With cool ocean breezes and a plunge in the surf after your hike, the 2.7-mile trail at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville is a great choice for a summer outing. Hanna Park, as it is best known, is one of the region’s largest, with recreational opportunities ranging from camping and fishing to mountain biking and surfing. Constructed by the North Florida Trailblazers Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, the loop is a gorgeous way to get to know maritime habitats.
Length: 2.7 miles
Lat-Lon: 30.362753, -81.400339
Fees / Permits: park entrance fee
Bug factor: moderate
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is open 8AM-6PM November through March, 8AM-8PM April through October. A small entrance fee is charged.
From downtown Jacksonville, take Atlantic Boulevard (SR 10) 12 miles east to A1A north. Drive 3.5 miles north on Mayport Road, continuing straight on SR 101 when A1A turns left. At Wonderwood Drive, turn right to enter the park. Coming from the Mayport Ferry (A1A south), drive 2.5 miles south to Wonderwood Drive; turn left and follow it 1 mile into the park.
When you enter the park, follow the entrance road to the very end. Park by the sign that says “Trail G,” near parking areas 10-11, and look for the orange blaze on the left. The blaze on the right marks your return route. You immediately plunge into the cool shade of a maritime hammock, paralleling one of the many old ditches that crisscross the park. Pignut hickory and red mulberry trees shade the footpath.
To distinguish the hiking trail from the biking trail (since they often draw close together), the park stenciled the letter “H” on some trees. It can be a little confusing to follow the correct footpath because of the multiplicity of trails, so watch for signage. Pay attention to the forks in the trail—and choose wisely!
Cabbage palms tower overhead, while netted chain and bracken fern thrive in the damp cool soil. The trail crosses several bridges, including one made of cabbage palm logs. As you draw closer to the shore, small, gnarled yaupon hollies crowd the trail.
At 0.7 mile, you emerge at a junction with several bicycle trails in front of the park’s boundary fence. Turn right, following the fenceline until you see a double-blazed tree and an “H”— turn right, following the footpath into dense forest. It emerges along a lake, where you can see the developed campground on the far shore. The trail continues around the lake. Be cautious of thick mats of poison ivy in several spots.
After several more turns, you reach a junction of trails at a fence. Turn right. The next T intersection at 1.5 miles offers a place for a break at picnic table on the little island off to your right, just over the bridge. This is the Hanna Park Fish Management Area, stocked freshwater ponds ready for anglers to enjoy.
Near the primitive camping area, you reach two trailhead arches, one for the biking trail, one for the hiking trail. Choose wisely! (Believe me, you do NOT want to walk the singletrack here). The trail meanders along a little drainage filled with woods ferns. Watch your footing through this section, as the trail goes in and out of small drainages, up and over clusters of roots. The gigantic fronds of young cabbage palms fill in the understory. As the soil becomes wetter underfoot, the mix of trees changes to a low-lying hardwood hammock. Red maples and sweetgum add to the colors of the forest.
Drawing parallel to the bike trail, you can see open sky beyond the forest—a lake across from Parking Area 8. At 2.4 miles, you cross the entrance road to the picnic area, re-entering the forest under another trailhead archway to walk along a duckweed-covered slough. Where the trail crosses the paved road into the developed camping area, a concession stand sits off to the right—the Happy Spot, a great stop for ice cream or a cold drink. Continue under the trailhead archway on the far side of the road. The trail curves left at an overlook on a bluff along a stream. Old southern magnolias tower overhead. You suddenly emerge from the shady forest out to your car, completing your 2.7-mile hike.
Your day isn’t over. Scoot over to one of the beach parking areas and cool off in the surf! Enjoy summer hiking, Florida-style.