Spanning from busy Indian River Blvd to the Indian River Lagoon, Lagoon Greenway looks rather small as you drive by. But looks are deceiving.
A narrow strip of maritime hammock and coastal plain connect to a significant tract of mangrove forest fronting the lagoon in this 187-acre preserve.
Once you’re reached that forest, you can opt for a short scenic walk out to an observation deck, or make a 2.1 mile loop inside of it.
Lagoon Greenway is open for both hiking and biking, but until you get to that loop, it can be a bit tricky to get through the marshes on a bike.
Conservation of this coastal property was a joint effort between the Indian River Land Trust, Indian River County, the Mosquito Control District, and the Florida Inland Navigation District.
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Location: Vero Beach
Length: from 1.2 to 3.3 miles loop
Trailhead: 27.6163, -80.3808
Address: corner of Indian River Dr & 8th St
Restroom: at the visitor center
Land manager: Indian River County
Open daily 7:30 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome.
Expect mosquitoes and a lack of shade, especially on the mangrove forest loop. Bug spray and sunscreen are a must, along with plenty of water.
Portions of this trail flood after a heavy rain and also during the summer rainy season. Expect to get wet feet crossing the coastal plain at that time.
Indian River Blvd is a bypass around downtown Vero Beach east of US 1. You can meet it at either the north or south end of town. Lagoon Greenway is just a block north of the light at US 1 and Indian River Blvd at the south end, just past the condos immediately north of McKee Botanical Gardens. Turn in on 8th Street to enter the trailhead on the left.
From the trailhead, you immediately reach a junction for the small loop trail in the maritime hammock. Keep left to save the Mini Adventure Trail for the return trip.
The Main Trail continues north through tall grass along the property fence before turning east into the heart of the hammock.
Live oaks provide the canopy, dappling the wood-chip footpath with shade. Clumps of saw palmetto and cabbage palms rise from the forest floor.
Pass a nicely shaded picnic table at the junction for the other end of the Mini Adventure Trail. The trail enters a palm hammock, with trunks rising like columns.
The foothpath emerges from the palms to cross a broad bridge. Giant leather ferns lean over the walkway along this sluggish waterway.
The trail slips through another palm hammock with a grassy understory and clusters of marsh ferns at the base of the trees.
Passing a picnic bench, it curves out onto a coastal plain. The footpath is often soggy and sometimes entirely flooded in this area.
Dense with flowering shrubs that are often draped in vines, the plain attracts many butterflies. During summer and fall, swamp hibiscus have giant bright pink blooms.
Leaving the coastal plain after a quarter mile, cross a bridge into the mangrove forest. This is where you meet the near side of the loop trail through the forest.
It’s a hard-packed surface ideal for biking, and is edged with mangroves on both sides.
It’s not as scenic as a simple walk out to the lagoon, but does help you tally miles. For the scenic route, continue onto the boardwalk straight ahead.
The trail dives right into the mangrove forest, which is largely dominated by red mangroves. They are easily identified by their prop roots.
The water beneath them is a reddish-brown hue. New prop roots dangle from overhead. Watch the limbs carefully for mangrove crabs, black crabs that thrive in this habitat.
A side boardwalk leads to the right to an observation deck. The dense tangle of mangrove forest breaks open here into a small pond.
Leaving the pond, continue through the tunnel of mangroves until the boardwalk ends at the other side of the loop trail.
Ahead is a boardwalk leading to open water. You reach the Indian River Lagoon after 0.6 mile.
The observation deck lets you step beyond the shoreline and look up and down along it. Clusters of mangroves continue to extend off the sandy beach into the shallows.
Across the open water, houses are densely crowded along the barrier island. The SR 60 bridge lies just north.
A direct return trip from this point, which we did, gives you a scenic 1.2-mile hike, with the observation deck as your turn-around point.
If you just want a change of scenery on the return, the north end of the loop is a 0.5-mile arc, letting you skip the boardwalk to put in a 1.5-mile hike.
Walking the full loop back to this point adds 2.1 miles to the hike. It’s a great option for exercise because of the firm surface, but not when the mosquitoes are out.
From this junction, the mangrove tunnel points the way west. Continue along the broad boardwalk and cross the other side of the loop.
Cross the bridge back into the coastal plain, entering the uplands once more as the trail winds through the palm hammocks to the second bridge.
At the second picnic table, if you’re on foot (bikes aren’t allowed), turn left to follow the Mini Adventure Trail.
We figured it has this name because it’s an ideal short loop for families to take their kids on. It twists and winds through the dense understory.
The path is grassy, damp and rooty, with lots of ferns and saw palmetto edging it. Palm fronds hit you in the face.
Ending at the Loop Trail sign, it meets the Main Trail. Turn left to exit to the parking area.
See our photos of Lagoon Greenway
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Lush tropical hammocks, great birding, and a dash of history along the Indian River Lagoon make Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area a diverse and interesting place to explore
The birthplace of the National Wildlife Refuge system, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 5,400 acres along and in the Indian River Lagoon off Sebastian
Only a mile from the Indian River Lagoon, Indrio Savannas has 3.5 miles of hiking around freshwater wetlands where sea breezes wash across the landscape.