July 11, 2023
Landscapes of Florida and Clay County
Many landscapes make up the region of Clay County. Here, you can explore the wetlands, the waterways, the scenic trails and highways. The outdoors are a part of what make the Clay County area so special. During your visit, take time to appreciate your surroundings and explore places that are filled with both rich soil and rich history.
Here’s a look at some of the beautiful landscapes you can visit during your time in Clay County –
Bayard Conservation Area
Located just south of Green Cove Springs, the Bayard Conservation Area features 10,371 acres of conservation land with seven miles of river frontage along the St. Johns River. A variety of wildlife calls the area home including gopher tortoise, bald eagle, little blue heron, deer and turkey.
Hikers can enjoy 15 miles of trails through the John P. Hall Nature Preserve located within the conservation area. Climb the observation tower for wildlife viewing and views of the nearby St. Johns River. Two campsites within the preserve are available for overnight stays. You can also explore the hiking trails, ride the equestrian trails, bank fishing, bird watching and primitive launch sites for canoes and kayaking.+
Jennings State Forest
During your stay in Clay, spend time exploring the nearly 24,000 acres of Jennings State Forest located in both the Middleburg and Oakleaf neighborhoods. Home to 15 different biological communities including flatwoods, slope forest and more this area is rich with wildlife and open daily for hiking, biking, horseback riding and more. For those interested in overnight camping, primitive campsites are available at the Hammock Campground.
The 16-mile Dunns Farm Trail Complex includes 3 hiking trails: The Pioneer Trail with scenic vistas, elevation changes, history and beautiful natural overlooks of Black Creek; The Dunns Farm Trail with waterfalls and elevation changes; and The Cross Cut Trail with rolling terrain, history and interpretive signage. Each of these trails offers a primitive, backcountry hike within camp zones.
Jennings State Forest is also home to the Fire and Water Nature Trail which guides hikers on an interpretive adventure with signage explaining the dynamic force of fire and water and how it has shaped and continues to shape the landscape of Florida. The seven-mile Sandridge Trail, offers hikers an immersive look into the Longleaf Pine and Wiregrass ecosystem which dominated the Florida landscape years ago, complete with open rolling hill vistas in winter to flowering grasses and shrubs in the springtime.
Mike Roess Gold Head State Park
Known as one of Florida’s First State Parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights is home to 2,000 acres with 5.44 miles of trails along the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST). Go fishing or go for a swim in Little Lake Johnson and if you’d like to explore the area by water, canoe rentals are available too. Gold Head also offers different overnight accommodations in the form of RV sites, tent locations and historic cabin rentals.
Orange Park’s River Road
Just a few blocks off of Highway 17 in Orange Park, visitors can take advantage of walking scenic River Road along the St. Johns River. Located just beyond Moosehaven and the Best Bet Poker Room, there is a beautiful walking path along the riverfront with pristine views of the water and historic homes. A popular walking path with locals, this is also a great spot to watch sunsets in the evening. Keep an eye out as you might even see dolphins playing in the river.
Penney Farms Memorial Scenic Highway
Penney Farms, just west of Green Cove Springs, was founded when a visionary leader seized the opportunity to pioneer toward a brighter future. As Highway 16 makes its way through this community, it is more commonly known as the J.C. Penney Memorial Scenic Highway. Providing a canopy of lush shade trees coated in Spanish Moss, this stunning piece of highway is perfect for a walk, bike ride or leisurely drive. While you are in the area, stop in at the Penney Farms Historical Museum, just one block off of Highway 16, to learn more about this small community that is filled with great history.
Enjoy exploring the different landscapes that make up Clay County in Northeast Florida. From nature trails to riverfront walking trails and more, there’s plenty of pristine land here. We hope you’ll take advantage of admiring our beauty and relax among the trees, right here in Clay County.