We came across Fellsmere Trailhead Preserve when we were looking for a way to access the showy bike trail bridge over Interstate 95 just north of the exit.
As it turned out, we couldn’t have picked a better spot for exploring an area we didn’t know. The park provides an introduction to nature and history in the region.
Families will appreciate the playground and picnic tables, and, of course, access to restrooms in the welcome center.
But the main reason the preserve is here is indeed as a trailhead, providing access to two major trail systems nearby.
You can walk or ride up to 2 miles round-trip within the preserve boundary, and continue in two different directions for many more miles on adjoining public lands.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: Up to a 2 mile round-trip within the preserve, and many more miles beyond it
Trailhead: 27.7681, -80.5572
Address: 11090 CR 512, Fellsmere
Restroom: Accessible restrooms at the trailhead
Land manager: City of Fellsmere
Open daylight hours only. Leashed pets welcome.
From Interstate 95, exit at exit 156 (Sebastian / Fellsmere) and drive west. There is a turnout into the preserve on the right within less than a quarter mile. From US 1 in Sebastian, take Sebastian Blvd (CR 512) west. Past 90th Ave, it turns into Fellsmere Rd. Continue west under I-95 to the park entrance.
About the Preserve
With facilities built to highlight the Indian River Lagoon Scenic Byway, this is a very pretty park, perfect for a rest stop with the family.
It features a small welcome center for the Byway, with restrooms and extensive interpretive information about the area, from local history to plants and animals.
Fellsmere was founded in 1910 after a railroad line called the Fellsmere Railroad was extended west from Sebastian.
Perhaps the challenge of extending it across the St. Johns River marshes were too extreme, because in 1922, it still ended there.
It was renamed the Trans Florida Central Railroad by 1924, and service continued along it until 1952, when the rail line was abandoned.
Protecting 86 acres where the rail line once ran, the preserve spans from Interstate 95 west to the boundary with adjoining St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.
The park that visitors see at the trailhead is just the tip of the iceberg for this preserve.
Only a small amount of the plans for the preserve have been put in place nearly 15 years later, but what is here now provides a great gateway for recreation.
Since we saw a broad accessible trail leading away from the parking area into the woods past the welcome center, we had to follow it.
It isn’t very long, only a few hundred feet. But it led to a lovely overlook on a marsh, with two benches for enjoying the view and birding.
A Y intersection with no path leading away from it held out the promise of a more extensive trail or boardwalk being added in the future.
What appears to be a gravel road leading out of the parking area and turning north is in reality a connector trail to the Trans Florida Central Railroad Trail.
This connector runs along a gas line easement with marshes on both sides. It’s another good spot for birding.
It’s a surprise to see a climbing wall in the woods. It is part of the Florida Tech Challenge Course, a ropes course that adjoins the trail and I-95.
Once you get to the east-west corridor of the rail trail, you can walk for many miles in either direction. It’s a 0.7-mile round trip up to this junction.
Heading east, the paved bike path that goes up and over the interstate. Walking out to the crest of the I-95 bridge and back is a 1.4-mile round-trip.
Heading west, the cinder trail continues through Fellsmere Trailhead Preserve for another quarter mile before it meets the back gate of the state park.
If you continue into the park, the railroad grade goes straight as an arrow through the woods, rising up from a causeway in a swampy area to dry palmetto prairie.
Here it meets the Red Trail, part of the extensive trail system within the southwest quadrant of St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.
A round-trip from the trailhead to this junction is 1.8 miles. This part of the park is known for its Florida scrub-jays, so you may want to explore even farther.
We used the connector trail up to the Trans Florida Central Railroad Trail and rode it in both directions, going west first.
As we learned, heading into the state park meant you needed an off-road bike with fat tires. That direction turns to soft sand within a mile and is better for hikers.
East towards Interstate 95, the cinders quickly changed to a paved path on the approach to the big bridge over the interstate.
Pavement continues west all the way to North County Regional Park, but the trail itself continues all the way to the city of Sebastian.
It’s a 5 mile round-trip from Fellsmere Trailhead Preserve to the Kitching Switch Trailhead at North County Regional Park.
The cinder path continues a little more than a mile to the city of Sebastian, so you can ride 7.2 miles round-trip to the east. See our details for the trail’s quirks.
See our photos from Fellsmere Trailhead Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The birthplace of the National Wildlife Refuge system, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 5,400 acres along and in the Indian River Lagoon off Sebastian
Stretching from Melbourne Beach to Sebastian, this refuge protects sea turtle nesting grounds along the Atlantic Ocean
One of few places where the Indian River Lagoon mingles with the Atlantic Ocean, Sebastian Inlet is the central feature of Sebastian Inlet State Park, which protects the tips of both barrier islands