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Celebrate National Take a Hike Day by visiting these local trails

Nov 16, 2022
by Carly Hargroves

As finals approach, stress levels rise- so before exam week arrives, take time for yourself to get outside and enjoy the amazing nature our area has to offer.

It can be a challenge to get away from campus and from your everyday responsibilities, especially during finals season. But National Take a Hike Day on Nov. 17 is a good reminder to recharge in nature and get your body moving. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or just a walk on the beach, the St. Augustine area is packed with trails to explore:

Ancient Dunes Nature Trail  

This 0.7-mile loop takes around 30 minutes to complete, making it a great option for someone looking for a quick and relaxing hike. The Ancient Dunes Nature Trail is completely shaded with a canopy of live oak and red bay trees- rays of sunshine peeking through and a salty breeze rustling the branches. As the name implies, this hike entails trekking in and out of “sandy bowls” of the ancient dunes with a portion wandering along the edge of a dune filled with saw palmetto plants and then dropping into it.

Located in Anastasia Island State Park, $8 entrance fee per vehicle. Find maps and more information about the trail here.

Cape Francis Beach Walk

The Cape Francis Beach Walk is known for its level and tranquil surroundings. This 7.3-mile path is long and flat, peppered with an abundance of coastal wildlife and vegetation. For the entirety of the trail, you’ll stroll near the water, making it convenient to stop for breaks along the beach. If you are looking to make a day out of your hiking excursion, this trail is also a great spot for camping, walking, running, and biking. Although long, this trail is not strenuous, making it an ideal choice for beginner hikers.

Located in Anastasia Island State Park, $8 entrance fee per vehicle. Find maps and more information about the trail here.

Moses Creek White Trail  

If you’re looking for a trail with a diverse landscape, The Moses Creek White Trail is a great fit. The four-mile trail runs through eight different types of ecological communities including scrubland, sandhills, upland mixed forests, freshwater tidal swamp, marsh, dome swamp, mesic flatwoods, and estuarine tidal marsh. This variety makes the trail l one of the most unique tidal ecosystems in the Saint Augustine area. The out-and-back path takes about one hour to complete and is a popular spot for bird watching, horseback riding, hiking, and camping.

Located in Moses Creek Conservation area. Find maps and more information about the trail here.

Twelve Mile Swamp Conservation Area Trail

Despite its daunting title, this hike is only 2.9-miles and runs through a conservation area home to a series of large swamps that form the headwaters of six major tributary systems, planted pine forests, and small cypress domes. As a major freshwater supply for the area, St. John's County works to preserve and maintain the quality of the groundwater in this area by utilizing a buffer zone for the wellfield that supplies the drinking water. Along with the serene backdrop of the freshwater ecosystems and flora landscape, you might also spot wildlife like white-tailed deer, songbirds, foxes, and a variety of snakes.

Located in the Conservation Area. Find maps and more information about the trail here.

Fort Matanzas Nature Trail 

The Fort Matanzas Nature Trail is the ultimate hike for the history buff. In the early 1560s, a soldier named Pedro Menendez led 500 soldiers to destroy the French colonial settlement, Fort Caroline. After the battle, he came to the site of this trail and executed shipwreck survivors on the sand- giving the area the name of Matanzas, which translates to “massacre” in Spanish. The Fort Matanzas trail is 0.3-miles long and covered with breathtaking ancient oak trees that hover over the walkways. The trail ends on a spectacular note by leading you out to a quaint and quiet spot on the beach, perfect for meditating, reading, or just relaxing with friends.

Located at Fort Matanzas National Monument. Find maps and more information about the trail here.

Guana Trails

Within the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, which encompasses more than 76 thousand acres of coastal land from Ponte Vedra Beach to Palm Coast, hikers can explore five different trail options. The trails range from .3 miles to 5.8 miles and they all conveniently begin at the Trailhead Pavilion. Regardless of which trail you choose, be on the lookout for great blue herons, snowy egrets, storks, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, owls, deer, gopher tortoises, mussels, clams, and oysters.

Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, $3 parking fee. Finds maps and more information about the trails here.  

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