The longest trail at Fort Clinch State Park, the Main Loop is a 5.7 mile shared-use trail that parallels the paved road, offering a challenge to cyclists and hikers alike.
There are lots of ups and downs along this route, and be sure to watch out for roots and bicycles.
The trail intersects the main road in several spots. The sand dunes are spectacular, and you may come across wildlife like deer if you hike early in the morning or at dusk.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Fernandina Beach
Trailhead: 30.703676, -81.452655
Address: 2601 Atlantic Ave, Fernandina Beach
Fees: $6 per vehicle or $4 single occupant; $2 pedestrians and cyclists
Restrooms: At Fort Clinch visitor center and East Beach Access Area
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Park open 8 AM to sunset daily. Leashed pets are welcome on this walk but are prohibited on all beaches, boardwalks, and buildings within the park.
Trail signage indicates one-way travel for cyclists. While hikers are allowed to travel either direction, for your safety it’s best to walk in the same direction of one-way travel as posted. Be cautious of roots and steep dips along this trail.
From Jacksonville, follow Interstate 95 north for 20 miles to exit 373. Head east on SR 200 / A1A (Buccaneer Trail) for 10 miles, passing through Yulee and crossing the Intracoastal Waterway into Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Continue 2 miles as A1A curves north and merges onto South 8th St. Continue north on South 8th St for 3 miles to Atlantic Ave and turn right. Head east on Atlantic Ave for 1.5 miles. The entrance to Fort Clinch State Park will be on your left. After you stop at the ranger station and pay your park entrance fee, continue 3 miles along the main park road to the parking area at the Fort Clinch Visitor Center. Look for a sign for the Main Loop trailhead there.
From the parking lot, a multi-use sign marks the trail traveling counter-clockwise. Start here on the west leg of the loop, which fronts Egans Creek Marsh.
The trail climbs up a steep hill into the forest. The sweet scent of pine fills the air as you walk through a grove of loblolly pine.
Within the first quarter mile, the trail crosses a road that leads to the River Campground and enters a maritime hammock, undulating across the hills.
After 0.8 miles, it climbs through a patch of saw palmetto to reach the parking area for the Willow Pond Trails, which serves as an alternative access point.
Beneath red bay and live oak, the trail climbs up and over ancient dunes.
Drop through a low drainage filled with Hercules club, then climb up and over a hill before crossing a sandy service road at 1.3 miles.
A glimpse of the salt marsh soon glimmers through the trees. By 1.8 miles, a short spur trail leads to the edge of Egans Creek Marsh, offering a view of the Amelia Island Lighhouse.
As you wind along the edge of the salt marsh, you walk behind tall sea myrtle, which show off their fluffy blooms in fall, then back into a forest of slender yaupon holly.
It winds into a maritime hammock, past gnarled and knobby southern magnolias, some immense, their bark covered with patches of green moss.
Cross the main park road at 2.8 miles. The eastern leg of the loop trail runs along a narrow, hilly strip of forest between the main road and steep dunes.
The trail twists and turns past American beautyberry, saw palmettos, and red mulberry. The sand is soft around some of the sharper curves.
Signs visitors of the fragile nature of this habitat and instruct people not to walk on the dunes.
At 3.3 miles, the trail meets up with the road for a short roadwalk, bypassing an area of sensitive dunes that spill onto the road.
While it re-enters the forest for a tenth of a mile on a steep and twisting path, you resume another short roadwalk soon after.
Hercules’-club rises from a bowl filled with saw palmetto. Crouching low under a bower of wax myrtle, walk between beds of woods ferns.
The trail winds back towards the road, emerging at Egan Creek.
Continue over the bridge, and the trail drops down into a forest of yaupon and sugarberry. Briefly follow the sluggish stream.
The calming aroma of cedar fills the air as the trail crosses the road leading to East Beach Access Area and the Atlantic Campground at 4.5 miles.
Tall slash pines rain needles on the footpath. Within a half mile, the trail passes the brick ruins of the Willow Pond Oil House and the foundations of old light beacons.
These are not accessible from the trail, so stop along the park road after your hike for a look at the interpretive site.
Walking between cabbage palms and cedars, follow the trail to where it exits onto the park road just a few feet from the Visitor Center parking lot, completing the 5.7-mile loop.
Learn more about Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park
With 1,100 acres of pristine beaches, towering dunes, maritime forest, and estuarine tidal marshes, Fort Clinch State Park is one of Florida’s paramount recreational areas.
Explore the other trails of Fort Clinch State Park
Willow Pond Trails
Tackle two nature trails totaling less than a mile to discover a wildlife haven amid the forested dunes of Fort Clinch State Park.
Fort Clinch Beach Walk
Explore a wave-tossed beach shoreline while searching for sea shells along the northernmost stretch of the Atlantic Coast in Florida.
See our photos of Fort Clinch State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Egans Creek Greenway
Northeast of Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, Egans Creek Greenway is a protected area of over 300 acres that runs north to south along Egans Creek.
Fairway Loop Trail
Showcasing a slow restoration to maritime forest, this uplands loop on Fort George Island traverses what remains of a 1920s-era Scottish-style golf course near Jacksonville.
Betz-Tiger Point Preserve
On a peninsula where the Timucua used the surrounding estuary for sustenance, Betz-Tiger Point Preserve provides more than six miles of breezy trails
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve Trails
With interconnections to adjoining public lands, the extensive trail network at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park connects more than 15 miles of trails to many miles more