Anchoring the western end of the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail, DuPuis WMA is accessed “the back way” by backpackers starting at the NENA trailhead on US 441.
It takes 3.4 miles via the orange blazes before you reach the preserve. Once inside, the trail system interconnects with DuPuis Loop 3 & 4.
To stage yourself for either a swing around the loop or the linear hike into adjacent Corbett WMA, this trek ends at the Loop 4 campsite after 8.7 miles.
Along the way, it crosses pine flatwoods and prairies while, zigzagging around and through cypress domes and large prairie ponds.
The NENA Trailhead is in the middle of a rural area. It’s best to have someone drop you off there so your car doesn’t need to be parked here while you’re backpacking.
Hikers may leave cars within Jonathan Dickinson State Park for the eastbound trek across the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail. There is a small fee.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Port Mayaca
Length: 8.7 miles linear
Address: US 441, Canal Point, FL
Land manager: South Florida Water Management District
Open 24 hours. Primitive campsites available. Insect repellent recommended.
Managed jointly with Florida Fish & Wildlife, DuPuis is a busy hunting destination during all hunting seasons. Check ahead before your hike.
If hiking during hunting season, wear bright orange clothing or an orange pack cover.
The NENA Trailhead, the only direct access point for this segment, is located along US 441 on the lake side of the highway 3 miles south of the junction of SR 76 and US 441 at Port Mayaca. Access to a portion of this trail is available via the main gate of DuPuis Reserve, but means a different route to traverse – the DuPuis Loops, not the Ocean-to-Lake Trail.
Your hike starts at the NENA Trailhead along US 441. Look for the orange blazes leading beyond the fence across a grassy area with pines.
They come to US 441, where a sign is obvious across the road. Traffic is high speed, so use caution. You encounter an Ocean to Lake Sign.
Follow the orange blazes through the forest for the limerock road you see disappearing off into the distance. They are on small wooden markers.
Bleached white and dusty, the road reflects sunlight back at you as you walk down it past stands of regal-looking palms in a nursery.
After 0.9 mile you pass through a gate, with stern warnings on both sides not to leave the road lest you trespass on the private property of the Five Stones Mine, a limerock mine.
Follow the blazes as they guide you around the mine — south, east, and north — making three quarters of a square that turns you east again at 2.4 miles.
Here, sugar cane is off to the right, and barbed wire separates you from a cattle ranch.
At 2.9 miles, you come to the end of the cane field. The land slopes down to a stand of willows, and you come to an Ocean-to-Lake sign.
Turn left to climb over the next gate. This one leads to a north-south berm paralleled by a canal to your right and a cattle ranch to your left.
High-tension power lines parallel as well. Beyond the canal the forest rises, the bald cypress notably tall. You pass a gate into the cattle ranch to the left.
At the next gate, the trail drops down and loops up and around uphill to the right, finally entering DuPuis Reserve in earnest. You’ve walked 3.4 miles.
The spot of shade you encounter is the first good place to sit and take a break out of the sun.
The trail crosses an equestrian trail and firebreak and continues forwards – eastbound – into the pine flatwoods.
Watch for a water source on the right, a deep hole that holds water most of the year. It would be a tough scramble, but a filtration hose could be dropped in.
Both DuPuis and Corbett have large, active alligator populations and you may encounter alligators anywhere you find water, especially at culverts like these.
The trail snakes beneath the slash pines through a thick understory of saw palmetto. The footpath is obvious enough, except where wild hogs may have trashed it by rooting.
Hiking through rooted-up ground is an exercise in painful trudging, climbing in and out of short but annoying holes.
By 4 miles, the habitat has yielded to young longleaf pines, wax myrtle, and Florida myrtle in an open, park-like setting.
There is a very open understory, where clumps of saw palmetto and a variety of grasses and goldenrod breaks up the landscape.
Passing a track in the woods, the landscape changes again to a slash pine forest with tall slash pines overhead and orange sprays of broomsedge growing almost shoulder-height.
Gatorbacks – those remnants of saw palmetto roots that we love to hate – make for rough terrain underfoot.
There are aquatic plants growing in the footpath, and marsh ferns along the edges, so this is a spot serving as drainage during the wet summer season.
After crossing a grassy forest road, emerge onto a graded limestone road at 4.5 miles: DuPuis Grade Road, which can be reached by vehicles.
Ocean-to-Lake signs are on both sides of the road crossing. Glance to the right and you see a line of tall bald cypress in the distance.
Straight ahead, the trail enters into a pine-palm flatwoods. Rising up an embankment, the trail drops to the edge of a cypress dome.
While the footpath seems to go straight ahead into the dome, watch the blazes—it takes a sharp right, crossing a culvert.
It then dances along the edge of this wetland area between dome and canal. Purple bladderwort adds color to the edges.
Bromeliads are all around in the trees, and goldfoot fern peeps out of the trunk of a cabbage palm. Pennywort grows in the footpath, so you know it gets wet here.
The trail continues to parallel the cypress off to the left. There’s a blaze on a double-trunked slash pine at 5.1 miles.
The cypress dome fades off into the distance as you continue deeper into the pine-palm flatwoods.
At the junction of a firebreak and forest road, the trail continues straight ahead into an open prairie dotted with pines.
It then opens up into a straightaway for the next half mile, broad like a forest road.
At 5.5 miles you reach the “3W” sign, joining DuPuis Loop 3. If you meet intersections with other orange blazes, always keep to the right to stay on the southeast side of the loop.
An Ocean-to-Lake sign guides you to take a right turn. Crossing over a small outflow from a cypress dome, continue through the pine-palm flatwoods.
At 6.1 miles, the trail comes up to a cypress strand and jogs left to parallel it for some ways. The understory is ablaze in wildflowers.
Depending on the time of year, these include blue-eyed grass, coreopsis (Florida’s state flower, also known as tickseed), and star rush along the edges of the footpath.
Making a sharp right at a T at a firebreak, the trail remains in pine-palm flatwoods, with the cypress strand fading into the distance to the right.
You’re amid the pines briefly as another cypress strand comes in from the left and the trail plunges right through it.
Bromeliads – air plants, members of the tillandsia family, related to pineapples – grow at face level, knee level, and over your head in all shapes and sizes.
The trail pops out on a forest road at 6.4 miles with orange blazes guiding you to the right.
Around the corner, you parallel another cypress strand before the trail makes a sudden left off the forest road with no warning – watch those blazes!
Pass a shelter / blind to the left. The trail curves away from it towards another cypress strand to the left.
The trail enters it, and you’re firmly walking through the heart of the cypress strand. Large tufts of grass and beautiful wildflowers line the footpath.
At the junction of DuPuis Loop 3E/4E and 3W/4W at 6.7 miles, keep going straight ahead, where a palm hammock with graceful oaks provides deep shade.
Cross a firebreak. To the right and left are cypress strands as the trail re-enters the pine-palm flatwoods.
The trail heads right into another cypress strand, but keep alert! The trail you want to be on jogs off to the right, continuing through pines and palms.
Meeting a swamp buggy trail, the footpath jogs to the left to avoid it. If you are backpacking the Ocean to Lake eastbound, expect to see many more of these.
Cross a forest road at 7 miles. The landscape opens up again as a broad prairie with scattered trees and a lot of hog damage in the understory.
A track comes in from the left at 7.3 miles. The trail reaches it and continues straight ahead. Walk through open flatwoods with no shade before you cross the next track.
At 7.7 miles, the trail snakes its way through another cypress strand. At times of high water, this could be a wade and a water source, but may also be bone-dry.
Passing a pretty stretch of silvery-blue saw palmetto, the trail curves to the right, with a cypress dome ahead and off to the left.
The footpath meanders through a prairie of broomsedge resplendent in shades of orange.
Cross the next firebreak at 8.4 miles, and continue into open flatwoods with younger trees, mostly small longleaf pines.
Rounding a prairie, the trail passes a double-blaze on a cabbage palm, and jogs left then right to re-enter the pine woods in an open, park-like setting.
Reaching the sign for DuPuis Loop 4 campsite, you’ve completed 8.7 miles. Picnic tables and a fire ring make this a particularly nice campsite for a group.
There are nooks and crannies between the saw palmetto where you can set up tents and string hammocks.
A pitcher pump is in place at the campsite. If it is not working, a low-flow drainage ditch will serve as a water source in a pinch. Watch for alligators there.
Learn more about the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail and DuPuis WMA
See our photos of Ocean to Lake, DuPuis WMA
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Explore wetlands that are “for the birds” by day hiking the northernmost portion of the DuPuis Loop Trails.
11.7 miles. An ocean-like expanse, Lake Okeechobee is open water to the horizon along the long arc between Pahokee and Port Mayaca
Deep in the heart of the Ocean-to-Lake Greenway, this 9.7 mile segment of the Florida Trail bridging DuPuis Reserve and Corbett WMA is one of the most wild and scenic treks in southeastern Florida