This post was originally seen on the Hale and Hearty 7k Blog, and is the second in a series of posts on various places to run in North Florida.
Catch up on past editions:
The Health and Planning Council of Northeast Florida (HPC) serves serves the Baker, Clay,
Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns and Volusia Counties. They strive to promote health and fitness throughout the communities which you can learn more about on their website.
One of their initiatives is the Community First Hale & Hearty 7k, which I participated in last June. The Community First Hale & Hearty 7K Running Series celebrates healthy communities while encouraging happy and healthy places.
With the goal of hosting a 7k in each of the counties that HPC serves, it is good to learn about the running and walking routes available to you in your community.
Sometimes a new running route is all the motivation needed to encourage me to lace up my shoes and hit the road or sidewalk or trail. I will drive an extra 15-30+ minutes just to run in a new location with an interesting running route. Sometimes I feel like a trail run or a bridge run or a nice flat paved course. All these running options are available throughout North Florida.
I thought I would share some of my favorite running routes with you and hopefully you’ll share your favorites with me! Feel free to email me your favorite route, and maybe you’ll see it in an upcoming feature right here!
Together we can RUN THIS TOWN!
The Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails
Did you know there’s perfectly good running trails smack dab in the middle of Jacksonville? You can get away from it all without actually having to get that far away!
Right on the campus of the University of North Florida is a five-hundred acre natural habitat with about 5 miles of nature trails and picnic areas as well as a pond for fishing, boating and canoeing.
The Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails are a great place for a run or a walk throughout the year. This is one of my favorite places to run anywhere.
If you’ve never been a student at UNF, it can be easy to get lost on campus. (I even have friends that WERE students that still get lost…) This is the easiest “fool proof” way to find the trails.
UNF is located just north of JTB between 9a and Kernan Blvd. The easiest way to find the trails is to enter campus from the St. Johns Town Center side (from 9a). Once you enter campus, you’ll turn right into the lot right before you get to your first street light. This is where students and guests can buy their day parking pass. There are also a few parking spots in this lot as well, so you can park there for the trails. P
Parking at UNF is free on Saturdays and Sundays (unless there’s a special event). During the week, parking is only $3.
There are 5 different trails available, but I primarily just run the yellow trail called the Goldenrod Trail.
The blue trail is a little over 1 mile long, so people frequently walk on this trail rather than run. There’s a lot more traffic on this trail which makes it a bit more difficult to run on.
The Goldenrod Trail is between 2 – 2.8 miles long. The reason for the difference in length is that there’s actually an “extension” to this trail that can make it longer (the loop in the trail map above on the bottom left) but it’s easily to skip if you prefer the shorter distance.
A neat thing about the trails is that the UNF Biology Department also uses the trails for class research. They do a good job keeping the trails “groomed” by periodically laying out pine needles on the trails, clearing away trees and debris that falls on the path, and occasionally even conducting controlled burns. It’s definitely a sight to see to run through an area of the forest that’s recently been through a controlled burn!
I enjoy running through the trails because it looks really different throughout. Some areas are nicely groomed and tree covered, others are through gaps in the trees so the sun shines through. Some trail areas are skinny, some are exceptionally wide. There are even wooden bridges that are a lot of fun to run over.
Whenever I get to this section of the Goldenrod Trail (which also overlaps with the Blueberry Trail at this point), I try to sprint to the end of the boardwalk. Running on the trails is a bit slower, so you feel like you’re going super fast on these nice boards!
One thing to be prepared for is that the trails can be muddy at times. The good thing is there’s always an alternative way to get through an area that may be water logged like the above bridge or log shown to the left in the photo above. The photo below is the same area during a dryer period. You can usually run right through it, but sometimes it does collect water.
Some things to note, you never want to run alone in these trails. There are lots of roots and uneven ground throughout, so it’s possible you could roll your ankle or trip and fall without warning. If you’re prone to rolling your ankle, you may not want to run here at all to be honest. They do a great job grooming the trails, but you just can’t prepare for everything.
The trails can be confusing at first and it is easy to get lost. It sounds silly because it isn’t THAT big, but I have known people to get lost. So don’t run alone. Did I mention that you shouldn’t run alone here? Well… don’t.
If you’re scared of snakes and spiders, you probably want to stick to the road. There are tons here, and you’re bound to come across one at some point if you visit a few times. If you do find one, the best thing to do is to stay clear and leave them alone.
Bring sun screen. Bring bug spray. During certain times of the year, both are necessary.
Bring water, but in case you forget, there’s a water fountain (as well as restrooms) by the parking building which is right by the entrance/exit to the trails.
If running on it’s own isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, they’ve also sprinkled some World Trail outdoor workout stations throughout.
After your run, you and your friends can enjoy a picnic lunch to enjoy after your run in the shaded picnic area!
Where’s your favorite place in Jax to run?
Do you have a favorite area of town to run? Email me your favorite route, and maybe you’ll see it in an upcoming feature right here!
Together let’s RUN THIS TOWN!
|Stacey Steiner is a local runner and blogger at Starpulp.com. Stacey has run 5 half marathons and is about to run her sixth Gate River Run 15k. Her posts focus on race recaps, healthy recipes, product and restaurant reviews, event promotion, and contests. A proclaimed social media nerd, she has even been know to tweet while running a race! You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.