Hike the Kitching Creek Loop in Jonathan Dickinson SP
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Added by Christian Murillo
Take a day full of adventure to hike the Kitching Creek Loop and then watch a beautiful Florida Sunset on top of Hobe Mountain.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park has 3 main trails, the East Loop Trail (9.8 miles), Hobe Mountain Trail (0.4 miles), and the Kitching Creek Loop (7.5 miles). In this adventure, I will only talk about the Kitching Creek Loop and the Hobe Mountain trail. The Hobe Mountain Trail can be easily paired with the other two trails because of its short distance and accessibility.
The Kitching Creek Loop provides a good amount of variety of flora and offers some excellent opportunities for bird watching and wildflowers. Hobe Mountain has the highest elevation in all of South Florida, but you don't have to worry about altitude sickness at just 86 feet above sea level. I know its not the tallest mountain in the world, but you do get some killer 360-degree views from the top! (Skip to the bottom of this article for details about Hobe Mountain)
There are two ways I would recommend doing this trail combination. You can either get to the park for the sunrise and watch the sunrise from Hobe Mountain and then take on the Kitching Creek Loop, or you can take on the Kitching Creek Loop starting in the early afternoon and then watch the sunset over the expansive Jonathan Dickinson forest. Navigation through the trails can be tricky in this park, so definitely get a map at the park entrance. Also, I will try to provide detailed directions of the trails below.
Starting with the Kitching Creek Loop, you will begin at the Kitching Creek Nature Trail parking area. Keep right at your first fork and continue into the long leaf pine and saw palmetto forest. After about a quarter mile you will cross a small bridge over Wilson Creek. Depending on the rainfall and the time of year you go, there may be hardly a creek at all. Eventually you will meet an intersection with a jeep trail, so just keep left here. Once you get to the "Nature Trail" sign, you should turn right to get a view of Kitching Creek from an observation platform. Admittedly, the view of the creek is not the most impressive thing ever and there are also loads of mosquitoes the closer you get to it (in the warmer months of the year). However, it is still charming and peaceful, so I recommend you take a minute to check it out anyway.
Leaving the observation platform on Kitching Creek, turn left and continue on and cross the cable gate. After about 1.3 miles, you will merge onto a trail shared with equestrian trail riders, so just be mindful of their passing during the next mile. When you get to the yellow and red trail intersection, continue straight. After about 2 miles you will see the orange blazes appear after the "USGS" water sampling station. From this point, navigating gets a bit easier as you can just follow the orange blazes through the loop. In the summer, this part of the loop will be wet and buggy. As with a lot of things in Florida, the summer is not the best time to do this trail.
Once you leave the swampy cypress section, you will find yourself at another intersection. To the left is the Kitching Creek Campsite, but to continue the trail, turn right here. At your next intersection at 3.2 miles, turn right to follow the road into the oak hammock. At 3.6 miles in the Cabbage Palm forest, you will find another intersection where you will make your next left. At 4.3 miles you will find yourself in a 5-way intersection. Take a soft right to return to the Kitching Creek Nature Trail. Continue following the orange blazes until you finish the loop and get to the next jeep road which you will turn left on and then follow straight all the way back to the cable gate. From here, the return to the parking lot is the same as the way you came!
Now that you are probably nice and tired, it is time to relax and watch a beautiful Florida sunset. You will get back in your car from the Kitching Creek Nature Trail parking area and drive almost all the way out to the entrance of the park. You will take your last left before the exit and pass the ranger barracks on your left and will soon see a parking area for Hobe Mountain. Once you are here, just follow the boardwalk all the way to the observation platform at the top. At the top of Hobe Mountain, you can see the whole 200 square mile forested area of the park to the west, condos and high-rises to the south, and then the inter-coastal waterway, Jupiter Island, and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean to the East. Kick back and watch the sun illuminate the sky as it drops below the horizon. Don't get too comfortable though, because the park closes at dark. There are worse places to get stuck overnight, but unless that is on your schedule, make sure to head out of the park about 15 minutes after the sunset.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
- Day Pack
- Rain Jacket
- Bug Spray
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