Of the three loops at Palm Bluff Conservation Area, the White Trail is the shortest and easiest to tackle.
All three trails are accessed from the same trailhead. The Red and White Trails diverge at the half mile mark.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 2.2 mile balloon
Address: 1275 SR 415, Osteen
Land manager: St. Johns River Water Management District
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Insect repellent strongly recommended. You may get your feet wet.
Trail shared with cyclists and equestrians. Overnight camping available for groups that obtain a permit in advance.
Palm Bluff Conservation Area is located along SR 415 in southern Volusia County, 1.9 miles north of the intersection with Howland Blvd in Deltona, north of Osteen.
The White Trail starts at the gap in the fence right near where the long entrance road leads you into the grassy parking area.
A kiosk sits just beyond, with information and maps. The trails are blazed with diamonds, typical of equestrian trails.
White diamonds lead you into the pine flatwoods on an old two-track road. It’s a pretty setting, immersing you in a healthy forest as you walk on fallen pine needles.
Road noise from SR 415 filters into the forest, but you stop noticing it after a while.
The trail winds past clumps of ancient saw palmetto – note the size of their trunks – and a smattering of bayhead swamps between the pines.
When the trail makes a sharp bend to the right after 0.3 mile, it becomes more of a road.
Horse’s hooves have churned up the sand in the bend, but this is the only spot on the hike where you encounter soft sand.
Follow a straightaway through tall pines, with a thicker layer of pine needles underfoot. A social trail leads off to a pasture on the left, just beyond the screen of pines.
Ditches begin to parallel the trail as the road becomes a causeway through wetlands.
Through much of this wet rural region, it was common practice for ranchers to build ditches across their land so the cattle had dry land on which to graze.
Because there are ditches, there are water lilies and ferns, and the potential of alligators. Don’t be surprised to see one in a sunny spot.
While the trail remains the high ground, you walk through the heart of a small floodplain forest.
It is always a joy in fall and winter for the smattering of crimson color from red maples and purples and yellows from the sweetgum trees.
After the trail rises out of the swamp, you come to the junction with the Red Trail. It starts to the left through a gate.
Ignore the red diamond for that turn and continue straight ahead on the same forest road.
Within a few moments you’ll see a double white diamond indicating the beginning of the White Loop through a dip.
Turn right to walk through the dip, and start meandering through another lush and lovely section of pine flatwoods with some very tall slash pines.
The sounds of birdsong increase the deeper you go along this loop. Pileated woodpeckers wing between the pines.
After passing a pine with a diamond blaze and a stick trapped inside the pine’s bark, watch for a small pond, its waters reflecting the tall pines surrounding it.
You’ve walked a mile. The trail makes a sharp left here to start the loop back.
The pine forest gives way to a crossing through a slender cypress strand on a causeway where tannic waters flow sluggishly.
Pass another small pond, frequented by birds, before rising out of the strand into planted pines. The trail turns sharply left.
Live oaks provide puddles of shade. Clumps of saw palmetto flank the footpath. Emerge into a small clearing before another bit of elevation gain changes the habitat.
It’s now a scrubby flatwoods, with saw palmettos forming a wall on one side as the pines over the scrub give way to a scrub forest itself. Underfoot, colorful lichens cover the sand.
It’s obvious that pines were planted through this scrub once, especially when you get to the line of tall prickly pear cacti along the footpath.
Scrub gives way to rows of pines with a grassy carpet beneath, a cattle pasture likely turned to pine plantation.
It doesn’t take long before the habitat feels a bit more natural again, as the trail curves left to join the straightaway that brought you here.
Pass the beginning of the loop and the gate to the Red Trail in quick succession. From this direction, the floodplain forest surrounding the causeway is more showy.
At the double white diamond marking the curve, you’re in the home stretch.
Walking back through the mature pine flatwoods to the kiosk, reach the end of a 2.2 mile hike on the White Trail.
Learn more about Palm Bluff Conservation Area
Palm Bluff Conservation Area
Discover a parade of habitats in the Deep Creek basin on three loop hikes within 3,300 acres east of Deltona.
See our photos from the White Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Red Trail, Palm Bluff Conservation Area
Crossing open pine savannas, pasturelands, and tracing a blackwater creek floodplain, the 7.6-mile Red Trail at Palm Bluff Conservation Area provides a quiet hike east of DeLand.
Deep Creek Preserve
Restoring a ranch back to natural habitats takes time, but brings to life the natural beauty of these soggy habitats in the Deep Creek basin near Lake Ashby
Lake Monroe Conservation Area
With marshes brimming with swamp sunflowers and old-growth forests along natural ridges, Lake Monroe Conservation Area protects the St. Johns River north shore at Osteen
Hickory Bluff Preserve
Just east of Osteen, Hickory Bluff Preserve provides a 1.5-mile loop to a bluff of notable size along a scenic stretch of the St. Johns River