An immersive hike on Hontoon Island, the Hammock Hiking Nature Trail (Hammock Trail for short) makes a 3.3 mile round-trip to an ancient Timucua midden.
Formerly called the Indian Mound Trail, it follows the same route, an easy walk in the deep shade of majestic habitats.
Meander through cathedrals of towering cabbage palms in a hydric hammock, beneath showy live oaks, and stately pines.
The footpath roughly parallels the Hontoon Dead River, which defines the north side of Hontoon Island.
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Length: 3.3 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 28.974316, -81.357561
Address: 2309 River Ridge Rd, DeLand
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed pets permitted in designated areas only. Mosquito repellent is a must. If the river is above its normal levels, this trail may flood.
From downtown DeLand, take SR 44 west, crossing SR 15 before reaching the turnoff to Old New York Ave on the left before the roundabout. Signs direct you along the remainder of the 7.2 mile back road route to the park. Bear right onto Beresford Rd (CR 4110), then left on Old New York Rd, paralleling the river. Turn left on Hontoon Rd, then right on River Ridge Rd, which leads to the state park’s parking lot along the river. Wait for the ferryboat at the landing.
Turn right as you exit the ferryboat landing and pass the visitor center and camp store. Walk past the marina.
The trail starts at a large sign at the far end of the marina, heading up a limerock road that parallels the river briefly.
Swing into the woods on the right to enter a floodplain forest of live oak, cabbage palm, and sweetgum.
This swamp forest of tall cabbage palms is thickly painted in lichens and mosses and draped with shoelace fern.
A well-knit canopy of ancient live oaks shades the path, the limbs of the oaks furry with resurrection fern. A little over a half mile along the walk, cross a bridge.
As the trail rises into a forest of slash pine, pine needles carpet the footpath.
Pass a bench at 0.8 mile. Keep alert for a sharp left turn at the base of a large sand post oak. The interpretive marker for slash pine indicates the correct path.
The trail again descends into swamp forest, crossing bog bridges past tall cypress trees.
This cycle repeats, up and down through the two habitats, the trail riding the rim of both.
A corridor of tall cabbage palms creates a cathedral overhead. This trail is extremely shady, whether you’re in the uplands or the swamps, and thus prone to mosquitoes.
After 1.3 miles, reach an open clearing with a bench. Turn right and walk down the slope to the edge of the Hontoon Dead River.
This is a sluggish river, “dead” because it doesn’t make enough of a channel around the island for any boats wider than a kayak to follow.
Rejoin the main trail, which edges the rim of a cypress swamp. To the left, the horizon opens into pine flatwoods.
Continue straight ahead as the trail begins its climb up the midden. Snail shells spill beneath roots underfoot.
Watch for colorful and unusual forms of fungi on rotting logs and tree branches. As the trail becomes indistinct, keep to the dry mound.
After 1.6 miles, the trail ends at a bench beneath one of the largest live oaks we’ve ever seen deep in a forest. The circumference of the trunk is astounding.
It rises from a high spot on the westernmost edge of the midden, and is easily several centuries old.
From here, retrace your steps through the forest around the floodplain. Take a longer pause at the Hontoon Dead River overlook in search of turtles and alligators.
Cross a bridge over a dark stream at 2.7 miles, an indicator you’ll reach the marina in another half mile to wrap up this hike.
Don’t forget to take a look in the small museum in the visitor center before departing the island.
Learn more about Hontoon Island State Park
See our photos of Hontoon Island State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.