Ravine Gardens State Park is a hidden gem in northeast Florida, and one of my new favorite hiking spots. It’s not home to crystal clear springs, but it does have beautiful greenery and, even more exciting, suspension bridges!
It’s a popular spot for prom or wedding photos because there are beautiful maintained gardens with fountains and flowers, along with the hiking areas. I like it because it’s as close as I can get to “real” hiking with elevation changes. It’s not much, but some trails take you up and down the ravines insides the park, so it’s as close as I can get to hiking “mountains.”
Ravine Gardens State Park is located about 60 miles south of downtown Jacksonville, about an hour drive. It’s a 59-acre Florida State Park and listed in 1999 on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a $5 fee on honor system by the Florida State Park services, or if you’re like me, you can get a pass for around $60. There’s a visitor center where you can use the bathroom or fill up your water bottle, but it wasn’t open during my visit. The drive down to the park from Jacksonville takes you through some surprising countryside in northeastern Florida and you end up in Palatka, a cute historic town that could be fun to explore (I haven’t gotten to yet).
The Florida State Parks website boasts “ancient ravines have been transformed into a rustic tropic garden” and it’s beautiful. The park has two ravines up to 120 feet deep with steep banks at 45-degree angles, which means that some trails might not be the best for families with small kids or people unsteady on their feet, but there are paved trails that you can take.
There are a few trails in this state park. The Ravine Loop Trail is an easy 1.8 miles on a paved trail at the top of the ravine with ravine overlooks, and it’s also a popular trail for bikers. The Whitewater Path is a dirt trail that’s 0.72 miles and takes you down to the bottom of the ravine. The Springs Trail is considered moderate at 0.6 miles and follows ravine narrow paths and historic stone stairs. The Azalea Trail is my favorite – it’s considered the hardest at “strenuous” and 2.5 miles, but as someone who loves hiking, I wouldn’t consider it “strenuous.” However, this loop does feature the suspension bridges, exposed roots, narrow paths, steep elevation changes and stone stairs. I think that it’s really fun with the suspension bridges (which are really fun to jump on!) and you can actually get a bit of a workout in, if only it was longer.
If you come during the springtime, as the trail name suggests, you can see beautiful azalea blossoms throughout the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this earlier and didn’t get to see the blooms – maybe next year!
Regardless of it not being azalea season, the park is still absolutely beautiful. Stunning ferns everywhere, interesting wildlife and wildflowers.
Since it’s a ravine, it can be a little cooler at the bottom, as well as much more humid. At the bottom of the ravine, there’s a pond where there may be alligators, so be cautious when exploring that area. There are also a ton of mosquitoes (welcome to Florida) and you also need to be weary of ticks and other southern insects. Definitely cover yourself in bug spray / deet before going on this adventure!
Otherwise, Ravine Gardens State Park is one of my new favorite go-to places to explore here in Florida and I definitely recommend a visit!
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Ravine Gardens State Park? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!