At the mouth of the St. Johns River, Jacksonville is the site of the landing of the first French fleet to reach the shores of North America, as commemorated at the Ribault Column on the river’s bluffs. The colony at Fort Caroline was short-lived because the Spanish, having settled in St. Augustine, weren’t about to allow their enemies to claim this land for France.
Jacksonville contains dozens of neighborhoods, from Arlington to Southside, and small communities with their own identities, like the oceanfront towns of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach. All 918 square miles of Duval County is incorporated into the City of Jacksonville, making it Florida’s largest city.
Jacksonville has two National Parks, the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, which interprets French settlement history and the native Timucua they encountered, and the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, tracing the history of enslaved Africans. The East Coast Greenway follows the coastline. Using the St. Johns River Ferry, it crosses the St. Johns River near within sight of where Florida’s longest river meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Trails and Parks Around Jacksonville
While public lands in the metro area tend to be small with shorter trails, you’ll be surprised at the more extensive day use trail systems along the St. Johns River and the Northshore. For backpacking, head west to Jennings State Forest and Simmons State Forest or to intercept the Florida Trail at Keystone Heights and Osceola National Forest.
Best Trails and Parks in the Jacksonville Metro
A patchwork of public land on both sides of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Timucuan Preserve encompasses sites of historic, cultural, and ecological interest scattered between Amelia Island and Mayport.
Following a historic railroad route that sparked the Battle of Olustee during the Civil War, the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail spans 14.6 miles from Jacksonville to Baldwin
With cool ocean breezes and a plunge in the surf after your hike, the 2.7-mile hiking loop at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville is a great choice for a summer outing
On a peninsula where the Timucua used the surrounding estuary for sustenance, Betz-Tiger Point Preserve provides more than six miles of breezy trails
Recent Regional Additions and Updates
INCLUDES: Baldwin, Fort George Island, Jacksonville Beaches, Mandarin, Mayport, Northshore, Talbot Islands | NEARBY: Amelia Island, Callahan, Fernandina Beach, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, Orange Park, St. Augustine | ALONG: Atlantic Coastal Ridge, Atlantic Ocean, St. Johns River | PART OF: North Florida