Protecting more than 2,500 acres along the western edge of Titusville, Fox Lake Sanctuary offers an immense landscape for exploration, with more than 7 miles of marked, interconnecting trails for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and equestrian use.
Length: 3.6 miles
Lat-Lon: 28.588660, -80.874806
Type: network of loops
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: near Pavilion I in Fox Lake Park
Open 7 AM-dusk. Pets are not permitted. You can extend your hike for an additional 2.6 miles without repeating yourself if you stick to all of the yellow-blazed perimeter trails in the preserve.
From the I-95 Titusville exit, head east to the first traffic light, at SR 405. Turn left. Continue north to the traffic light at Fox Lake Road. Turn left. Follow the road, which ends by entering the park. The primary trailhead is in the far back corner of Fox Lake Park. Follow the one-way road to where it turns away from Fox Lake, and park there on the right by Pavilion I.
On our hike, we stuck to the yellow-blazed hiking trail system, attempting to follow the perimeter loop. It wasn’t always the easiest task. This is a relatively young preserve, and the trails are quite rugged in places, especially where they’ve been cut through palmetto stands and bayheads.
Starting at the parking area near the lake, look for the kiosk for Fox Lake Sanctuary. The kayak trail starts right there at Fox Lake, and the connector trail to the loop system does as well. It’s shared by all users, so it’s well beaten down through the pine flatwoods by the lake. The trail scrambles atop a sand ridge where a forest of saw palmetto rises over your head.
After a quarter mile, the landscape opens up into sparse pine flatwoods, where you reach the network of loops. A sign with a trail map shows you which trails go where. Our goal was Moss Point, 1.6 miles (as the map said) from the preserve entrance. It was here that we had a tough time finding the first series of yellow markers for the hiking trails, since their location didn’t match the map. It might have been because a tractor came through and chewed up the edge of the forest for a prescribed burn; there were many crisscrossing fire breaks that made the hike confusing. We knew we were in wet flatwoods by the sheer number of wild batchelor’s button peeping up from the forest floor. Finally finding the yellow diamonds, they led to the pine flatwoods atop the scrub ridge, and then towards Fox Lake itself, heading in a northerly direction through the saw palmettos, the footpath a rough cut through the undulating understory.
While the map shows the trail staying close to the lakeshore, views of Fox Lake are brief. The trail actually tunnels through a dense bayhead swamp along the edge of the lake, which means a lot of roots underfoot and the potential for some squishy spots and some wading. Loblolly bay deeply shades the trail. Reaching an unmarked junction at 0.6 mile, where a trail comes in from the open pine flatwoods to the west, look for the black arrow on the yellow diamond to keep you on the right path, closer to the lake. Soon after, the trail pops out under the pines, with cushy pine duff underfoot.
Passing a triple-trunked loblolly bay, the trail turns right and briefly drops into a trough. Reaching a major junction for the trail system at 0.8 mile, you’ll find another trail map. We took the trail to the right to continue along the north side of Fox Lake and stay with the perimeter. As the trail jogged closer to the lake, it was obvious that it could get wet, and stay wet. It was dry this day, and to our delight, it opened up to a view of Fox Lake.
Tunneling back into bayhead, you can peek through the underbrush and see the marshy edge of the lake before the trail finally turns away from it, heading north. Skimming the edge of the pine flatwoods, the trail works it way back under the shade of the oaks and loblolly bay. Ferns thrive in the damp understory, including a natural bowl of netted chain fern. Spaghnum moss grows everywhere.
Making a left at the next intersection after 1.1 miles took us away from a large segment of the perimeter trail that creates a loop above Fox Lake, but was necessary to keep us on track to finish our hike before lunch. Instead, we entered the open pine flatwoods that make up the core of the preserve. Crossing a sand road, you see a couple of yellow markers on a tree branch. This broad, open landscape doesn’t have much shelter. It can be panoramic in places, but don’t forget to look down for the little things, like wildflowers and a gopher tortoise burrow near the base of a slash pine.
Crossing another sand road, the trail continues through the open flatwoods. Making a left at the next junction marker and map, the yellow trail finally makes a beeline towards Moss Point, first leading you into another bayhead before popping out into the flatwoods again. Crossing over a firebreak, you can see the glimmer of a lake to the left. That’s South Lake, at the north end of the preserve.
After another stretch of pine flatwoods, the terrain changes. Walking through a stand of cabbage palms is like walking through a portal as the trail leads you into tall prairie grasses. Planks bridge a series of boggy spots in the wettest part of prairie. Deer’s-tongue grows to surprising heights. A little elevation means a change back to the pine flatwoods again. Crossing the next sand road, continue straight towards the bayhead in the distance. When you reach it, the trail loses elevation sharply. You start to see what looks like the edge of a shoreline through the trees. Ferns yield to live oaks with bromeliads in their limbs.
At 2.1 miles, you reach Moss Point. It’s an apt description for this beauty spot, the prettiest point in the preserve so far, where Spanish moss hangs thickly from the oaks in a hammock on a bluff above the southernmost arm of South Lake. Leaving this beauty spot, the trail tunnels through the oak hammock, over the “gatorback” roots of the saw palmetto while paralleling the lakeshore, offering views across the lake now and again. A long boardwalk spans a hydric hammock along the lake.
Rising to higher ground amid pines and oaks at the south end of South Lake, the trail leaves the lakeshore behind, making a sharp right to start a series of zigzags through the saw palmetto. At 2.6 miles, you reach the junction with a side trail to the youth camp. The yellow blazes lead you back out into the open pine flatwoods at the center of the preserve. Crossing a sand road, you quickly come up to the next junction. Continue straight ahead, crossing more stretches of bog bridge in the open prairie.
By 2.8 miles, you’ve reached a familiar intersection. Continue straight ahead through the bayhead, emerging within sight of Fox Lake at 3.2 miles. Turn right and follow the yellow markers along the edge of the scrub and bayhead back to the first of the trail maps at 3.3 miles. Continue straight ahead. Emerge at the trailhead kiosk in Fox Lake Park after 3.6 miles.