Rugged and largely in deep shade, the singletrack trail system on the east side of Turkey Creek Sanctuary is a gem of a short day hike.
While built and maintained by the Brevard Mountain Bike Association, it is open to hikers and trail runners as well.
The trail system is in two parts. The mile-long Red Trail parallels Turkey Creek, with views from the bluff and water access at the canoe launch.
The half-mile Green Trail is a mile round-trip to nice views from high bluffs along Turkey Creek, right across from the main walkways of the sanctuary.
In between, linking the two, is the Fern Creek boardwalk. Beautiful and functional, its a destination worth visiting, even on a shortened hike.
Follow the full two-mile trek described below, or use cross-trails to shorten your hike or trails extending outside the sanctuary onto other public lands to lengthen it.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Palm Bay
Length: 2 miles in a loop and round trip
Trailhead: 28.01083, -80.59679
Address: Briar Creek Blvd, Palm Bay
Land manager: Brevard County
Open daily 7 AM to sunset. Pets are not permitted. Trails are shared by off-road cyclists and hikers. Cyclist use is heavy on weekends.
Trail etiquette for multi-use applies. Step off trail to let cyclists by. To avoid collisions, please follow arrows in the direction of travel as shown.
A picnic pavilion is provided above the canoe launch and a picnic table perches along the Fern Creek boardwalk.
From Interstate 95 south of Melbourne, take exit 176 and turn left onto CR 516 (Palm Bay Rd). Follow it 2.3 miles to Babcock St (CR 507). Turn right, driving 1 mile to Port Malabar Blvd. Turn left. Or, from I-95 northbound from Vero Beach, take exit 173. Turn right on Malabar Rd (CR 514). Make a left onto Babcock Street. Follow it 1.4 miles to Port Malabar Blvd. Turn right.
From Babcock St, drive east on Port Malabar Blvd for 1.7 miles to Briar Creek Blvd, the first right after the light at Clearmont St. The trail entrance and kiosk is 0.4 mi along Briar Creek Blvd on the right, across from the entrance to Malabar Scrub West. Turkey Creek Trails also has two other walk-through entrances, one on Port Malabar Blvd and one at the Turkey Creek canoe launch.
Walk through the fenceline gap above Briar Creek Blvd to start your hike (or ride). The east side of the complex contains a 0.8 mile loop.
Turn right at the first Red Trail arrow to follow the pathway north through an oak scrub. Sand live oaks cast rich shade.
Typical of singletrack, the trail twists and winds through a corridor often defined by saw palmetto, rusty lyonia, and sand pines.
After 0.2 mile, the narrow path emerges into an open corridor under a power line. Turn left.
A sand path leads straight ahead towards a small utility building in the pines. This path serves as a cross-trail across the Red Trail.
It cuts a half mile off the hike for a shortcut to the west side of this one-way loop for quicker access to the Fern Creek boardwalk.
To stay on the outer Red Trail loop, mind the trail arrow where it points right. Follow the path as it winds between the palms and pines.
It leads down a deeply shaded corridor with gentle curves, popping out into the sun before a linear stretch like a tunnel through the forest.
Keep alert as the forest lightens up to see the Wind Telephone on a pine adjoining the trail. This sentimental structure has a story attached to it. Literally. Stop and read.
Soon after, the Red Trail meets the cross-trail for the Turkey Creek canoe launch, passing the picnic pavilion. Follow the trail downhill to the left.
Cyclists will have to look twice for where the Red Trail continues north, into a scrub tunnel adjoining the stairsteps down the bluff to the creek.
Hikers may want to skip that small segment up to the Port Malabar Blvd walk-in entrance and back, since it is both narrow and sharply sloped, a tough place to share with cyclists.
The Red Trail boomerangs back to where the stairsteps lead to a sign warning of the bike path above the canoe launch, below the stairs.
Because of the steep terrain, cyclists can rocket out of that approach on the right. Descend carefully to the launch for a nice view of Turkey Creek at water level, 0.4 mile into the hike.
The picnic table is perched above, under a pavilion atop the bluff. The next piece of the Red Trail continues upslope below it.
It stays close to the bluffs above the creek, behind the trees. At hiking speed, it’s easy to peer through the foliage and catch glimpses of the water.
As it leads through the hardwood forest, the Red Trail has the distinctive U-shape of well-worn singletrack, along with banked curves.
Peek over the saw palmetto and through the cabbage palms for creek views. Dropping to creek level, the trail skims past a marshy cove.
Climbing into and winding through a dense oak scrub, the trail rounds a corner and comes to a junction at 0.6 mile.
Keep right. Saw palmetto presses close.So does the floodplain of Fern Creek, dropping off to the right behind the screen of fronds.
Sky reflections in water are visible even in deep shade. A side trail offers a glimpse into the swamp before the trail climbs again, passing under the arch of a live oak.
Rising from hardwoods into scrub, the Red Trail offers more views of the floodplain before meets its next trail at 0.7 mile, where an old trail system map is posted.
At this junction, a left leads to that cross trail at the utility building. Turn right to continue along the Red Trail loop.
Descending into a hardwood forest, the path narrows significantly to where stepping off-trail is not possible.
The trail traces the rim of a bluff in a long arc, a steep dropoff to the right tumbling into the fern-filled floodplain.
Pass under a large live oak and the trail broadens a little, with floodplain views to the right. You see the boardwalk up ahead.
At 0.8 mile, several trails meet. The Fern Creek boardwalk provides a bridge across a lush floodplain of a tributary feeding Turkey Creek.
Built by BMBA volunteers and dedicated in July 2021, this sturdy structure includes a built-in picnic bench and plenty of room for cyclists and hikers to pass.
Consider this the pivot point of the trail system. Once you cross the boardwalk, the next segment of trail is an out-and-back hike to the edge of the sanctuary property.
Cyclists with a map of the BMBA trail system can continue beyond this property boundary to reach the famed Grapefruit Trails complex west of Babcock St.
Climbing out of the floodplain as the Green Trail, the path makes its way up a steep hill being cleared of invasive vines.
At the top, it enters a hardwood forest and levels out before beginning a sinuous journey into oak scrub.
Like the scrub on the west side of Turkey Creek Sanctuary, it is densely woven, and the curves in the trail mean little visibility ahead or behind.
Resurrection fern carpets the low limbs of sand live oaks and the fallen limbs of live oaks.
The understory opens up into a hardwood forest around 1.2 miles before the trail reaches the lip of a bowl encompassing another creek basin.
Here, a one-way path directs passage down a slope hardened with pavers to a long boardwalk adjoining the creek.
The boardwalk curves to a bridge, which in turn crosses the creek that forms the bowl below. On the far side of the bridge, a TCT sign points right. Continue up that slope.
It reaches the nicest of the overlooks of Turkey Creek, the slope falling off into the creek far below, paddlers visible as they pass.
From here, you can see hikers on the boardwalk on the west side of the creek as well as activity at the canoe deck in that main part of the preserve.
Keep right at the next junction. The trail slips through hardwood forest on the bluff before emerging at a spot that’s a shock to the senses.
It’s the grassy open levee above the long stretch of Turkey Creek channelized through suburban Palm Bay, your turnaround point for this hike at 1.3 mile.
On the return portion of this round trip, follow the directional signs at each fork. After the bridge, the trail splits.
The return route is far higher and steeper than the boardwalk down in the bowl. The trail joins together again in the laurel oak forest.
The return trip feels faster, of course, and you reach the Fern Creek boardwalk and its picnic bench after 1.8 miles.
Note the BMBA logo on the bridge over the creek, a creative piece of recycled art. On the east side of the creek, turn right for the final stretch on the Red Trail.
The trail climbs quickly and steeply, passing under another massive live oak. It curves along the edge of the floodplain basin as it climbs.
At the top of the climb, the path winds through a pretty patch of sand pine scrub before straightening out.
The straightaway leads past the beginning of the Red Trail loop and directly out to the gap in the fence at Briar Creek Blvd to complete this 2 mile route.
More trails await across the street, with Malabar Scrub West tightly tied into a string of public lands with over ten miles of marked trails.
Learn more about Turkey Creek Sanctuary
See our photos of Turkey Creek Trails
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
A chance meeting of old friends leads to my first paddling trip down Turkey Creek and the opportunity to connect with our local paddling club, the Space Coast Paddlers, by talking about our most recent guidebook.
With loop trails showing off scrub, pine flatwoods, and the floodplain of Fern Creek, Malabar Scrub West provides miles to roam southeast of Turkey Creek.
A paved backbone to a string of public lands between Malabar and Palm Bay, the 2.4-mile Al Tuttle Trail provides access to nearly 13 miles of trails.