Starting with a surprising contrast between the tropical hammocks of Loxahatchee Slough and the subdivisions of Jupiter Farms, the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail takes a turn into urban wilds along the shellrock paths of popular Riverbend Park.
Once it enters the backcountry of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, you’re into vast stretches of open landscapes crossed by interstates, with rugged scrambles through cypress-lined tributaries of the Loxahatchee River.
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Length: 10.7 miles linear
Fees: $2 fee for entering Jonathan Dickinson State Park on foot. Camping fee.
Restroom: Privies at Riverbend Park and Kitching Creek campsite
For Loxahatchee Slough: Palm Beach County ERM, 561-233-2400
For Riverbend Park: Palm Beach County Parks, 561-966-6617
For Loxahatchee River Natural Area: South Florida Water Management District, 561-686-8800
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 772-546-2771
Dogs are not permitted through this section. You may not leave a car at Riverbend Park overnight.
If the Loxahatchee River is flooded, do not attempt this section. It and its tributaries will rise and swamp the trail and its bridges. Cypress Creek is treacherous at flood stage.
You do need to arrange camping at both ends in advance.
Camping at Kitching Creek requires a small fee: call Jonathan Dickinson State Park to arrange. Reservations are suggested.
A free permit must be arranged in advance to camp at Lucky Hammock. No ground fires are permitted. Contact Mary Canada at Palm Beach County ERM by phone Mon-Fri 9-4 at 561-233-2503 or 561-233-2400.
Trail access is possible in Jupiter Farms (see above), but the only place to park a car along this section is at Riverbend Park for day use only. It’s along Indiantown Road (SR 706) to the west of Jupiter, 1.5 miles west of the interchange with Florida’s Turnpike and I-95. Backpackers must arrange to leave their car at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Set in the dense cabbage palm forest of the Lucky Tract, the Lucky Hammock campsite is the starting point for this segment of the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail. Follow the blue blaze to the main trail and turn left.
This is a lush tropical hammock with marlberry and tall wild coffee in the understory, as well as poison ivy. Sunlight streams through the ferns on the cabbage palms.
After a half mile, you leave Lucky Hammock for the more familiar surroundings of the Ocean to Lake Trail, open prairies with scattered pines and cypress trees.
The trail ducks into a cypress slough, part of the original natural waterway now usurped by the C-18 canal. Ascending into a tropical hammock briefly, you are greeted by giant strap ferns.
Wade across the cypress strand. It’s a shock to climb up out of it and end up in wholly human-created space, the dike along the C-18 canal. Turn left at the kiosk and walk east.
The C-18 is a stark contrast to the natural beauty of the Lucky Tract. Within a mile, a guardrail provides a place for backpackers to take a rest stop in this shadeless section. This is the trail access point marked on the map.
Watch for a blaze on the left after a water control structure. It takes the trail off the dike and down along the edge of the slough for shade and better views.
After 2.3 miles, you reach the back gate to Riverbend Park. The path through here is crushed limerock and there are many signposts, as this is a park on the fringe of suburbia in Jupiter.
A quarter mile along the path, a side trail leads to the Orange Grove Picnic Area. This is a nice place to take a break, as it has a large chickee shelter and a privy. We stopped here to dry our tent in the sunshine.
Crossing East Slough, a stream in a culvert, you come up to a side trail, Main Trail, that leads out to the main parking area at Riverbend Park. Continue past it, meandering through the pine and palm hammock.
The last left out to the parking area is at 3.6 miles via the East Slough Trail. Straight ahead, the Ocean to Lake Trail goes beneath Indiantown Road. Now on the north side of the highway, it turns left, passing access to the Italian Farms Trail.
Cross a stile and continue parallel to Indiantown Rd. The trail joins a pedestrian parkway along the highway to cross the Loxahatchee River on the highway bridge.
Across the road are the only services along the Ocean to Lake Trail until Hobe Sound, a strip mall with convenience store, hardware store, and restaurants.
Leaving Indiantown Rd, the trail turns right, passing the Lainhart Cabin. Follow the blazes down an old road to enter Loxahatchee River Natural Area. By 5.5 miles, the footpath descends into the river floodplain.
After crossing BZs Creek and another tributary, you ascend into scrubby flatwoods and scrub, rising up to meet the noise echoing ahead off Florida’s Turnpike.
The trail guides you under both the Turnpike and Interstate 95, making a sharp left after the two underpasses.
On the east side of Interstate 95, it leads you through open scrubby flatwoods within sight of the highway before dropping down into Hells Creek, a good water source at 7 miles.
After another stretch of scrub forest, you reach Cypress Creek. This is one of the larger tributaries and a beauty spot crossed by a long bridge. Enter a tropical hammock on the other side, exiting into pine flatwoods.
Following an old forest road, you reach Hobe Groves at 8.8 miles. The old orange grove sits just above Moonshine Creek. It’s here you’ll encounter the trickiest maneuver on the Ocean-to-Lake, crossing Hobe Groves Canal.
Most people take their shoes and socks off to do the wade, which can vary in depth from season-to-season. It’s a big scramble up the other side before you stop to put your socks and shoes back on.
After the canal, you enter Jonathan Dickinson State Park. The blazes lead you along a series of forest roads through the pine flatwoods.
A sign and a white-blazed side trail point out the location of the Kitching Creek campsite, 0.2 mile down the side trail. You reach it at 10.7 miles.
This is a large, pleasant camping area with its own composting privy and a pitcher pump for non-potable water. Backpackers will appreciate the picnic tables and benches.
EASTBOUND: Florida Trail, Kitching Creek to Hobe Sound
WESTBOUND: Florida Trail, Corbett WMA to Lucky Tract
See our photos of this Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail segment
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
One of South Florida’s best backpacking destinations, Jonathan Dickinson State Park encompasses a vast mosaic of ecosystems along the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River
Protecting the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River, Riverbend Park provides nature, tamed.
Limestone Creek Natural Area
Centered on pine flatwoods along a historic creek basin, Limestone Creek Natural Area is a green gem in a busy corner of Jupiter
Kitching Creek Loop
Burrowing deep into the backwoods of vast Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Kitching Creek Loop showcases the beauty of pine flatwoods and cypress drainages towards the Loxahatchee River.