Protecting 71 acres along the shoreline of cypress-lined Lake Ashby, Lake Ashby Park provides several ways for families to enjoy the outdoors.
While we showcase the 1.1-mile loop hike and its interpretive boardwalk, many visitors take the kids camping here for tent time under the grand live oaks.
Anglers can cast a line from the fishing pier, and day visitors can set the kids loose on the playground at the trailhead.
A large portion of the boardwalk stretches across the open water of the lake, providing panoramic views and a perfect perch for birding or photography.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 1.1 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.93660, -81.08373
Address: 4150 Boy Scout Camp Rd, New Smyrna Beach
Fees: Free. $25 + tax per night for primitive tent camping
Restroom: At the trailhead
Land manager: Volusia County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets permitted. Be cautious of poison ivy and sunning reptiles along the water’s edge.
Camping is limited to tent campers. Maximum one week stay. Call the county in advance to arrange a space and payment before pitching your tent.
From Interstate 95 exit 249, New Smyrna Beach, drive west 4.5 miles to the traffic light at CR 415 in Samsula. Turn left and continue south 4.2 miles on CR 415 to Lake Ashby Rd. Turn left onto the narrow road. After 0.7 mile, turn left on Boy Scout Camp Rd. The road turns to dirt after 0.2 mile. Continue another quarter mile through the oak hammock to the park entrance on the right.
Starting at the kiosk near the picnic area and playground adjoining the restrooms, go straight ahead to to the sandy path leading into the camping area.
Brown signs with white arrows direct you along the route. Turn right and follow a broad footpath into the forest.
Pines, oaks, and hickories tower overhead in this upland above the lake. Beautyberry and young cedars thrive in the understory.
At the next trail junction, keep right. Cross a bridge over Gator Creek, which flows towards the lake.
Beyond the bridge is a kiosk. Keep right at this junction to continue towards Lake Ashby.
At a T intersection shortly past it, the boardwalk starts a quarter mile into the hike. he boardwalk is broad and gently zigzags through a hardwood forest.
Interpretive signs point out specific plants and trees. One of them at the time we visited was caesarweed–we hope that’s not the case any more.
Within a short while you start seeing the lake through the forest, close to where a pine tree embedded itself into the railing on the left.
A thicket of ferns grows beneath the boardwalk where it jogs to the right, a bounty of species including marsh fern, netted chain, royal fern, and cinnamon fern.
A wrack line along the cypress knees makes it obvious the lake’s waters can rise into this floodplain, hence the boardwalk.
Sweeping down a straightaway towards the lake, there is an obvious downhill trend. A T intersection at a half mile offers two possibilities.
To the left, the boardwalk ends at a bench within sight of cypresses of significant height and girth along the edge of the lake.
To the right, the boardwalk emerges above the open waters of Lake Ashby, providing a sweeping panorama of the cypress-lined lake.
There are only a few buildings on the far side of the lake, and a dock. The setting is relatively pristine and quiet, or was until a floatplane started doing touch-and-gos.
While it may not be an everyday occurance, during our visit the lake was mostly mirror-smooth on a blue sky day.
The reflections were so clear that birds passing overhead were visible more easily in the water than in the glare of the sky.
Turn around to see the massive cypress along the shoreline and their unusually thick, fluted trunks.
The boardwalk makes a series of right angles across the lake, separating a cove from the main body of water.
At least two species of water lilies flourish on Lake Ashby, some forming large mats which provide a walking surface for coots.
A roofed observation deck in the middle of the boardwalk is ideal for birding. Watch for limpkins and herons in the shadows of the herbaceous growth along the shoreline.
By 0.7 mile, the boardwalk deposits you on a berm that sweeps between the lakefront and the picnic area.
To the right is the trailhead. Turn left to extend your hike along the lake. This path leads to a former swimming area, which is officially closed.
A bridge returns you from the observation point of the old swimming beach to the trail system. A trail junction provides the option to return to the trailhead here.
If the trail along the cypress swamp has been maintained, keep left and walk past a twin-trunked cypress. A bench sits near another intersection.
The trail closest to the lake skirts its cypress fringe, leading past a couple of cypresses with enormous rooty bases. While it might be possible to continue from this point, the trail was overgrown when we tackled it.
At the sign that said “Horse Trail,” we turned right to return to the trailhead, closing the loop at the kiosk at 1.1 miles.
If you’re camping here and want to explore farther, a longer walk or ride down Boy Scout Rd past this park provides access to hiking loops in adjacent Wiregrass Prairie Preserve.
Depending on conditions it may not be prudent to try to drive to its nearest trailhead using that road, as it is unpaved. Deep sand and mudholes may present obstacles.
See our photos of Lake Ashby Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Pull on your swamp shoes to explore one of Volusia County’s most remote trail systems along a massive basin swamp in the St. Johns River valley
Restoring a ranch back to natural habitats takes time, but brings to life the natural beauty of these soggy habitats in the Deep Creek basin near Lake Ashby
A series of connected loop trails immerse hikers within a large, seasonally wet pine flatwood habitat, featuring boardwalks and a group campground.