Updated: Nov 5
Just north of Jupiter, Fl directly on US Hwy 1, is Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This WWII military base turned State Park encompasses 9 distinct eco-systems, where many are at risk for extinction because of development in south Florida. One of the things I love about this park is the diversity of activities available. There are 25 miles of hiking trails and 31 miles of biking trails, including 9 miles of mountain biking trails. On the far side of the park flows the Loxahatchee River. Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, swimming and excursions up the river to Trapper Nelson's restored cabin are available. Bikes, kayaks and paddle boards as well as snacks are available at the concession hut on the river. There are RV/Tent, primitive, and cabin camping as well. In the winter season, horseback trail riding is available. If you are looking for a longer hike or bike ride this is a great place to go. The park is open 365 days a year, admission is $6.00 per car with up to 8 passengers. For more information, including trail maps and camping reservations, head over to their website.
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As you can see from the above photography, Jonathan Dickinson State Park is very close to the Atlantic Ocean. While there is no beachfront property within the park, it is named for the Puritan man who survived a ship wreck during what was likely a hurricane in September of 1696. His wife and infant child along with other survivors, made the harrowing journey from the Jupiter Inlet to Charleston SC. He documented their encounters with Indians, Spanish Soldiers and the wilds of coastal Florida in a book commonly known at "Jonathan Dickinson Journal," which became something of a best seller between 1700 to 1869.
In 1942, the US Army established a top secret radar training school in the area that is now the park. The Army Base was the home to the Southern Signal Corp School, housing over 6000 soldiers and Officers. It was decommissioned in 1947 and turned over to the state of Florida to become a State Park in 1949. You can still see the foundations of some of the Camp's buildings along the hiking and biking trails.
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Sixteen distinct ecosystems thrive in the 11,500 acres of Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Rare environments such as coastal sand hills, upland lakes, scrub forests and mangrove and river swamps as well as the pristine Loxahatchee River make this park a unique and interesting place to explore. The highest point in the park is Hobe Sound Mountain with an observation deck on top. It is believed that Hobe Sound Mountain is the remains of an ancient sand dune. The view from the top is well worth the 10 minute walk. With these diverse eco systems come lots of wild life. On my most recent visit I saw, gopher tortoises, white tail deer and a scrub jay. Once you arrive at the park, visit The Kimbell Education Center for more information on wildlife in the park.
There are 31 miles of Biking trails within Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Bikes are available to rent from the Concession Hut at the River. You can access the multi-use 2 mile trail just west of there. There are 9 miles dedicated mountain biking trails at Camp Murphy. Camp Murphy is located about half way between the the main gate and the Loxahatchee River. There are trails for all skill levels of mountain bikers. The remaining 20 miles of trails are hard pack shell trails that are shared with hikers. You can pick up a map of all the trails at the park entrance. Captk loves the mountain biking trails, although they are very busy on the weekend. I have him drop me off at the main entrance parking lot and I bike the 15 or so miles of roadways in the park before meeting him at Camp Murphy.
Whether you are looking for a short nature hike, a 4 mile round trip walk on a paved multi-use trail or a 10 mile hike on part of the Lake to Ocean Trail, Jonathan Dickinson State Park has a trail for you. I love to hike! Jonathan Dickinson gives me a place close to home to stretch my legs and enjoy nature. The terrain is diverse and the wildlife plentiful. While I have not seen a bobcat yet, I have seen lots of deer, raccoons, possums, tortoises and a few alligators.
Here in south Florida, it is all about the water and the Loxahatchee River is one of the most beautiful places to explore. From Jonathan Dickinson State park you can explore the pristine upper river that winds through century old cypress trees or the lower portion that allows you to explore the unique eco system of the mangroves. Either way you go, you will enjoy the peace and serenity of some time on the water. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are all available to rent from the concession hut on the river.
From the concession hut, you can purchase tickets for a number of guided tours. The most popular trip being the pontoon boat tour to Trapper Nelson Interpretive Site. For decades the colorful Trapper Nelson lived, hunted and fished on the banks of the Loxahatchee River. He created the Trapper's Zoo and Jungle Garden that attracted tourists from all over. The tales are tall about Trapper Nelson. Your tour guide entertain you with them on the 90 minute up and back trip. Make sure you check with the park website if you are interested in this trip, the times vary depending upon the tides.
There is truly enough in this park to keep you busy for days. There are cabins, RV/tent camp sites and primitive campsites available in the park. Cabins rent for $95.00 per night plus a $6.70 reservation fee and come with amenities like a full kitchen, AC, private bath, and fire pit. RV/tent sites rent for $26.00 per night including water and electrical hook ups. I would recommend bringing some type of dining fly or easy-up, many of the sites have little or no shade. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. The spots go quickly on the weekends.
Are you ready to book your trip to Jonathan Dickinson State Park but you prefer to stay in a hotel. My favorite hotel in the area is Jupiter Beach Resort, which is directly on the beach. Check out Booking.com for the lowest rates on hotels and condos in the area.