Ravine Gardens State Park

Ravine Gardens State Park is in Palatka, Florida about 45 minutes east of Gainesville. The park has two ravines and formal gardens. We hiked the strenuous Azalea Trail in and out of the ravines. This was very steep at points so be prepared for lots of climbing and stairs. We did find a couple of spots on the trail where it was confusing which way to go so make sure to look for the red blazes on the trees. There is also a paved walkway the view the gardens without having to climb in and out of the ravines.

One of three suspension bridges in the park.
This set of stairs led to a clear creek.
Jared walked down to take a closer look at the creek.
There are so many beautiful plants and trees in the park but the Azaleas seem to be dominant. We saw them in pink, purple, red and white.
Quite a bit of the trail was blooming when we were there March 2019.
Another suspension bridge leading across the ravine.
Before you hit the trails, there is a lovely garden and fountain area.

Mill Creek Preserve

The Mill Creek Preserve is a 1230 acre conservation area in Alachua County, Florida with over 5 miles of hiking trails. We hiked the yellow to orange trail which was 3.3 miles. This was a mostly covered trail with lots of markers to identify the trees. There was a short time where we walked in the direct sunlight so be sure to take a hat. We missed the turn from the yellow trail to the orange and had to backtrack so make sure to watch for the orange blazes.

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Maps and trail descriptions are posted at the trailhead.

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The yellow trail was an easy walk with lots of tree coverage most of the way.

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There were several resting benches along the way.

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This covered bench was on the part of the trail that was sunny.

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We heard bird songs all along the trail!

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We walked slightly off the trail to see if this was a karst window but it seemed a bit mucky for that.

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I love all the markers identifying trees! This is one you didn’t want to have to find when you were in trouble with mama.

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Switchcane

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What a joy to come across this amazing bridge in the middle of the forest!

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This preserve includes the southernmost forest of American Beech Trees.

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There were lots of ferns along the forest floor and living in trees.

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This is the view from a reflecting bench along the way.

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Another metal bridge across the creek.

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The moss created a beautiful walkway on the orange trail.

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http://alachuacounty.us/Depts/pcl/LandConservation/Documents/Land/Portfolio/MCbrochure8.pdf

Santa Fe River Preserve

We wanted to check out a short trail yesterday and came across the Santa Fe River Preserve just north of Alachua. There are two entrances with separate hiking trails in this preserve. The south and main entrance has plenty of parking and a 1.5 mile hike called the Gracy Trail. This is a fun loop trail but you will walk through some mud and there are lots of stumps along the way.

 

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Trail maps and more information on the preserve can be found on the Alachua Conservation Trust website. https://www.alachuaconservationtrust.org/santa-fe-river-preserve-guide

Santa Fe River Preserve Sign

A map of the trails and information about the wildlife corridor and preserve are posted at both trailheads.

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One of the boardwalks along the Gracy trail.

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We saw lots of fungus and moss along the trail.

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The Santa Fe Creek provides drainage along the river.

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A quiet place to rest along the trail.

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The Blue Trail is just over a mile and located at the north entrance about 1.5 miles north on 121. There is minimal parking right in front of the trailhead. Please be careful here. There was trash in several areas along the trail including glass.

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We came across huge patches of lichen in sandy areas along the trail.

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You walk a short distance along the Santa Fe River.

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There were lots of different mushrooms to see along both trails.

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Sweetwater Wetlands Park

This hike is just off I-75 north of Paynes Prairie. It was 3.3 miles to do the entire hike but there are much shorter options. The day we were there we saw a ton of water birds, alligators and horses!

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