Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

The arboretum is one of my favorite places to take my kids or guests from out of town. If you didn’t know about it, you would surely never happen upon it. Tucked in off the east beltway, steps from the regency area, I can hardly believe this little slice of heaven is in our city limits. And the best thing? It’s free!
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a 120 acre woodland with a 2 acre lake. There are six trails of varying length and difficulty to discover. All but one are under half a mile. The map at the trailhead has the trails color coded and in addition to the length there is an estimate of how many adult steps and child steps it will take to complete each trail. I find that this makes the arboretum very family and beginner friendly.
The Lake Loop is where you start, and other trails branch off from there. My favorite is the Jones Creek Trail because it offers such a different view than we are used to seeing in Florida. The trail cuts across a creek several times, is under the canopy of trees, and includes elevation changes up and down a bluff. Being under the canopy offers a relief from the scorching sun and heat. The bugs agree so pack your bug spray. There is an amazing old cypress tree in Jones Creek near a narrow little bridge. Maybe it’s just because I’m a lifetime Floridian, but I always feel as though I’ve been transported into the mountains when I hike the Jones Creek Trail.
The history of the arboretum is both entertaining and a bit embarrassing as a Jacksonville resident. From the mid 1940s to the early 1960s the area was own by a mining company and was mined for minerals used in titanium. As you can imagine that had a pretty negative impact on the ecosystems there. In fact, some areas haven’t completely recovered and it’s been 50+ years since any mining was done in the area.
So after the mine closed, the city of Jacksonville bought the property in the 70s and it served as an unmanaged public recreational and open space for over 30 years. The area suffered from illegal dumping during that time due to the lack of management.
Starting in 2008, the land has been leased from the city to be used as an arboretum. There was parking and a couple of trails initially, but additional trails have been cut and benches, bridges, and picnic tables have all been donated by volunteers since then.
So there you have it! Next time you want some fresh air and a new perspective head over to the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens.

Arboretum & Gardens

Arboretum & Gardens

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