Surrounded by a sea of neighborhoods, the 172 acres of Frenchman’s Forest is a haven for wildlife, an island of nature in densely populated Palm Beach Gardens.
From a mangrove-lined waterway to scrubby pine flatwoods to a boardwalk through a cypress swamp, this natural area provides plenty to explore in a compact space.
Less than a mile from the Gardens Mall as the crow flies, it is a haven for wildlife and a spot for an enjoyable spot for a stroll amid seven distinct habitats.
Nearly three-quarters of a mile of the trail system it is accessible, providing access to natural-surface footpaths leading to points of natural interest.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Palm Beach Gardens
Length: Up to 2.6 miles in four trails
Trailhead: 26.85694, -80.07256
Address: 12201 Prosperity Farms Rd, Palm Beach Gardens
Land manager: Palm Beach County
Open sunrise to sunset. No pets, no bicycles. Map displayed at trailhead kiosk. Mosquito repellent recommended.
From the intersection of PGA Blvd and Prosperity Farms Rd east of the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, turn north and follow Prosperity Farms Rd for 2 miles to the parking area on the left, just after you cross the creek.
All hikers start off on the accessible Blazing Star Nature Trail at the kiosk in the parking area.
Despite being a sidewalk, it winds along in deep shade under a canopy of hardwoods, passing several benches along its first two tenths of a mile.
At the T intersection, make a left to take the short boardwalk to the observation deck on Lake Worth Creek.
A relict of the days before the region became so populated, this mangrove-lined pool provides shelter for wading birds and turtles.
Return across the boardwalk and continue straight ahead along the winding path as it gains a little elevation.
A transition into scrub leads to scrubby flatwoods and the main junction for the natural footpaths of the preserve at a quarter mile.
The accessible path continues straight ahead. It’s a short but scenic loop, so it’s worth tackling before any woodland rambles.
At the Y intersection, there is a bench. Bear left. Sand live oaks curve low above the trail, which is strewn with pine needles.
The understory becomes thicker as you progress around the loop. Blazes from another one of the trails are evident on pines in the distance.
Finishing up the loop, return to its junction and continue to the junction for the yellow trail, 0.4 mile into your walk.
This is your decision point. Following the sidewalk returns you to the car after a 0.8 mile walk.
A ramble along the Saw Palmetto Hiking Trail, the largest loop shown on the map, provides access to the cypress dome boardwalk and a short spur along the creek.
It’s been many years since we’ve rambled the entire trail system, but we saw terrestrial orchids in a shady palm hammock beyond the cypresses.
Archie’s Creek Trail makes a short spur along the creek. Add on the red-blazed Staggerbush Hiking Trail in the northeast corner of the preserve for an exploration of scrub habitat.
Gopher tortoises burrow along this loop as well as in the sandy hills along the Blazing Star Trail.
In all, the natural footpaths of the preserve shown on our map provide 1.8 miles of hiking.
Afterwards, returning along the accessible trail to the parking area completes a 2.6 mile hike.
See our photos of Frenchman’s Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Juno Dunes Natural Area
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John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
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Limestone Creek Natural Area
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Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area
Escape to a vast watery wilderness where you can hike, bike, or paddle through Northern Everglades habitats on the outskirts of residential Palm Beach County