Delving deeper into the hammocks of North Merritt Island, the Palm Hammock Trail treats you to a lush forest of mature saw palmettos.
Walk beneath a dense canopy of live oaks to a short loop out in the middle of the forest before returning along the same scenic route.
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Length: 1.5 mile round trip with loop
Trailhead: 28.644265, -80.716691
Restroom: None here, but the Visitor Center is nearby
Land manager: Merritt Island NWR
Open dawn to dusk. Expect mosquitoes: use bug spray.
From Interstate 95 exit 220, Titusville, follow SR 406 east for 8 miles to cross the Max Brewer Bridge and the causeway to Merritt Island. Stay right at the divide in the road to continue on CR 402. Around 3 miles, watch for the “Hammock Trails” sign after you pass the Visitor Center entrance eastbound. An ample parking lot is along the north side of CR 402.
The Palm Hammock Trail is for the more adventuresome hiker. Expect short stretches of muddy and wet footpath. Turn left at the trail kiosk.
Like its sister trail, it begins in the oak hammock among the ferns, becoming a boardwalk briefly before bursting out into an open area edged with grasses and red maples.
A small bridge crosses a ditch. Gaining a little elevation, climb into an oak hammock, where silver-tinged saw palmetto remind you that you’re near the coast.
Crossing a bridge, you reach the NASA railroad tracks. Beyond it, a boardwalk guides you into the forest over a seasonally-wet area to return to the oak hammock.
The surroundings become more splendid with every step. A dense canopy of oaks shades an understory of tall saw palmettos, their trunks lifting up to six feet in the air.
It’s a damp area, with rich dark soil and roots underfoot. The trail rises and opens up overhead as it enters a corridor edged by mature saw palmettos.
The short loop at the end of the shortened trail starts at 0.7 mile. Follow it around through the oaks and palms.
The rustling under the leaves is likely an armadillo. These woods are full of them. Back in 1922, a roadside zoo in Cocoa Beach let a pair escape. These are likely their descendents.
Completing the loop, you return to the mature oak hammock. Continue along the trail as it snakes its way back to the boardwalk.
Tall stems support clusters of the orchid-like blossoms of duck potatoes. Cross the old road and the railroad track.
Continue through the oak hammocks and red maple marsh back to the Hammock Trails kiosk. Turn right to exit, completing this 1.5 mile hike.
Back to the Hammock
Hiking the Hammock Trails in Merritt Island NWR this weekend brought back memories of hiking and camping in these woods as a young Boy Scout in the 1960s and 70s
Learn more about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
With recreational activities ranging from hiking to biking, boating, fishing, and bioluminscent kayaking, Florida’s top destination for birding is also home to Kennedy Space Center
More to explore in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Oak Hammock Trail
The wildlife-rich interpretive Oak Hammock Trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge provides an easy introduction to the hammocks of the island
Visitor Center Boardwalk
The only fully-accessible trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Visitor Center Boardwalk offers many overlooks for wildlife watching and birding
Wild Birds Unlimited Trail
An easy walk for birding along Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Wild Birds Unlimited Trail is a short trail with observation platforms
Manatee Observation Deck
Where Haulover Canal connects the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon in Merritt Island NWR, a manatee observation deck makes it easy to watch for manatees drifting by
See our photos of the Palm Hammock Trail