It’s a small park, but an important one. Where Palm Beach Gardens makes an abrupt change from manicured to wild, Karen T. Marcus Sandhill Crane Access Park sits at the junction of several major trails in Loxahatchee Slough.
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Location: Palm Beach Gardens
Trailhead: 26.8407, -80.1661
Address: 8175 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens
Restroom: at the eastern trailhead
Land manager: Palm Beach County ERM
Open 24 hours. Restroom hours are more limited. Dogs not permitted.
If you plan to walk the trails from here, carry plenty of water. There is no shade except for one shelter on the Bluegill Trail.
From Interstate 95 in Palm Beach Gardens, follow PGA Blvd west for 3.9 miles. The first entrance, with restrooms and picnic tables, is on the right just after a power station on the edge of Mirasol. The second entrance, for paddler access and overflow parking, is on the right immediately after you cross the C-18 canal.
About the Park
Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area encompasses more than 20 square miles of wetlands and wet forested habitats forming the western boundary of development north of PGA Blvd.
We were first introduced to it over 15 years ago when hiking a potential route for the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail, which now makes a diagonal through Loxahatchee Slough.
Other than the OTLHT, there wasn’t much in the way of public access to this enormous wilderness on the edge of a very urban area.
That’s where Sandhill Crane Access Park comes in. It’s a set of trailheads providing direct access to trails extending north, south, and east.
The trailhead on the east side of the C-18 is where three trails meet. At this trailhead, you’ll find restrooms and an observation deck with picnic area.
Climb up top to get an overview of the trails that come together at Sandhill Crane Access Park.
To the north is the Bluegill Trail, a paved path extending 9 miles along the east side of the C-18 canal. It has no shade, but is ideal for bike rides or out-and-back walks.
A bridge crosses the canal just south of Riverbend Park to enable cyclists and hikers to use that park as the northern access to the trail.
To the south is a paved extension of the Bluegill Trail also known as the C-18 Bike Path. You must cross PGA Blvd on a crosswalk to access it. It extends 2 miles to end at Northlake Blvd.
Crossing Northlake and the Beeline to the southwest corner, you can access the Owahee trail system in Grassy Waters Preserve.
To the east is the Mirasol Bike Path, a side path along the north side of PGA Blvd fronting the massive planned community of Mirasol.
It ends after 2.5 miles at the Publix shopping center adjoining Florida’s Turnpike.
On the west side of the C-18 is a dirt parking area that is also part of Sandhill Crane Access Park.
Here, you can launch a kayak into the Loxahatchee Blueway Trail, which extends 2 miles from this point out into the watery maze of cypress strands and canals within Loxahatchee Slough.
Behind the gate, a graded road leads up the west side of the C-18 to connect with the Pântano Trail at the C-18A Canal via a bridge over the C-18A.
That trail, in turn, spans 7.1 miles between SR 710 and the back gate of Riverbend Park. It is partly used by the Ocean-to-Lake Hiking Trail at its north end.
See our photos of Sandhill Crane Access Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Protecting a sheet flow of rainfall moving steadily southward and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, Grassy Waters Preserve bears a striking resemblance to the Everglades – because it is.
In the wet prairies and tropical hammocks of Apoxee Wilderness, an urban wilderness area, you’ll walk through the water supply of West Palm Beach on a 4.7-mile day hike through the southernmost part of Grassy Waters Preserve