Hidden deep in a leafy glade, a shimmering pool rises from the earth to pour through palm hammocks towards the St. Johns River. At Green Spring Park, the trails are short but well-groomed, with options for all abilities – a paved biking trail loops through the park along with a network of natural footpaths. Families with small children will appreciate the tucked-in-the-woods playground and the gentle paths that sneak through the forest with surprises around each corner. Detailed, colorful interpretive signs walk you through the story of the rise and fall of Enterprise as a steamboat port on the St. Johns River.
Length: 0.5 mile
Lat-Long: 28.863086, -81.248549
Type: loop with numerous options
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: flush toilets
Open sunrise to sunset
From I-4 exit 108, drive east on Debary Avenue for a half mile, which turns into Jacob Brock Avenue for the next 0.7 mile. Turn right onto Main Street and continue through the historic town of Enterprise. Main Street jogs south to become Lakeshore Drive, which parallels the shoreline of Lake Monroe. Continue 1.1 miles to the park entrance on the left, Green Spring Road. Drive in the main gate and park along the circle.
Your hike starts where the trail heads into the woods on the far left side of the parking area as you face the restrooms. An overview map shows the paved path around the park – a concrete sidewalk meandering through the park – as well as an asphalt bike trail around the park. As you walk down the sidewalk into the woods, you come across the first snippet of history about this site, the heart of the town that became Enterprise. The walkway splits around a small playground. Keep to the right, where a sign points you towards the spring. Head in that direction, crossing the bike trail, and turn right to emerge at the spring overlook.
Green Spring – the main spring – is a pretty pool set under a canopy of mature live oaks. It’s not somewhere to swim, nor is it clear, but it shimmers enticingly nonetheless. Its outflow goes off to your left, where an old set of stairs – no longer accessible – leads down to the spring run, probably for swimmers in the past. A picnic table on the observation deck makes this a nice spot for a picnic lunch. To continue along the outer loop, head back the way you came, crossing the bike path to end up at the playground. Turn right.
You’re walking through a palm hammock close to Lake Monroe, one of the larger lakes in the chain of lakes that makes up the St. Johns River. Enterprise sits on the far shore across from Sanford. As the sidewalk winds through the woods, it reaches a short natural-surface path that leads along the waterway that sluices out of Green Spring. Very large Southern magnolia shade the channel. Sweetgum trees tower overhead. When you reach the sidewalk, turn left, and then make an immediate right.
Leaving the main trail right before the bridge by taking a right, continue down a short spur trail to a beauty spot where waters merge. Coming from several directions, these spring-fed trickles form a clear, winding channel. Return back to the main trail and turn left. Ferns line the footpath, which is heavily shaded by the canopy of ancient trees. Another natural-surface trail comes in from the right just before the trail crosses a small bridge. Oranges dangle well out of reach overhead. As you walk down a corridor of sword ferns, the trail comes to a four-way junction. The path to the right leads back to the observation deck at the spring. Take a left. This short spur leads down to another pretty spot on the winding waterway through the palm hammock, with a bench to provide a place to sit and listen to the burble.
Return back along the spur trail to the four-way intersection and take a left. Follow the fern-lined path beneath grapevines so thick it would take several hands to get around it, nearly as thick as a small tree trunk. Beautyberry sports its delicate pink summer flowers. Palm fronds fill the understory, as does the warble of songbirds. Walking past several large cedar trees, the trail gains a little elevation, getting into stands of hickory and elm. The footpath is strewn with fossilized snail shells, a sight often discovered in wild, hilly spots along the St. Johns River – remnants of the Green Springs Midden, a Timucuan midden, an ancient trash heap of these tiny shells. Like most middens discovered along this river, much of it was hauled away nearly a century ago for roadfill.
At 0.4 mile, the trail comes to the base of an enormous pine tree, its crown so high above the rest of the forest canopy that it’s tough to determine the type of tree. By its needles, I believe it’s a lone longleaf pine. Reaching a T intersection, turn left to continue on the outer loop. The canopy parts a little to reveal blue skies, but there are still many large oaks here, covered in resurrection fern and hollowed out from age. Shoelace fern dangles from the boostraps of a cabbage palm near tall mulberry and Southern magnolia.
Emerging from the jungle-like palm hammock after half a mile, you reach the bicycle path. Cross it and continue straight ahead onto the sidewalk, which passes between the restrooms (to your left) and a picnic shelter on the right. Continue straight ahead to the parking area to finish up the loop.