Mom’s Guide to Jacksonville’s Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails – With PRINTABLE

Have I mentioned that I love the fall? Yes, I think I have! Besides all the fun activities like visiting pumpkin patches and enjoying great family traditions, the beautiful weather in the fall makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy many outdoor activities that can be limited by the heat and humidity of our Florida summers. My family loves to use this time of year to hike the many kid-friendly trails in Jacksonville! However, I don’t tell my kids we’re going “hiking,” I usually say were going on an “adventure.”

I have two simple criteria for what makes a trail good for my young family: 1) short trail options, and 2) other things to see besides trees, birds, and dirt! Based on that, here are my favorite kid-friendly trails in Jacksonville.

Download the printable quick reference trail guide to see some extra hiking tips!

 

Fort Caroline National Memorial

The beautiful tree canopied road sets the stage as you enter this wonderful historical park. From the visitor center you can take a path to a river overlook where you can watch boats and ships go by. Another short trail from the visitor center takes you past a boat dock (that is open at times) and then down to the fort, a re-creation of Fort Caroline. My kids love to run around and explore the fort’s steps, hills, and cannons. If the kids are still full of energy after the fort, you can take the easy 1 mile Hammock Trail from there that loops back around to the parking lot! These trail are jogging stroller friendly.

Address: 12713 Fort Caroline Road 32225
Hours: 9am-5pm
Fees: None
Trail Map
 

 Fort_Caroline_2 Fort_Caroline_1

 

Theodore Roosevelt Area  – Willie Brown Trail

Located at the Timucuan Preserve Headquarters, this trail is popular with trail runners and has several historical sites along the way. Further down the trail you will hike along the marsh and will come to the marsh overlook tower. This is a great place to see birds. As you are walking along the trail you will likely come across scurrying crabs. Watch out for the small cactus plants that grow in the section of trail that is nearer to the marsh.

This hike is approximately 2 miles and might challenge some of the littlest legs but is just right for my 4-year-old. Be aware that other trails connect to the Willie Brown trail. I suggest that you stay on the Willie Brown trail, otherwise it could be a pretty long hike for the kids. This trail is dog-friendly and much of it is jogging stroller-friendly.

Address:  13165 Mt Pleasant Rd. 32225
Hours: Sunrise-Sunset
Fees:  None
Trail Map
 

Willie Brown Trail

 

Castaway Island Preserve

Castaway is a great place to take the kids for an easy hike and a picnic lunch. Along the hike kids will enjoy seeing the painted animal footprints, the Intracoastal Waterway overlook, as well as the educational signage that refers to the animals living in the preserve area. This trail is 1.7 miles long and is not a traditional hiking trail as it is composed of all sidewalk paths and boardwalk. Therefore, it is easily accessed by both strollers and wheelchairs.

Address:  2921 San Pablo Road South 32224
Hours:  Sunrise-Sunset
Fees:  none
 
Tiffany's son at Castaway
 

 

UNF Trails

The trails the University of North Florida are open to the public and have a great variety of lengths that both runners and little hikers can enjoy. These well beaten and well maintained trails are located in the school’s 300 acre Sawmill Slough Preserve where mature trees provide ample shade even at mid-day. The kiddos will likely enjoy the winding curves of the 0.19 mile Red Maple Boardwalk! If you hike the loop around Lake Oneida, it is less than 1 mile and goes by an access point to an island where picnic tables are available.

Address:  1 UNF Drive 32224  (Park in Lot 100)
Hours:  Sunrise – Sunset
Fees:  $3 parking on weekdays and during special events, free evenings and weekends
Trail Map
 
 Megan K and Kingsley at UNF trails

 

Tree Hill Nature Center

At the Tree Hill Nature Center, the minimal cost of admission will buy you more to see and do than just the hiking trails. Kids can enjoy the animals both outdoors and inside the museum. There are a variety of trail lengths to choose from and all trails have minimal elevation changes. My kids enjoyed the newly constructed boardwalk that gets you off the ground for a different perspective of the park. Although we did not try it out, I also noticed that there is also a paved trail that is wheel-chair accessible!

Address:  7152 Lone Star Rd 32211
Hours:  Mon-Sat: 8:00am-4:30pm; June-Aug,  Sun: 10:00am-4:00pm
Fees:  $4 Adults, $2 Kids ages 3-17
Trail Info
 

 Tree Hill Nature Center

 

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

“Hanna Park” has much more than just the trails to offer active families. There’s a playground, many picnic areas, a lake with kayak rentals, beach access, camping, and a splash park that is open in the summer. The trails at Hanna are popular with mountain bikers! Park rules say that “bikers yield to hikers,” but if your kids’ movements are as unpredictable as mine are… it’s best to look out!

This park has a mix of both long and short trails, ranging from 0.2 to 4.5 miles with varying levels of difficulty. Be sure to consult a map and know where you’re going. Both the “Scout Trail” and “Lil’ Joe Trail” are very short trails and could be a good place to start. If you don’t think your kids can go the distance on a 4.5 mile trail, but you want to see something different, then at the start of a trail just set a time to turn around and go back rather than trying to make it all the way around the loop. (Nothing is worse on a hike than dragging along a worn out kid.)

 Address: 500 Wonderwood Drive 32233
Hours: April – October 8am-8pm, November – March 8am-6pm
Fees:  8-10am $1/person, 10am-close $3/car
Trail Map

 

Cradle Creek Preserve

This is a short and sweet trail that is nice and wide and mostly jogging stroller-friendly. Several points of the trail take you over boardwalks and bridges. My kids enjoy walking on these because of how their footsteps sound! One leg of the trail takes you to an overlook of the Pablo Creek Estuary. Another section of the trail takes you by a canoe launch site. My kids enjoyed collecting “treasures” during this hike! This trail has nice tree cover that greatly helps to reduce the heat.

Address:  900 15th St.  32250
Hours: Sunrise-Sunset
Fees:  none
Trail Map
 

 Cradle_Creek_Preserve Cradle_Creek_Treasures

 

Jacksonville Arboretum

The Jacksonville Arboretum is one of my favorite places to hike both with and without the kids. This beautiful park is maintained by volunteers and just keeps getting better year after year. There is a nice short “lake loop” that is easily accessible to jogging strollers.

On this loop you will go by a dock where you can feed fish and turtles.  So bring bread!! (My kids love to eat the bread too so I always bring the edible variety!) Many other trails extend from the lake loop, some are kid-friendly, and some are a bit longer so grab a map when you enter. If you have an interest in plant species and habitats, you’ll appreciate the multitude of signs that are here. If you like to hike with your kids, the Arboretum is definitely one to try.

Address:  1445 Millcoe Road, 32225
Hours:  8am-5pm, (8am-7pm during daylight savings time)
Fees: none
Trail Map
 

 Jacksonville Arboretum

 

We would love to add more kid-friendly trails to this list!  What trails have you tried and loved?

 

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5 Responses to Mom’s Guide to Jacksonville’s Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails – With PRINTABLE

  1. Nancy Oct 17, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    Little Talbot Island State Park has a great kids trail called the “Campground Nature Loop”. It is less than a mile long. If you check in at the ranger station, they give you a map with special instructions and an access code for the campground area (across the street)- this is where the trail is. There are informational stops along the way and the map tells you that at some of the stops there are plastic bins “hidden”, and they are filled with goodies for the kids. My boys got a small notepad and pencil, a compass, a magnifying glass, and a little toy frog. It was a blast! It goes along a marsh so was very wet when we went with recent rain and the mosquitoes were crazy (again, lots of rain recently), but it would be a great spot to check out in cooler, dry months!

  2. Veronica f Jan 29, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    Camp Milton is a free place to hike and see the earthen fortifications. On the weekends they have the museum open.

  3. Melissa Mar 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

    This is amazing information! I was wondering where you park when you go to the UNF trails do you have to worry about getting a ticket from the campus police? Can’t wait to get out and do some walking!

    • Vicky
      Vicky Mar 7, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

      You need to get a parking pass, $5 🙂

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