A short interpretive trail at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Windley Trail circles through a tropical hammock along the mangrove-lined north shore of Windley Key.
It then descends into open ground within a large quarry behind the state park visitors center, where quarrying equipment and the fossil-rich rock walls are showcased.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Windley Key
Length: 0.3 mile loop
Address: 84900 Overseas Highway, Islamorada
Fees: $2.50 per person
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8-4, Thu-Mon. No bicycles. Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited.
Avoid leaving the marked trails as the tropical forest has a lot of poisonwood, one of the more common toxic trees in Florida.
Expect mosquitoes: make sure you use insect repellent. You may encounter great golden digger wasps along the park trails at certain times of year, as we did. According to a bulletin posted, “Great golden digger wasps are not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked.” We suggest wearing closed-toe shoes while hiking here and not walking through any wasp swarms.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key, the park entrance is on the bay side.
All trails begin on the rock ledge behind the Alison Fahrer Education Center. Stop in there before you start your hike to pick up a trail guide.
The trail system starts next to the antique channeling machine that cut the fossil slabs, and provides you a nice overlook across the Windley Quarry.
The Flagler Trail branches off the Hammock Trail to the right at a signpost. Keep left to follow the Windley Trail. It branches left off the Hammock Trail soon after.
The trail leads you along the ecotone between the mangrove forest and the tropical hammock. It is very rooty and sometimes rocky underfoot, so watch your step.
After 0.2 mile, the trail makes a sharp left and descends a ramp into the quarry. The roots of red mangroves burrow into the fossil coral walls along the ramp.
At the bottom of the ramp, turn left to walk along the near wall of the quarry.
If you picked up a trail guide at the visitor center, the numbered fossils are explained in the guide.
Some of the easier ones to identify include the including finger corals, with their tiny cups; star coral, with large cups; and brain coral, shaped like a brain.
A slab of cut coral rock sits on a cart on the other side of the quarry. As you curve around within the quarry, you face the back of the visitor center.
A ramp leads to it. You have the option of continuing to follow the quarry walls through a narrow passage.
If you do so, keep following the walls and you’ll reach the parking lot after walking a half mile.
Learn more about Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
See our photos of Windley Key Fossil Coral Reef
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Learn about the trees of the Florida Keys with a walk on the 0.6-mile Hammock Trail, a deeply shaded ramble in a tropical forest at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
A short interpretive trail at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Flagler Quarry Trail leads you around the showiest of the quarries and the ruins of the railroad depot.
On a wild sliver of Upper Matecumbe Key, footpaths wind through a rockland tropical hammock where a rocky crevice emits sulfur fumes and you must beware of crocodiles near the mangroves