One of three short loop trails at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Flagler Quarry Trail leads you around the showiest of the quarries.
Half of the loop through the Flagler Quarry is marked as the Quarry Station Trail, which leads to the ruins of the former railroad depot.
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Location: Windley Key
Length: 0.4 mile loop
Address: 84900 Overseas Highway, Islamorada
Fees: $2.50 per person
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8-4, Thu-Mon. No bicycles. Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited.
Avoid leaving the marked trails as the tropical forest has a lot of poisonwood, one of the more common toxic trees in Florida.
Expect mosquitoes: make sure you use insect repellent. You may encounter great golden digger wasps along the park trails at certain times of year, as we did. According to a bulletin posted, “Great golden digger wasps are not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked.” We suggest wearing closed-toe shoes while hiking here and not walking through any wasp swarms.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key, the park entrance is on the bay side.
All trails begin on the rock ledge behind the Alison Fahrer Education Center. Stop in there before you start your hike to pick up a trail guide.
The trail system starts next to the antique channeling machine that cut the fossil slabs, and provides you a nice overlook across the Windley Quarry.
The Flagler Trail branches off the Hammock Trail to the right at a signpost. Keep right.
All around you is the tropical forest, with the many types of tropical plum trees identified with labels.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the tropical hammocks of the Florida Keys is the colorful, textured nature of the tree trunks found here.
As a sign says at another park, “look, don’t touch,” since not all of the trees are friendly. Some of the trees sport name tags.
Meet the second junction with the Hammock Trail. Continue straight ahead to walk towards the Flagler Quarry. The trail soon descends into this historic quarry.
In 1908, during the construction of the Overseas Railroad, Henry Flagler purchased this land and opened a quarry for crushed limestone. But that was truly a waste of such a unique resource.
By 1912, slabs of decorative stone were sliced from the quarry walls and ended up on buildings such as Vizcaya and the Miami and Key West post offices.
Reaching the base of the ramp at a quarter mile, keep right and start following the wall of the quarry. Tree roots snake into the walls and break off coral chunks.
Using your interpretive guide, identify the different types of fossil corals in the walls.
All of the islands from Biscayne National Park southwest through the Dry Tortugas are underlain by these fossil corals, making them geologically unique for the United States.
When you reach the next ramp out of the quarry, cross it and continue along the quarry walls by following the Quarry Station Trail.
Follow the markers to the ruins of the old Windley Key Depot, within earshot of current US 1.
A rough side trail leads to a solution hole exposed in this corner of the quarry. Giant leather ferns grow out of it, and fresh water sits inside.
The trail emerges into the open quarry within sight of the pillar of stone capped with tropical forest that sits in the middle of the picnic area.
Turn left and walk up the middle of the grassy quarry center to the big ramp that leads out of the Flagler Quarry and back up to the visitor center to finish the 0.4 mile walk.
Learn more about Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
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More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Learn about the trees of the Florida Keys with a walk on the 0.6-mile Hammock Trail, a deeply shaded ramble in a tropical forest at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
Winding through an ecotone where tropical forest meets mangroves, the Windley Trail is a quarter mile loop that ends up amid interpretation of quarrying history.
On a wild sliver of Upper Matecumbe Key, footpaths wind through a rockland tropical hammock where a rocky crevice emits sulfur fumes and you must beware of crocodiles near the mangroves