If you’ve spent any time at the beach, you know that sand collects around the dune grasses and builds up, forming larger dunes. At Henderson Beach State Park, one of the more immense dunes built up around an old military bunker, and it’s now the home of the Henderson Beach Nature Trail, a 3/4-mile pet-friendly walk through the shifting sands of the coastal scrub. Starting just behind the playground, the nature trail leads you up and over a chain of ancient dunes through a coastal scrub and maritime forest, where windswept oaks create small shady hammocks interspersed between stretches of open sand. Benches provide resting spots to enjoy the scenic overlooks.
Length: 0.9 mile
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low
Ask for an interpretive guide to the nature trail at the ranger station when you enter the park. Expect soft sand and difficult climbs on the dunes in places. There is little shade along the trail; wear sun protection and bring plenty of water.
Henderson Beach State Park offers camping by the sea, a real plus along the Emerald Coast. Most visitors are here for the beach, and you’ll want to spend some time on it too. The park tends to be very busy on weekends and during the winter months.
The park is 1.2 miles west of SR 293 on the south side of US 98 in Destin.
Starting out by the picnic pavilion and playground, this scramble across the dunes is a well-worn path with few surprises, although we found ourselves startled by a view of Walmart at one of the benches. The trail undulates in and out of natural bowls between the dunes. Stay with the path to protect fragile vegetation. Here’s what our walk around the nature trail looked like.