Updated: Jan 5, 2020
If you're like Dr. Hugh, then you love hiking! Getting outdoors, relaxing in the peaceful sounds of nature, getting exercise, and exploring new places is a great way to destress have fun. And hiking is even better when you can take your dog! Dogs love exploring nature, too! The new scents, the open space, and the exercise make hiking fun for dogs. Dr. Hugh loves hiking with his dog, Gus, and his family in and around Jacksonville! We's rounded up his and Gus' list of favorite of local hiking spots below, as well as some tips and tricks for dog hiking safety. Scroll down for nature and fun!
1. Julington Durbin Preserve - Julington Durbin is a 2,300 acre wilderness right in the heart of Jacksonville! Off Old St. Augustine Road and Bartram Park Boulevard in the Bartram Park area, this conservation area has 8 miles of trails through rare sandhill habitat with wildflowers blooming year round. It's actively managed with prescribed fire so it has beautiful views of the flowing wiregrass, pine flatwoods, and you can see happy gopher tortoises sliding by. Access is free and dogs must be leashed. Take the white trail to the red trail that leads to Durbin Creek, the creek that Durbin Creek Animal Hospital is named for, and get a glimpse of Old Florida with overhanging trees bordering the slowly meandering creek. Keep your eyes open for slowly floating manatees! Dogs will love this wilderness escape. 13200 Bartram Park Blvd. Jacksonville, Florida 32258 Entry: Free
3. Kathryn Abby Hanna Park - Known to locals as Hanna park and home to one of the best surfing spots in Northeast Florida - The Poles, Hanna Park has miles of hiking that is dog friendly! From 1.5 miles of beach front to 20 miles of biking trails to 3 miles of hiking trails to a splash park to a freshwater pond, there are plenty of activities for families. Dogs are allowed in designated areas on leashes 8 feet or less.
500 Wonderwood Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32233
4. Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens - In Arlington, the Jacksonville Arboretum has hiking trails through a diverse array of local habitats - rosemary scrub, hammock, marsh and pine flatwoods. There is a borrow pit turned lake in the center that is perfect for a short hike and there are typically fun art displays interspersed with the gardens to peruse around the lake. Dogs are allowed on leash everywhere except the rosemary scrub connector trail to protect the rare plants growing there. You and your dog will enjoy this free natural area!
1445 Milcoe Road Jacksonville, Florida 32225
5. Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve - Yes, Guana has an amazing beach with no development, ancient 30 foot dunes, and tons of sharks teeth in the shelly sand! But did you know that on the opposite side of A1A there are miles and miles of hiking trails along with intracoastal waterway?! Just enter through the Guana Dam at the education center, pass the dam and Guana Lake, and dead end into the Guana Hiking trails. Here you will find dog friendly trails through many ecosystems like marsh, flatwoods with pine, hardwood hammock with towering, shady oaks, and more. Keep a look out for deer tracks, bear scat, and hogs. Dogs and parents alike will love hiking the trails! 505 Guana River Road South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082 Entry: $3/vehicle
6. Guana River Wildlife Management Area - Guana River Wildlife Management Area is located adjacent to Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve with miles and miles of trails! This area is heavily managed to keep the area healthy for wildlife so hikers will enjoy the fruits of this labor with beautiful scenery, low growing palmetto, majestic views, and lots of wildlife tracks thanks to the managers who use prescribed burning to manage the land. Be sure to check the hunting dates during winter so you don't run into hunters (the irony is not lost on us that winter is the BEST time to hike in Florida and it's also hunting season...), but head out for a lookout tower and miles of open space!
505 Guana River Road or Enter east of the Palm Valley Bridge, north of CR 210 South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082 Entry: $3/vehicle
7. Anastasia State Park - Located in the heart of St. Augustine right next door to the St. Augustine Lighthouse is Anastasia State Park. The park offers boardwalks to the undeveloped beach front, an ancient dunes hike with shaded coastal hammock, and camping! Check out this park for fishing, camping, hiking and relaxing with your dog! 300 Anastasia Park Road
St. Augustine, FL 32080
8. Twelve Mile Swamp - Twelve Mile Swamp is just what it sounds like - 12 miles of swamp - 22,000 acres - that was preserved to protect the floodplains of our St. Johns River. The good news is that it's not all swamp! There are hundreds of acres of pine flatwoods and right now there are 378 acres that are currently open to the public for recreation (the rest opens in 2025 after a timber lease concludes) with an almost 3 mile trail through planted pine. It's between Nocatee and St. Augustine and your dog will love the wilderness and the open space!
440 International Golf Parkway
St. Augustine, Florida 32095
9. Thomas Creek Conservation Area - Thomas Creek has miles of trails with planted pine and wetland wildflowers galore! The property protects the floodplains of the creek that runs into the St. Johns River. It is a remote property, but worth a drive for a hike!
8761 Thomas Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32219
10. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve - If you haven't hiked with your dog up to the top of the green loop at Spanish Pond Trail, are you even a Jacksonville resident? It's 70 feet above sea level (this is high for Florida, y'all!!), shell midden amazingness with views of the St. Johns River Marshes. You'll enjoy the challenging hike and your dog will love the exercise! Be sure to visit the education center (no dogs allowed) - it's free entry with great information about the history and nature of the area!
12713 Fort Caroline Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32225
11. Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park - We have no idea why it's called Pumpkin Hill Creek, but what we do know is that the area is beautiful! With sandhills, flatwoods, and interspersed sandhill ponds, you'll love the wildflowers and views of Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park. It's located north of Jacksonville off Heckshcher Drive.
13802 Pumpkin Hill Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32226
12. Cary State Forest - Located on the northwest side of Jacksonville, Cary State Forest has 13,385 acres of flatwoods, sandhills, cypress swamp, and plenty of wildlife! Hike the trails for nature fun with your dog!
7465 Pavilion Road
Bryceville, Florida 32009
13. Jennings State Forest - With views of Black Creek, sandhills, flatwoods and more, you'll love hiking Jennings State forest with your dog! Located on the southwest side of Jacksonville, there are 25,000 acres to explore, exercise, and enjoy nature!! Be sure to check the website for the hunting schedule as this area is a wildlife management area!
Long Horn Road and CR 218
Tips For Hiking with Dogs:
1. Bring water
2. Watch the weather - It can get hot in Florida so take short trips in the summer with breaks for shade and water, or bring a doggie sweater in the winter
3. Keep your dog on a leash. This is typically the rule in nature areas to protect other hikers and sensitive wildlife, but also to protect your pet from wildlife like wild hogs, unhealthy raccoons, Florida black bear and porcupine.
4. Stay on the trail - Heading off trail can cause your dog to get sticker burs, have encounters with wildlife, or get lost. Once, a dog got lost and the dog owner got lost looking for the dog off trail! The helicopter had to come and find them!
5. Bring your phone, a trail map, and let someone know where you are going in case of emergency. You never know when you'll run out of battery or be without service in the forest.
6. Check for ticks after your hike - on both your dog and your family.
For more information, contact Durbin Creek Animal Hospital at (904) 770-7615 or follow us on social media!