March 20, 2023
Exploring The Outdoors in Clay County
Spend time outdoors in Clay County exploring the 35 miles of trails throughout a variety of local and state parks, conservation areas and Florida trailways. As home to three sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, there’s no shortage of wildlife sightings right here in Clay County.
Here’s a look at where you can sleep under the stars and explore the trails of Clay County!
Black Creek Park and Trail
As home to one of Clay County’s most popular trails, Black Creek Park and Trail covers just over 71 acres with a variety of ecosystems including pine flatwoods and wetlands. The eight-mile paved pedestrian and bicycle trail can be accessed from the parking lot and runs north along U.S. Highway 17.
The park’s Black Creek Mountain Bike Trail system features three different trails of differing degrees each with their own elevation changes, tree roots and turns. Each trail begins and ends at the parking lot and are completely shaded, perfect for even the novice bikers. The Creek View trail is 2.5 miles long and has breathtaking views of Black Creek. The 9 Lives trail and Palmetto’s Revenge Trail both stretch for about one mile. Each of the trails were designed and maintained by the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association in Jacksonville (SORBA).
Dating back to 1933, Green Cove Springs’ Camp Chowenwaw County Park was once Florida’s first Girl Scout Camp. Today, the public park offers 150 acres, a swimming pool and numerous trails for exploring and pristine conditions for overnight camping. From one of the many onsite cabins to a night in one of the eight treehouses, families can sleep under the stars at this historic campground.
Go for a hike on the Jungle Trail and make your way to the observation deck overlooking Black Creek. Explore the new Pawpaw Nature Center to learn about the animals and habitats that call Clay County home. At the nearby pollinator garden, visitors can learn how to attract and support butterflies and other pollinators at home.
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.
Go fishing or go for a swim in Little Lake Johnson. If you’d like to explore the area by water, canoe rentals are available. As a full-facility campground with 73 camp sites, overnight accommodations are available for RVs, tents and historic cabin rentals.
Jennings State Forest
At nearly 24,000 acres, Jennings State Forest, located just outside of the Middleburg and Oakleaf neighborhoods, is home to 15 different biological communities including sandhill, slope forest, flatwoods, seepage slope, dome swamp, blackwater stream and seepage stream.
The forest is open daily during daylight hours for visitors interested in hiking, biking, canoeing and horseback riding throughout the area. There are three hiking trails ranging from 1.7 miles to 5-mile loops taking visitors along waterways and primitive areas in the forest. Overnight camping and primitive campsites are available at the Hammock Campground.
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 beautiful views 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 inside 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. Along with exploring the hiking trails, choose from equestrian trails, bank fishing, bird watching and primitive launch sites for canoes and kayaking.
Get ready to create your own camping and hiking adventures when you visit Clay County. Explore the natural wonders that call the area home and take advantage of the outdoor opportunities during your stay. From RV camping to sleeping under the stars, learn more about planning your next camping adventures in Clay County at www.ExploreClay.com.