Where the Indian River Lagoon and Loxahatchee River meet, the waters of Jupiter Inlet flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
For centuries, it’s been a critical landmark for coastal navigators, a point for coastal defense since the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was built in 1860.
The federal government secured a buffer of land around the lighthouse, from the bluffs it sits atop to the beaches along the lagoon.
A 120-acre ribbon of coastal scrub and tropical hardwood hammock, it is now a federally protected natural area with hiking trails.
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Trailhead: 26.95201, -80.08226
Address: 601 SR 707, Jupiter
Restroom: At adjacent Jupiter Lighthouse Park
Land manager: Bureau of Land Management
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted. Use caution walking barefoot on lagoon beaches and in the lagoon due to sea urchins and jellyfish.
From Interstate 95 or Florida’s Turnpike in Jupiter, drive east along Indiantown Rd for 3.2 miles. Turn left onto Old Dixie Hwy (A1A) north. After the bridge over the inlet, it curves to cross US 1 and it becomes Beach Rd. The parking area for the South Hiking Trail is on the right, past the entrance for Jupiter Lighthouse Park but before the bridge; the Northside Parking area is across Beach Rd from it.
About the Preserve
Congressionally designated as an Outstanding Natural Area in 2009, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse ONA is significant from several standpoints.
Because of its key location along major waterways, this site has yielded archaeological evidence of early cultures living along these waters.
It is also historically important not just for the lighthouse, but also for its German U-boat tracking station during World War II.
It is botanically important because of a cluster of rare species that grow along these windswept dunes, and one of Florida’s largest council trees (Ficus altissima).
In an area otherwise largely developed, it retains a natural shoreline with small beaches along the southernmost extent of the Indian River Lagoon.
It is the only preserve administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) east of the Mississippi River.
Part of the Department of the Interior, which manages National Parks, BLM also manages portions of four National Scenic and Historic Trails in Maryland and Virginia.
In addition to the preserve, this land management unit includes the lighthouse and historic military buildings fronting the Loxahatchee River.
Hiking the Preserve
Two trail systems radiate from two separate trailheads along Beach Rd (A1A) immediately east and uphill from the entrance to Jupiter Lighthouse Park.
On the south side, a network of natural surface paths allows a mile loop along its perimeter. The footpath reaches beaches and bluffs along the Indian River Lagoon.
The South Trail offers outstanding scenic views as well as an immersion in a sometimes-dense tropical hammock, plus access to a launch used for paddling tours.
And, of course, the best up-close views of the lighthouse are right here under its shadow. A fence separates the preserve from access to the lighthouse.
On the north side of A1A, the North Trails include both a quarter mile accessible path culminating in an overlook, and a loop trail through the scrub.
The round-trip to the lagoon bluffs is a half mile, and the full circuit through the trail system is 0.9 mile.
Visiting Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
Adjacent Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is in fact on this federal land, but accessed through Jupiter Lighthouse Park and managed by a nonprofit group, the Loxahatchee River Historical Society.
Climbing the lighthouse is a must for those who want a superior perspective on the inlet. Guided tours are offered 12-2 on the hour, Tue-Fri.
The adjacent historical society museum fills in not just the background of the lighthouse but that of the region.
Learn about the indigenous Tequesta, Jeaga, and Jobe peoples, the shipwreck of Jonathan Dickinson, and the early settlement of Jupiter.
Jupiter Lighthouse Park has a large open grassy space with adjoined by a small playground, interpretive exhibit, and restrooms.
See our photos of Jupiter Inlet Outstanding Natural Area
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.