What’s particularly nice about Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park and its remote location on Jacksonville’s Northshore is its connectivity to neighboring public lands.
On the north side, it borders Timucuan Preserve and Betz Tiger Point Preserve. On its west side, you can access the trails of this state park through Jim Wingate Preserve.
South of the state park just across the road – with a trail connection – is Cedar Point Preserve, which in turn connects to the Cedar Point unit of Timucuan Preserve.
The east side of the park is bounded by Pumpkin Hill Creek, which leads north to the massive Nassau River floodplain, an aquatic preserve that extends to the shoreline of Amelia Island.
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Address: 13802 Pumpkin Hill Rd, Jacksonville
Restroom: vault toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Most trails are multi-use. Expect to encounter equestrians and off-road cyclists along the trail system.
Much of the landscape is open scrub or scrubby flatwoods. Carry plenty of water for your rambles.
Use insect repellent and clothing appropriate for warding off ticks. We know someone who picked up a tick in this area and later tested positive for lyme disease.
From Interstate 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 main trailhead is on the left just after the residential area ends.
Hike and Bike
The trail network at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve has greatly expanded and in fact entirely changed since we hiked it in 2003 for Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State.
Gone is the showy Green Loop through the scrub forest on the east side of the park, which led to two overlooks on the bluffs.
Instead, there are two spur trails to the overlooks. The colors of the trail markings have changed as well.
With more than 15 miles of trails in the preserve, there are now white backgrounds behind the color-coded shapes for each of the trails.
John rode the Blue, Red, and Orange Trails to fill in the blanks on this extended trail system. There were some very wet and very sandy areas that required pushing the bike.
Hiking on the Main Trail Loop means a good deal of sun exposure, and weather exposure too. Watch the skies if you plan to spend the better part of a day hiking here.
Main Trail Loop
Just inside the gate from the main trailhead, the Main Trail Loop has been entirely reconfigured from the original Red and Blue trails when the park first opened.
Start out due west on the 1.5 mile East Loop, but it hits a picnic table at a trail junction and splits into a number of options.
Here it meets the Red Trail, which makes a 3.3 mile loop through the heart of the scrubby flatwoods, providing a connection to the Blue Trail farther west.
A West Loop of 1.2 miles extends the Main Trail Loop through the open scrub and scrubby flatwoods, with an optional 0.5 mile spur (1 mile round-trip) to see an eagle nest.
A mile-long spur (also marked with green triangles) leads south from the picnic table to Cedar Point Rd.
It connects this trail system wth the trailhead for Cedar Point Preserve on the south side of the road.
If you stick with just the Main Trail Loop, with its black-and-white patterned blazing, it’s a 2.7 mile hike.
Add an extra mile in to see the eagle nest, or an extra 2 mile round-trip to the park’s south boundary.
Marked with red squares on a white background, the 3.3-mile Red Loop roughly overlays portions of the Main Trail loop.
Both start from the main trailhead and head west. The Red Loop splits at the picnic table and works its way west and northwest, with its own short spur to the eagle nest.
Most importantly, it shares the westernmost portion of its loop with the Blue Trail, the longest of the trails at Pumpkin Hill Creek.
Since the only access to the Blue Trail is via the Red Loop from the east, we started out on it (by bike) from the Jim Wingate Preserve trailhead.
It was not well marked through this section, which meant a number of false turns and dead ends.
The Blue Trail works its way up to the edge of Timucuan Preserve to get around an inholding, then comes back down the other side.
Habitats are primarily pine forest with bayhead swamps. There was a warning along the trail that trails may be under water certain times of the year.
Limestone was being laid down on one part of the forest road used for the Blue Trail, but other sections did have mud, high grass, and wet areas.
After a long grassy stretch of forest road, the trail entered the welcome dappled shade of an oak hammock.
It met the Red Loop at a map kiosk, which helped with planning out the rest of the connection to the east side of the park.
The orange blazed trails are connector trails to the northeast corner of the preserve and to overlooks on Pumpkin Hill Creek.
The South Creek Overlook Trail starts across the road from the main trailhead and leads a quarter mile through the scrub to an overlook from the bluffs.
The linear Orange Diamond Trail starts at the picnic table junction and works its way north just shy of a mile to the Betz Tiger Creek Preserve, where it interconnects with their Orange Trail.
On the way, it has two additional orange blazed spurs off of it. The first one, 0.4 miles long, crosses Pumpkin Hill Creek Rd to reach the North Creek Overlook.
The second one, a quarter mile long, crosses Pumpkin Hill Creek Rd to the pretty picnic area and estuary overlook at the kayak launch.
See our slideshow video from Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve
Learn more about activities at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve
See our photos of Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On a peninsula where the Timucua used the surrounding estuary for sustenance, Betz-Tiger Point Preserve provides more than six miles of breezy trails
A patchwork of public land on both sides of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Timucuan Preserve encompasses sites of historic, cultural, and ecological interest scattered between Amelia Island and Mayport.
With cool ocean breezes and a plunge in the surf after your hike, the 2.7-mile hiking loop at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville is a great choice for a summer outing