Hiking delivers a wealth of benefits for your health and well-being that perfectly complement the replenishing and restorative treatments we offer at the biostation. Hiking can boost endorphins and elevate your mood. Doing this activity in a lush, natural landscape has been proven to lower anxiety by helping you escape the stressors of a bustling urban area. Spending time in the sunshine delivers vitamin D, which can help combat fatigue and depression while boosting your immune system. There's no excuse not to hit the trails with so much to enjoy. Check out these beautiful places around Fort Lauderdale.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
The intrpretive trail loop in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers some outstanding natural sights in an otherwise urban area. The shady tropical maritime hammock is lush with sea grape, gumbo limbo, oak, palm, and strangler fig. Neatly situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, this area draws many wild, tropical residents. You may spot iguanas, gopher tortoises, coots, and other wildlife throughout the park.
In addition to this interpretive trail, Hugh Taylor Birch offers water sports rentals on the freshwater coastal dune lake, including paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and pedal boats. The 1.2-mile seawall is a popular spot for fishing. Picnic areas abound if you have time to stop for an al fresco meal. A pedestrian tunnel under A1A connects the park to the beach, so you can easily spend an entire day enjoying this area's natural beauty. Stop and visit the Terramar Visitor Center to learn more about the property and its wildlife.
Location: 3109 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
Secret Woods Nature Center
Tucked under a heavy canopy of mangroves, you'll find the aptly named Secret Woods Nature Center. Situated at the bustling conjunction of Interstates 95 and 595 near the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, this seems like an unlikely place for a park. The urban wilderness area protects 56 acres of floodplain and tropical hammock that's home to wildlife, such as cormorants and giant land crabs.
You'll find about a mile of interpretive trails within the park, which are perfect for hiking with children. The park also features a nature center, amphitheater, and pollinator garden, delivering ample opportunities for exploration and education.
Location: 2701 W. State Road 84, Dania Beach.
Easterlin Park contains a dense tropical hammock draped in ancient cypresses that are as much as 250 years old and 100 feet tall. The Woodland Nature Trail loops roughly a mile around a thick, marshy landscape abundant in strangler figs, royal palms, gumbo limbos, and pond apples.
The park, in its entirety, covers 46.6 acres. Amenities include a disc golf course, playground, picnic area, basketball and volleyball courts, and a campground. Though urban noise does make its way into this lush landscape, the views feel a world away from the cityscape nearby.
Location: 1000 NW 38th St., Oakland Park.
Fern Forest Nature Center
Ten plant communities, more than 200 plant species, and over 30 fern varieties thrive within the lush landscape of the Fern Forest Nature Center. As you hike over two miles of trails, you'll encounter sea myrtle, pond apple, wild tamarind, wild coffee, laurel oak, gum bumelia, and marlberry. You'll find swamp fern, giant sword fern, southern woods fern, and endangered whisk ferns among the dozens of lush ferns. The park is also home to abundant wildlife, including gopher tortoises, marsh rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, and great-horned owls.
The wilderness preserve covers 244 acres and includes a variety of landscapes, such as tropical hardwood hammocks, dry prairies, and cypress swamp. The trails include the Red Maple Walk, Wetland Wander, Prairie Overlook, and Cypress Creek Boardwalk Trail. The Cypress Creek Boardwalk is a great place to start, running along the eroded creek bank. The Maple Walk is among the most challenging sections of the preserve. This swamp walk gets quite boggy sometimes and may become impassable in summer. You'll encounter slippery limestone and high mosquito activity, so travel carefully and pack plenty of bug repellant.
The park's amenities include a picnic area, exhibit hall, and amphitheater. Pack a lunch and plan to spend an enriching day in this stunning landscape.
Location: 201 Lyons Road South, Coconut Creek.
Pondhawk Natural Area
You can easily access the Pondhawk Natural Area from the Spanish River Library parking lot. Here, you'll find a 12-foot-wide paved path as well as two natural surface trails that branch off of it, offering more than two miles of hiking. The natural area covers 79 acres, including an 8-acre wetland restoration project. In this area, you may spot white ibis, osprey, black-necked stilt, and more. Pondhawk Natural Area is also home to some of Florida's tallest pond apple trees.
The trail begins along Blue Lake, then connects to a loop that extends into the lush canopy. It runs alongside marshes and a large pond before swinging back into a more forested area and finally looping back to join the beginning leg by the lake.
Location: 1501 Spanish River Blvd., Boca Raton.
West Lake Park
West Lake Park offers four hiking trails that cover around 6 miles in total. This park provides an abundance of other recreational opportunities as well. You'll find a playground and tennis, basketball, and racquetball courts near the main entrance. Picnic tables and restrooms are available, making this the perfect place to take a break between activities.
You can launch onto the water of West Lake at the nearby boat ramp and marina using your own watercraft or rent a kayak on-site. The lake connects to the Stranahan River, offering a meandering waterway dotted with lush mangrove islands. Decks along the lake provide the perfect place for fishing. And the Anne Kolb Nature Center is a must-see stop, complete with a 68-foot observation tower delivering stunning views.
Location: 1200 Sheridan St., Hollywood.
Do you know of more great trails in the Fort Lauderdale area? Contact our team at the biostation and let us know, so we can update our recommendations and provide our clients with the best suggestions.
Banyan Tree by Doug Waldron is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0