Following the boardwalk behind the Visitor Center at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll enter a jungle-like wonderland along the Cypress Trail, walking amid guava, pond apple, and strangler fig in a cypress slough that is one of the few remaining in this region, once one of many that used to naturally channel water to the Everglades.
Location: Boynton Beach
Length: 0.4 mile
Lat-Lon: 26.499350, -80.212017
Fees / Permits: NWR admission fee
Bug factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: at the visitor center
Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is open from sunrise to sunset daily. Stop by the visitor center for an overview of the habitat before heading out on the trails. There is a canoe launch at the end of the park entrance road, and an extensive dike trail system, for which the Marsh Trail gives you a nice sampler.
From Florida’s Turnpike, follow Boynton Beach Blvd west for 1.9 miles until it ends at US 441. Turn left and drive 2 miles south to the park entrance on the right.
After you walk through the interpretive displays at the visitor center, head out the back door and down the boardwalk to start the Cypress Trail, a short loop through a picturesque cypress strand. If the visitor center is closed, go around the front and down the boardwalk to start your walk.
Keeping in mind the lack of railings on this boardwalk, look up and around you to marvel at the density of air plants in the cypress trees. You see occasional giant bromeliads. Reminiscent of the witch’s apple proffered in Snow White, ugly green apples dangle from the pond apple trees, while red blanket lichen marches up the bark of the cypresses.
Ferns burst from the tiny islands created by the bases of the cypress trees, with giant sword fern and giant leather fern arching well overhead. Slender strap ferns climb up the sides of rotted trees.
This is a beautiful and richly textured place, a complex ecosystem that has all but vanished from this part of Florida as development has taken its toll on the natural systems of the region. Benches provide several spots for you to sit and contemplate the forest. Take your time and enjoy—but you’ll want insect repellant if you do. The interpretive walk is over almost too soon, as you return to the parking area after 0.4 mile.