For those looking for more than a taste of the watery wet prairie habitats that the trails of Apoxee Wilderness provide, the Florida Trail from Corbett WMA to the Lucky Tract campsite offers immersion in the full diversity of habitats you’ll find in Palm Beach County. Dense tropical hammocks and pine flatwoods with tall slash pines form a counterpoint to with broad open prairies and cypress domes. For those backpacking the entirety of the Ocean-to-Lake Trail, west to east, this is your fourth day on the trail.
Location: Jupiter Farms
Length: 12.1 miles
Lat-Lon: 26.855529,-80.300273 [Hungryland Slough trailhead] to 26.892218,-80.181454 [Lucky Camp]
Fees / Permits: free permit required in advance from South Florida Water Management District for camping at Lucky Camp
Bug factor: moderate to high
Parking is only available at the Hungryland Slough trailhead. Trail access points include the Beeline and the C-18 canal.
Dogs are not permitted in Loxahatchee Slough CA. A free permit must be arranged in advance to camp between Corbett WMA and Riverbend Park. Contact Frank Griffith (561) 267-0423 cell, (561) 233-2486 office, or firstname.lastname@example.org. No ground fires are permitted.
To reach the Hungryland Slough Trailhead in Corbett WMA, take Northlake Blvd west from the Beeline (SR 710) in West Palm Beach for 8.7 miles, passing Grassy Waters Preserve en route. The road ends at Seminole Pratt Whitney Rd. Turn right and continue 3.5 miles north to Stumpers Grade Road, the well marked entrance to Corbett WMA. After paying your entrance fee, follow the road west and turn right to continue around the lake towards the Youth Camp. A small sign points out the trailhead up a short road to the left as you draw close to the buildings at the youth camp.
Leaving Corbett Everglades Youth Camp, walk down the limerock road following the orange blazes. Within a quarter mile it merges in with the main road that goes out to South Grade. Keep following the blazes around the big pond out to the exit and the hunt check station at the front gate of Corbett WMA. Turn left then right to follow the road along the canal.
At 1.1 miles the trail leaves this dirt road out of Corbett to turn left into Hungryland Slough Conservation Area. It follows a forest road that is lined by pines on either side. There is a steep-sided canal covered in American lotus on the left. As this is a wet flatwoods, there are many bog plants, including wild bachelors button, bog buttons, star rush, and stands of needlerush. It’s a comfortable walking surface, although it can get puddles.
After a sharp right turn, the trail leaves the canal and meanders through grasslands between the pines. Take the left fork at 2 miles onto a forest road that guides you past a large, wet prairie and into the pines. Keep left at the next fork. The pine flatwoods become dense enough that you can’t see through the understory. There are a lot of tall saw palmetto, and the hum of crickets. Watch for the trail to leave the forest road on the left at a double blaze on a pine tree, becoming a mowed path paralleling the forest road before it dips into the woods on the left. Watch for the two next junctions as they come up quickly; keep looking for blazes.
At 2.4 miles a double-blaze leads to a curving forest road with pines and very old saw palmettos underneath them. There is a large wet prairie to the left as the trail curves at a double blaze to join a straightaway along a wide forest road. Continue through a 4-way intersection and follow the long straightway until the blazes lead you onto a narrow track into the pine woods on the right. Turn left at the next T intersection onto a Jeep track with a slight elevation over the soggy landscapes around it.
If you’re looking for water to filter, there is a big, beautiful wet prairie off to the right at a 3-way intersection of roads at 3.1 miles. The trail turns left directly across from it and continues down a very broad path between the pines. At the next 4-way intersection, it makes a sharp left. There’s a long stretch of wet prairie paralleling the road here on the left, with goldenrod and tickseed blooming along the edges. As the trail curves away from the prairie to the right, look for the pink blossoms of sabatia.
Rounding a curve onto the paralleling forest road, you see a line of cabbage palms off to the left and a wet prairie behind you as you make the turn. Stands of marsh fern grow thickly under young cypresses in the first cypress dome encountered today. A communications tower comes into view in the distance. Through an opening next to a cypress strand you can see and hear traffic passing by on the Beeline.
The trail takes the right fork and heads deeper into the pine woods, the footpath becoming a grassy Jeep track. At the next T intersection, look for a double blaze and turn right to walk along the edge of a cypress-lined wet prairie with lots of corkwood and St. John’s wort. Off to the right is pine flatwoods. The pines get taller and thicker ahead, offering more shade.
At 4.8 miles, you emerge onto the road that parallels the C-18 canal. Turn left. Crossing the CSX railroad tracks at the railroad crossing sign, you’re now at the Beeline. Turn right and walk along the west shoulder of the highway, which is busy with high-speed traffic. You pass the “Sweetbay Natural Area” sign on the right hand side of the highway. Make sure you carefully cross the highway at this point. On the east shoulder, the trail vanishes back into the woods to your left next to a power pole and a stand of cattails.
Once you get away from the highway, the trail turns into a very pretty path. It narrows down to the width of an ATV track and winds beneath tall slash pines in an upland area, a semi-rolling landscape with saw palmetto and wax myrtle in the understory. At 6.2 miles the trail ascends a berm, which it then crosses to re-enter the forest. Passing indistinct intersections of trails, just keep following the blazes. Dropping through a little dip of an ephemeral waterway, the trail goes straight ahead into planted pines.
There are blazes on both the posts and on the pines. It’s a bit rough underfoot thanks to the furrows created when the pines were planted. By 6.5 miles, the trail makes an abrupt turn off the broader path onto a narrow path into wet pine flatwoods, with sundews and bog buttons showing up in the footpath, along with other colorful wildflowers that love damp earth: blue-eyed grass, wild bachelor button, and Glades lobelia, tickseed, and star rush.
Ascending into drier pine flatwoods under taller pines, you can see wet prairies reaching off into the distance to the north. The trail dips through a little drainage area between prairies, climbs a berm, and follows it around a curve to the end of a canal. Wherever the berm narrows, cocoplum, myrsine, and saw palmetto crowd close together on either side. Following a double-blaze, the trail crosses a wooden bridge over a marsh at a canal, offering up a little patch of shade under the pines soon after. Becoming a path through tall grasses, the blazes lead you close to an ephemeral waterway on a roughed-up forest road past a big chunk of metal pipe. A little pond on the left is dotted with water lilies.
At 7.3 miles, the trail takes a sharp left off the forest road and narrows down to a footpath among the planted pines, rough walking amid the furrows. Rounding a large dry prairie where a post is set on a rough berm, an unmarked trail goes off to the right, continue straight. Watch for blaze posts that lead you in one direction and then the other before you reach a tiny palm hammock that offers a spot of shade. Aquatic plants, including pennywort and dollarweed, seep into the trail.
Climbing into a grassy upland area, you cross a forest road at 7.8 miles. Follow the berm back into the woods on the opposite side of the forest road. The palm-lined berm reaches a “T” intersection and a confusion of roads. Watch for the blazes to guide you into a silver-blue thicket of saw palmetto near the pines, passing a slash pine with an interesting curve to its trunk. Continue down the mowed path between the saw palmetto and cabbage palms. There is a vast wet prairie off to the right.
By 8.2 miles, the trail reaches a limestone berm paralleling a wet prairie off to the left and a rough looking swamp buggy road off to the right. The corridor is lined with cabbage palms and slash pine. The footpath drops off the berm and into a very pretty tropical hammock with open flat spots under the oaks and cabbage palms. The limbs of the oaks are covered in bromeliads and ferns.
As you leave the dense hammock, you can see that there is a wet prairie off to the right, and the trail enters a wet flatwoods. You may encounter mud holes created by wild hogs. Wildflowers grow profusely in open spots. You pass a pond on the right at 9 miles as you enter another tropical hammock with a dense understory of cocoplum. Crossing a small waterway, the trail climbs over a berm and into a cypress strand before rejoining the wet flatwoods. Be cautious of sawgrass through this section and lots of cypress knees underfoot. With just a little bit of rain, this could be a very wet section of trail.
At 9.4 miles a boardwalk leads you through a little cypress dome and back around the edge of a wet prairie with sundew and bladderwort along its edges, and soggy boggy places to squish through. By Crossing a narrow dike between two prairie ponds filled with dead melaluca, you enter a palm hammock, the trail weaving its way through the trees. Coming to the next boardwalk, it leads you along another wet prairie. Climbing out of the melaluca and cypress at 9.9 miles, you ascend into a small hammock with stands of sawgrass. The third boardwalk is over a substantial swampy waterway; it plops you down into a palm hammock with a thick wild coffee understory. A palm arches over the trail somewhere that a tall person might hit their head.
As the trail leaves this hammock, you reach the C-18 canal at 10.6 miles. Cross the large pedestrian bridge to the other side and look for the blazes. As you enter the Lucky Tract, the trail meanders beneath tall pines and cabbage palms in an easterly direction. Crossing a cypress strand, you enter another pretty hammock with dense wild coffee, American beautyberry, thick clumps of sword fern and royal ferns. Leaving the hammock, the trail keeps to the edge of a large wet prairie under sparse pines, where St. John’s wort and corkwood are the dominant low plants. Passing some ancient “hat rack” bald cypress like you’d see in Big Cypress or the Everglades, you get to an open area around 11.6 miles.
The trail crosses a broad forest road inundated with water and heads around a dense circle of pine flatwoods with a ring of diminutive cypress around it. Entering the pine woods, you discover that they, in turn, ring a tropical hammock. This is Lucky Hammock. If you’re lucky, you’ll recognize the poison ivy that grows throughout the hammock and avoid it. Headed down a short but showy avenue of palms, the trail comes to a sign for the campsite at 12 miles. Turn left and follow the side trail 0.1 mile to the small clearing in the hammock that makes up Lucky Camp. There is no water here, so you’ll need to make sure you bring it in along the way.
Thanks to Bryce Layman at Litepacker for his assistance in transcribing the field notes for this hike.