Fort Caroline National Memorial | SPANISH POND TRAIL

Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Length: 1 mile, one way
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

The Spanish Pond Trail is representative of the salt marsh that Spanish soldiers would have marched through from St. Augustine in order to attack Fort Caroline on September 20, 1565, though other than that it holds no historical significance. A boardwalk takes visitors from the parking lot to the pond, which is within the original Fort Caroline National Memorial boundary. From there you have the option to return back to the parking lot or continue farther on a traditional hiking trail to connect with either the Timucuan Trail or the Willie Browne Trail in the Theodore Roosevelt Area of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Both parks are run by the National Park Service, and there really is no distinction between the two as far as boundaries go.

Start of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Start of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

While the Spanish Pond Trail is technically a one-mile out-and-back trail (two miles, round trip), I seriously doubt anyone is going to hike it to the end and simply turn around. Most people combine it with the other trails to form longer hikes. Each major intersection is marked with directional signage, making it easy to find your way around. However, I still suggest carrying a printed map with you unless you are very familiar with all the turns.

Fort Caroline-Timucuan Preserve Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Fort Caroline-Timucuan Preserve Trail Map (click to enlarge)

The Spanish Pond Trail has its own parking area, which is directly across the street from the main section of the park where Fort Caroline and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve Visitor Center are located. On a pretty day the parking lot may be packed with locals who use the trails for their daily exercise. However, once the bug season comes around (May through September) you won’t see many people. Even when I visited in March, the gnats and mosquitoes were bothersome, though not unbearable. Starting in May the yellow flies and mosquitoes will become a big problem, though it is the flies that are the worst since insect repellent does not deter them. To hike on the trails in the summer you need long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a mosquito net on your head to keep from getting attacked.

Jogger on the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Jogger on the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

As mentioned, the Spanish Pond Trail starts off on a boardwalk, and within two minutes you arrive at the pond. I visited once when the pond was empty and once when it was full, though regardless, it’s not that picturesque of a pond. Anyway, if all you want to see is the pond, turn around and head back to the parking area. The round trip is less than a tenth of a mile.

Spanish Pond with water in it

Spanish Pond with water in it

Dried up Spanish Pond

Dried up Spanish Pond

For those who want to continue south towards the Timucuan and Willie Browne trails, the boardwalk ends just a few minutes beyond the pond and the trail becomes a traditional hiking trail, except for in some wet areas where the boardwalk reappears to keep hikers out of the mud. Posts with red blazes on them mark the trail.

Red blazes on trail posts mark the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline

Red blazes on trail posts mark the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline

The trail covers level ground as it winds its way though palmetto bushes, pine trees, and Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss. The forest canopy provides shade for most of the way. There are some exposed roots on the first half mile of the trail, so keep an eye out for them to avoid tripping. Otherwise, the trail is fine for those hiking in sneakers or sandals, and no hiking poles are needed. However, because of the boardwalks that you must step up onto and down from, it may be a little tough for those in wheelchairs or for those pushing baby strollers.

Typical terrain of the first half of the Spanish Pond Trail

Typical terrain of the first half of the Spanish Pond Trail

For those who get tired, there are benches scattered along the way.

Bench underneath a Live Oak on the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline

Bench underneath a Live Oak on the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline

The Spanish Pond Trail intersects with the Timucuan Trail at the .75-mile mark. If you plan to hike a loop using this trail, you can turn left now and hike in the clockwise direction or continue straight until the Spanish Pond Trail ends. From there you can hike the Timucuan Trail in the counterclockwise direction using a short segment of the Willie Browne Trail to form the loop. My plan was to hike all the way to the Roosevelt Area parking lot, so I stayed on the Spanish Pond Trail.

Intersection of the Spanish Pond Trail and the Timucuan Trail (marked with green posts)

Intersection of the Spanish Pond Trail and the Timucuan Trail (marked with green posts)

By now the Spanish Pond Trail has switched over from a dirt trail covered in pine straw to a sandy trail. The terrain is slightly hilly, and though you may not know it, you are working your way downhill from the Timucuan Trail intersection until the Spanish Pond Trail ends at the Willie Brown Trail one mile from the start.

Typical terrain on the second half of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Typical terrain on the second half of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

The Spanish Pond Trail ends at a 4-way intersection. You have the option to continue straight on the Willie Brown Trail, which sets you off hiking around the loop portion of the trail in the clockwise direction, or taking a right to hike around the loop in the counterclockwise direction. Taking a left puts you on a Black Trail that connects to the middle of the Timucuan Trail. However, as far as this trail report is concerned, this is the end of the line. Round trip back to your car is about two miles, and the hike should take no more than an hour.

4-way intersection at the end of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

4-way intersection at the end of the Spanish Pond Trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial

As mentioned earlier, I doubt anyone is going to hike to the end of the Spanish Pond Trail just to turn around. To avoid retracing your steps, I suggest at least taking the Timucuan Trail back, which loops around and rejoins the Spanish Pond Trail, forming a 2.9 mile hike. On the way you can visit an observation platform that overlooks Round Marsh. To do this, stay straight on the Willie Browne Trail. This connects to a Black Trail that takes you to the overlook.

A second option, which is the route I took, is to take the Willie Browne Trail south to the Roosevelt Area parking lot. This is an out-and-back hike, but on the way back you can take the Timucuan Trail and stop at the observation deck, thus making a 4.3-mile hike using all three trails in the park. To do this, turn right at the intersection and start off on the western half of the loop portion of the Willie Browne Trail.

See the Timucuan Trail and Willie Browne Trail reviews for more details.

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Last updated on April 15, 2022
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