Tunneling into the deep shade of the Key Largo Hammock, a tropical forest that once covered most of the uplands of this island, the Wild Tamarind Trail provides you a close-up look at the trees and shrubs that make up this not-so-common forest.
Location: Key Largo
Length: 0.3 mile
Lat-Lon: 25.1254, -80.4072
Fees: Included in state park entrance fee for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Bug Factor: moderate
Restroom: at the visitor center
Bicycles are not permitted on the trail. Leashed pets welcome. Please stay within the marked path to avoid brushing into any poisonwood, which is found in this forest.
The park is at MM 102.5 along the ocean side of the Overseas Highway (US 1) in Key Largo. As the park entrance road curves into the main parking area, take the first right and park by the picnic pavilion. The trailhead for the Wild Tamarind Trail is just behind it. See the trail map at the bottom of this page for the exact location.
If you walk over from the visitor center, make sure to take a peek at the Native Plant Garden on the way over. We found many of the less-common native trees of the Florida Keys planted here, and they were in full bloom in June.
Its namesake tree, the wild tamarind, is one of dozens of native trees to this tropical hammock, a collection of Caribbean trees and shrubs that naturalized in the Florida Keys well before modern settlement. This interpretive trail walks you through the forest, pointing out specific trees like gumbo-limbo with its peeling red bark, Jamaica caper, mastic, crabwood, and many others. Take your time and browse the interpretive information to learn about this fascinating natural habitat.
0.0 > Start your hike by heading straight ahead behind the Wild Tamarind Trail sign, passing a kiosk on your left. The trail curves past a bench to enter the tropical hammock. While Hurricane Irma took out some of the larger trees, the canopy is now letting a lot more light in for the younger trees to start shooting up, and you can now see everything, as sunlight filters through the forest. Our photos from our 2015 visit show deeper shade.
0.1 > Be sure to stay within the confines of the footpath, which is outlined by chunks of limestone from this hammock. Shot through with solution holes, it is the natural coral bedrock of the Florida Keys. You come to a fork in the trail with a bench off to the right, in the woods. Stay left.
0.2 > The trail makes a gentle curve to the right and some traffic noise filters in from US 1. Look carefully at the trunks of smooth-barked trees like the Jamaican dogwood and you may spot a colorful liguus tree snail inching its way along the trunk.
0.2 > The trail makes a curve beneath some taller tropical trees like mahogany and you hear cars on the entrance road into the park. Watch carefully for a flutter of wings in the canopy, as endangered white-crowned pigeons make their home here, as do mourning doves and a variety of songbirds. Passing a bench perched on coral rock, the trail completes the loop.
0.3 > Pass a bench again on your way out of the tropical forest. As you exit the trail, look to the right at the kiosk. That pathway connects over to the park’s campground. You can double your mileage by following this footpath down towards the campground and back to here. Near the campground, walk down to the tidal pond, where herons may be fishing.