1. Delray Oaks, Delray Beach
This small but mighty natural area features two trails, the paved Live Oak Trail and the sandy Beautyberry Trail. Here, hikers will awe at the shaded canopies of oak, cabbage palm, and strangler fig trees draped in Spanish moss, as well as resident gopher tortoises and migratory birds. A bonus: The tree coverage makes Delray Oaks an ideal destination on a hot day.
2. Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach
For a true Everglades experience, head to this 23-square-mile preserve that was once a part of a system of tropical wetlands. Today, it serves as the freshwater supply for Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, and South Palm Beach and boasts hiking trails of varying difficulty. On the north end, hikers will find the half-mile Eagle Trail that wraps around Gator Lake, and the 4.23-mile Hog Hammock Trail, a well-maintained path that weaves through dense vegetation and open prairies. Waterproof boots are a must for Apoxee Trail, accessible via the south entrance on Jog Road. The sand and boardwalk trail spans 2.5 miles, or 4 miles round trip when looped in through the Owahee Trail, a 16.6-mile hike that connects all four corners of the preserve.
3. Royal Palm Beach Pines, Royal Palm Beach
This 772-acre natural area is all about options. Whether accessing the 2.4-mile Slash Pine Trail via Crestwood Park, entering on 40th Street and taking a detour along Cabbage Palm Trail before hitting the 1.4-mile Pine Lily Trail, or checking out the Blue Heron Nature Trail, a diverse ecosystem adventure awaits. Between the mesic and wet flatwoods, hydric hammock, wet prairie, depression marsh, dome swamp, and vast wetlands, hikers may spot animals rarely seen in suburban and city life such as bobcats, bald eagles, and great horned owls.
4. Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound
Many of the trails in this 10,500-acre state park interconnect with the 60-plus mile Ocean-to-Lake Trail and showcase the extremes of Florida’s landscape: dunes with desert-like conditions and lush river swamps. Along the way, hikers may encounter unique species like the Florida Dancing Lady Orchid; the ruins of Camp Murphy, a top-secret U.S. military radar training school; and the highest natural point south of Lake Okeechobee, an ancient sand dune known as Hobe Mountain that sits 86 feet above sea level. The Hobe Mountain observation tower gives visitors an additional 27 feet for an expansive view of the park, the Intracoastal, and the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Pondhawk, Boca Raton
A refuge amidst the hustle and bustle of Boca Raton, Pondhawk Natural Area centers around man-made Blue Lake. When Palm Beach County purchased the land from IBM, they integrated the lake into its natural surroundings and created the eight acres of wetland that heron, osprey, and white ibis all call home.