and blue blazes in this section. To the left is a small bridge that leads to a new trail currently under construction.
Head straight through the four-way intersection onto the pink and blue blazed trail to begin a clockwise loop that will end back here in another 1.7 miles.
At the mile mark, the trail descends and follows Phillips Branch on the left. Soon you’ll reach Duck Pond Falls and a barrier fence.
Do not attempt to get closer to the cascade as this sandy slope along the ravine is fragile and prone to erosion.
You will see a multitude of tree species here, including live oak, water oak, turkey oak, water chestnut oak, hickory, southern magnolia, cypress, water tupelo, and redbud.
Just past Duck Pond Falls is Schoolhouse Falls, where there is another bench and a chair carved out of a stump. The trail narrows here and has a barrier fence to your left.
At 1.1 miles the trail bears right. Within the next quarter mile is a large log on the ground with a huge pink blaze pained on top.
There is evidence of wild hogs along this section, as they dig up the earth to feed on tubers, bulbs, grubs and other insects.
There is also a lot of colorful red blanket lichen growing on the oaks here.
At 1.7 miles, the trail reaches Prescott Falls and another bench. A little farther along there’s a bog to your left. On its far side is a ladder built between two trees that’s most likely a hunting blind.
Listen, too, for an array of bird calls and songs, especially during the migratory season.
At 2.1 miles, the trail reaches a junction. The Dunn’s Farm Trail turns right, while the Pioneer Trail continues to the left over Borden Branch and follows the North Fork of Black Creek.
After leaving the shared trail, the path becomes wider and grassier. At a double pink blaze, turn right. Here there is a huge swath of deer moss that’s absolutely breathtaking.
Deer moss is a very slow growing lichen, and since fire usually kills off lichens and mosses in its path, it’s likely there has not been a fire in this area in a very long time.
After 2.3 miles, the trail reaches the Dunn’s Creek primitive camping area, which must be reserved in advance. It has a fire ring, bench, and room for at least two tents.
Soon after, the trail reaches another bench. A quarter mile past the campsite, the trail crosses a sandy road and turns left.
After 2.6 miles you’ll come to a 4-way intersection. Look familiar? It’s the beginning of the loop where you joined the blue Pioneer Trail.
Take a left here, and hike 0.9 mile back to the trail head for a total of 3.5 miles.
Learn more about Jennings State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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