Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve | TIMUCUAN TRAIL

Timucuan Trail at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Timucuan Trail at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Length: 2.7-mile loop via the Willie Browne Trail or 3.1-mile loop via the Spanish Pond Trail. The Timucuan Trail itself is .75 mile in length.
Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

The Timucuan Trail is the only true hiking trail on National Park Service property in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, and it is the most difficult trail I came across during my travels to all of the National Parks in Florida. Of course Florida isn’t the Smoky Mountains, and I’d rate the Timucuan Trail only as moderate in difficulty, but hilly trails are rare in the otherwise flat Florida terrain. A local resident told me the trail climbs to the top of one of the highest points in Jacksonville.

The Timucuan Trail lies in the middle of the Theodore Roosevelt Area of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and therefore cannot be hiked on its own. Access is either by hiking .75 mile south on the Spanish Pond Trail or .95 mile north on the Willie Browne Trail. Hikers can form a loop by using either trail. The Spanish Pond Trail option is 3.1 miles (round trip), while you have a 2.7-mile (round trip) hike using the Willie Browne Trail. The Timucuan Trail itself is only about .75 mile long. Use the map below to determine the route you want to take.

Roosevelt Area Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Roosevelt Area Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Notice that no matter where you start, forming a loop actually entails hiking some part of the Willie Browne and Spanish Pond trails, plus the unnamed Black trails (while these have no name, they do have trail markers with black blazes on them). This review will be of the Timucuan Trail by way of the Willie Browne Trail.

The Willie Browne Trail is a dirt road that is nearly flat and easy to hike. In a little over a half mile from the Roosevelt Area parking lot is the fork that marks the start of the loop portion of the trail. Being a loop you can go in either direction, but I took the counterclockwise path by making a right at the fork.

Typical terrain on the Willie Brown Trail at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Typical terrain on the Willie Brown Trail at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

In .2 mile is the intersection where you can take a Black trail to the southern end of the Timucuan Trail, as well as to the Round Marsh Observation Deck. This intersection also marks the site of Willie Browne’s cabin. Browne is the man who donated the Theodore Roosevelt Area land in 1969 to the Nature Conservancy. He was born here and lived his entire life on the property. As an admirer of Theodore Roosevelt for his conservation efforts, Browne’s only request when donating the land was that it be named after the former President. The National Park Service acquired the land in 1990 for the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Willie Browne Cabin site at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Willie Browne Cabin site at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

At the cabin, take a right on the Black Trail. The trail immediately forks, and while there is no marker at the intersection, both paths are Black trails. Stay to the right to get to the start of the Timucuan Trail (a left also leads to the Timucuan Trail, but .1 mile from the start). In another tenth of a mile is the intersection of the Black Trail and the southern trailhead for the Timucuan Trail. However, before starting the hike north, if you can climb stairs, I highly recommend taking the detour to the Round Marsh Observation Deck, which is just a few minutes away. Stay straight / right at the intersection to get there.

Intersection of the Black Trail and the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve

Intersection of the Black Trail and the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve

You will be hiking on a shell midden, which is basically a garbage dump of the Timucuan Indians. Shells from their seafood meals were deposited at the local dump, and over the years these piles of shells grew into small mountains. The Browne brothers made money by selling the shells to construction companies for landfill. Shell middens are not unique to Florida, and many of the middens still in existence throughout the country are now considered valuable archaeological sites and are protected by law. Unfortunately, the majority were destroyed either as a result of being used for landfill or being bulldozed to make room for homes, shopping areas, and roads.

Shells from a former Timucuan shell midden at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Shells from a former Timucuan shell midden at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

The Black Trail ends at an overlook platform that gives you a view of Round Marsh. You do need to climb stairs to get to the top, and the only good view of the marsh is from the platform. If you visit at low tide, you’ll see a muddy bottom that is often covered with oyster beds. At high tide everything below is hidden by water.

Round Marsh observation deck in the Timucuan Preserve

Round Marsh observation deck in the Timucuan Preserve

Round Marsh at hige tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Round Marsh at hige tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Round Marsh at low tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Round Marsh at low tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Oyster beds at Round Marsh at low tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Oyster beds at Round Marsh at low tide, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

When done at the overlook, return to the intersection with the Timucuan Trail, which is marked with green blazes. As mentioned, this is a true hiking trail, not a former dirt road like the Willie Browne Trail. It is very narrow, the trail surface is full of large roots, and the terrain is very hilly.

Timucuan Trail is marked with Green blazes

Timucuan Trail is marked with Green blazes

The Timucuan Trail follows Colorinda Creek and the salt marsh, but trees and other vegetation block the view except for at a few small windows. There are some side trails down to the water if you want to make a detour for a better view. About two-thirds of the Timucuan Preserve is comprised of salt marsh.

View of the salt marsh from the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

View of the salt marsh from the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

A tenth of a mile from the start of the Timucuan Trail is another intersection with a Black Trail. While the Timucuan Trail continues straight ahead, you can take a short detour down the Black Trail to a grave of a Confederate soldier (you can actually see it from the intersection). This man did not die during the war, but instead was buried here in 1879, so most likely he lived here before the Brownes bought the property in 1889. Though the intersection is marked and obvious, if you don’t know about the grave, you will walk right past it. I was told about it earlier when speaking with other hikers on the trail, so that’s the only reason I knew of its whereabouts.

Grave of Civil War veteran John Spearing just off the Timucuan Trail

Grave of Civil War veteran John Spearing just off the Timucuan Trail

Up until the first Black trail intersection, I wouldn’t call the hike moderate in difficulty, but it certainly isn’t easy.

Typical terrain on the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve

Typical terrain on the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve

There are two more intersections with Black trails, one just a tenth of a mile past the first (where the grave is) and a second a third of a mile later. The difficulty remains about the same as before, that is up until 500 feet prior to the final intersection. At this point the terrain becomes very steep, and not just by Florida trail standards. The grade averages 16%, and most hikers consider 15% to be the start of strenuous hiking. The top of the hill is just past the third Black trail intersection, and from here until the Timucuan Trail ends at the Spanish Pond Trail a quarter mile ahead, you’ll be hiking downhill, though this is not quite as steep as the hike up.

Steep section of the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve in Jacksonville

Steep section of the Timucuan Trail in the Timucuan Preserve in Jacksonville

At the intersection with the Spanish Pond Trail, take a left to return to the Willie Browne Trail, another quarter mile ahead. Once at the Willie Brown Trail, take a right to return to the parking lot. Not too far from the intersection are the graves of Willie Browne, his brother Saxon, and his parents, plus a few neighbors. While the parents moved away in the early 1900s, the two brothers stayed on the property and earned a living fishing, farming, and running a sawmill. Both spent their entire lives here. The property was worth over a million dollars to developers, but Browne lived out his life with no modern conveniences and donated the land for free so that it would not be developed.

Browne family tombstone, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Browne family tombstone, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

The rest of the hike follows the Willie Browne Trail back to the Roosevelt Area parking lot. You are likely to see joggers and mothers pushing baby strollers along the way, a sight you won’t see on the Timucuan Trail. The round trip hike is 2.7 miles, and you should be able to do it in less than two hours.

Willie Browne Trail at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Willie Browne Trail at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

I actually made a hike that utilized all three trails, starting off on the Spanish Pond Trail and hiking all the way to the parking lot for the Roosevelt Area. On the way back I made the loop using the Timucuan Trail. If you wish to do this, the hike is 4.3 miles in length and takes about 2.5 hours. As long as you are not hiking during the bug season—May through September—the trails at the Theodore Roosevelt Area of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve offer a very pleasant hiking experience.

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Last updated on April 16, 2022
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