Within the city limits of Jacksonville yet certifiably wild, Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park is a high dry wilderness on bluffs above the Nassau River. The preserve protects more than 4,000 acres along the Nassau River, encompassing tall bluffs, scrub, and salt marshes. I’ve hiked out to the bluffs (where you’ll find excellent birding) and through the scrub along some of the multi-use trails, which are popular with the equestrian crowd.
Length: 0.8 to 3.7 miles
Lat-Long: 30.473600, -81.487200
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: portable toilet
From I-295 north of the St. Johns River, exit on Hecksher Dr east. Turn left at the first traffic light onto New Berlin Rd. Follow it 4 miles north to a Y intersection; bear right. Continue 5 miles along Cedar Point Rd to make a left onto Pumpkin Hill Rd. The trailhead is on the left just after the residential area ends.
One hiking loop of 0.8 mile (Green Loop) plus four multi-use loops, primarily used by equestrians: Purple (3.7 miles), Red (3.1 miles), Yellow (1.7 miles), and Blue (1.3 miles). Expect to encounter equestrians anywhere but the Green Loop. Signs and color-tipped posts mark the trails.
The trail system explores scrubby flatwoods, oak hammocks, and open scrub on a bluff above tidal marshes draining towards the St. Johns River. To access the Green Loop, cross Pumpkin Hill Rd from the park entrance.
This natural narrow footpath twists and winds through the pine flatwoods to the bluffs above the tidal marshes of the St. Johns River. The other four loops start at the trailhead kiosk. Because of the difficult soft sandy terrain, hikers should stick to the Blue and Green Loops, which provide a 2-mile circuit.
Enjoy panoramas of the palmetto prairie in the scrubby flatwoods, and great sweeping views of the tidal marshes from both loops. Great birdwatching on the tidal marsh bluffs.