We stayed a few nights along Florida’s Atlantic coast, and while we loved having quick access to the beach, the pace of the area was more bustling than we have come accustomed to over the past few months. To get a small reprieve from the hustle, we journeyed north to Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Before becoming a state park, this area was known as Camp Murphy and was used during World War II as a training facility. The park is thick with history and is home to Hobe Mountain, the highest natural hill south of Lake Okeechobee (rising a whopping 86 feet above sea level!). The park offers access to the Loxahatchee River along with over 60 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.
When we arrived at the ranger station, the woman collecting our fees highly recommended the Kitching Creek Nature Trail. While the nature trail is not very long, we reviewed the map and saw that it connected to several other trails and that we could pretty much make it as long or as short of a hike as we wanted. We set out with hopes of hiking about 3 miles, which is exactly where we ended up. Due to being in much warmer weather and having less shade cover than most hikes we have been on recently, we are trying to keep our hikes to a maximum of 3 miles, at least until one of those variables changes. We could tell by the landscape that we would have very little (if any) shade and knew that frequent water breaks would be imperative (even if it was not terribly hot).
We ate a quick snack at the truck then readied ourselves for the trail. Shortly after starting our hike on the nature trail, we encountered a washed out bridge, which essentially turned the loop nature trail into an out-and-back. We were relieved that we had already scoped out an alternative route that would keep us from having to backtrack around the loop.
There is a brochure that accompanies the nature trail with information and history of the area noted at various stops along the trail. We really enjoyed reading about the prescribed burns in the area and seeing the evidence of these burns and how they benefit the fragile ecosystem in the area.
Once we veered off the nature trail, the trails were not as well marked but were well-worn and made for easy hiking. Luckily the trails showed up on Google Maps and we were able to easily navigate our way to a blazed trail and eventually back to the truck.
The landscape was very pretty, however, it did not vary much during our hike. We have been so used to taking hikes with grand views and vistas that hiking on level ground is making us look closer to make the hikes interesting and enjoyable. Once we started looking closer to the ground or high up in the trees, we really started having a lot more fun, as we saw so many wildflowers blooming, spotted a few toads, and pulled the binoculars out to get a closer look at several birds. While the hike did not have a true highlight, it was a great walk, and as always, it was simply enjoyable just to be outside and exploring together.
After we completed the hike, we drove to the boardwalk that leads to the observation tower on Hobe Mountain. Because Bird and Daisy were in need of a rest, I scoped out the highest hill and observation tower for all of us. While it was neat to be able to see the ocean to the east and the Loxahatchee River to the west, the observation tower was the busiest area we encountered in the park, so I made it a quick stop and returned to the truck. After standing on the tops of mountains, being just over 100 feet above sea level standing on a wooden tower was not overly exciting.
Even though we only brushed the surface of what this park has to offer, we really enjoyed our hike and our time driving through. It was exactly what we needed to return our roots to nature for even just a few hours before heading back to the busy coast. If you are in the area – and in need of a change of pace – this is a great place to visit.