Tucked away behind a suburban St. Augustine neighborhood, Stokes Landing Conservation Area is a hidden gem of the St. Johns Water Management District, providing an outdoor classroom for local schools and beautiful panoramic views of the salt marshes along the Tolomato River for hikers.
Pick up a map and interpretive guide at the trailhead kiosk, and slip through the baffle. White diamonds mark the trail, which loops around a small salt marsh within a thicket of saw palmetto. This entrance trail provides a gateway to a network of pre-existing forest roads that Boy Scout Troop 787 signposted and blazed to create hiking paths through this 274-acre preserve.
Location: St. Augustine
Length: 2.7 miles
Lat-Lon: 29.999881, -81.360972
Type: loop and round trip
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to extreme
From St. Augustine, follow US 1 north for 6 miles, passing the St. Augustine Airport. Turn right on Venetian Boulevard and follow it for 0.3 mile to Old Dixie Drive. Turn right. Turn left at the next street, Lakeshore Drive. It becomes a dirt road through a residential community as you drive another 0.7 mile to the Stokes Landing Conservation Area parking area, on the right.
MARSH POINT and RACCOON RUN
At the T intersection, turn right. Follow the yellow diamond blazes into a hardwood hammock of hickory, sweetgum, red bay, live oak, and scattered southern red cedars. As the trail curves left, the understory becomes denser. At the next T intersection, the sign indicates “Raccoon Run Loop” to the left, and “Marsh Point” to the right. Turn right, passing under a large red mulberry tree. Follow the signs to Marsh Point through the wet flatwoods, where the trail ends at a sweeping view of a vast salt marsh along the Tolomato River.
Backtrack to the T intersection. When you reach the T intersection, turn right at a double yellow blaze. Follow the forest road back to the “Raccoon Run Loop” sign, and continue straight to enter the shade of a dense hardwood hammock. The trail emerges at a junction after 1.3 miles. A sign to the right says “Observation Deck.” Turn right.
STOKES CREEK LANDING
Walking beneath a canopy of spreading live oaks draped in Spanish moss, you see the broken remnants of oyster shells and clams in the footpath, remnants of a Timucuan midden. Climb up the observation tower and take in the sweeping view of the salt marshes and their lazy winding channels. Directly across the river is Shell Point, a stop along the trails at GTM Reserve.
Return to the trail junction and turn right to follow white blazes into the shade of red mulberry, live oaks, and southern red cedars. The trail ends at 2 miles, at a covered pavilion with picnic tables, and another excellent view of the Tolomato River. Retrace your steps back past the Observation Deck sign to find the exit.