This is Hike #45 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, started on August 22, 2019 (Part 1). Part 2 was completed on May 23, 2021.
Due to the hotter Florida Summer weather, I had not hiked in three months. But I had a day off and this park was nearby and sounded promising. I didn’t get a really early start, arriving at the park around 11:40 am after a 20-minute drive.
The book lists two hikes in the preserve. The first is Spruce Creek Bluffs, a 5.6-mile loop trail, which is what I did. The second is Spruce Creek Park / Rose Bay, a short out-and-back plus a loop, for another 2.6 miles. The total hiking distance is 8.2 miles.
The Spruce Creek Bluffs area has trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The beginning of the trail from the West Trailhead was used by hikers and bikers. After just a few minutes on the trail, I decided I would have to come back in the Fall with my mountainbike. Although there were lots of bike tracks, I could tell by the number of spiderwebs that no bikes had been there in the recent past.
The first ten or 15 minutes were pleasant enough. But soon I was swatting at the occasional horsefly. As I kept walking along the winding perimeter trail, the frequency of the horseflies increased. I soon reached Bailout A, the first of three connecting trails to the main Bluff Trail, used to quickly return to the trailhead.
I continued north along the very winding perimeter trail. The amount of horseflies steadily increased to the point where I was exercising my arms nearly as much as my legs. I passed Bailout B with the brief thought of taking it. I optimistically trudged on. The conditions got worse so that when I reached Bailout C, I seriously considered abandoning the hike and returning to my car.
I hadn’t quite reached the scenic bluffs, the main attraction of this hike, so I kept going. I was walking quickly, just trying to get through this section. The view at Sunset Point was nice, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it. When I stopped walking for any length of time, the horseflies really swarmed. I had a quick look and snapped a few photos.
At Sunset Point the perimeter trail meets the main Bluff Trail that goes back south. I headed down it hoping the conditions here would improve. They didn’t, at first. I don’t normally carry the 50 Hikes in Central Florida book with me, but on this day I was glad I did. I knew there were lots of crossing trails and there was the potential to take a wrong turn; I nearly did two or three times. The written directions in the book helped a lot.
The second half of the Bluff Trail got better. It was mostly shaded and the horseflies nearly stopped buzzing my head. After about 3.5 miles, I reached 6 Corners. As its name suggests, it was the juncture of six trails. I turned left and began the well-marked Overlook Trail. The horseflies returned and I actually jogged a portion of this trail to lessen the annoyance and complete it quicker. This trail reached Spruce Creek and provided two good overlooks of the river and marsh (see photo, at top).
After quickly enjoying the views, I continued on, wanting to finish this hike as soon as possible. The time was after 1:00 pm and the day was beginning to get warm. However, the most miserable part of the hike was still to come. The next segment was a trail along powerlines, which meant a straight trail in thick sand, in the hot sunshine, and still swarming with horseflies. Breathing harder here, I actually inhaled and swallowed a couple horseflies. Yuck.
Here was another place I nearly missed my turn. There were two service/equestrian trails that went off to the right that I was not supposed to take. I passed them. But the second also included my needed perimeter trail which I passed. After checking the book and my hiking app, I turned around and found the correct trail. I was hot and exhausted at this point. Fortunately the final 3/4 mile was shaded and the horseflies abated. At the end, I had never been more happy to be finished with a day-hike.
Sitting in my MINI, I cooled down and changed shoes and shirt. I looked in the rearview mirror, startled to see seven bloody dots on my forehead and cheek. Horsefly bites. I could only guess the number on my back. I did my best to wash off the blood. I also decided I was done hiking for the day, the second hike would have to wait until tomorrow.
Since I was done hiking for the day, it was time to get my reward. I planned my return drive to pass by downtown New Smyrna Beach and a stop at New Smyrna Beach Brewing. It was nearing 3:00 pm and I worried they might not yet be open. A quick search on my phone told me they opened at 3:00 pm. Perfect! I found the men’s room, washed my face and arms, found a corner bar seat, and ordered a flight of beers (numbered right-to-left).
Postscript to Part 1
The next day I motored down to Spruce Creek Park to complete Part 2 of the hike. I was hopeful that conditions would be better closer to the coast. I was wrong. I found the trailhead and walked the long wooden boardwalk to the start of the trail to Rose Bay. However, as soon as I started down the sandy trail the horseflies swarmed again. Quickly deciding that I wasn’t putting myself through more torture, I turned around and returned to my car. I will return sometime in the Fall to complete this short hike.
After 21 months, I finally returned to Spruce Creek Park to complete this hike on May 23, 2021. I hoped that being a different time of year from my last attempt, the horseflies would not be a problem. Thankfully, this time they weren’t.
The morning was unseasonably cool for May. I set off a little after 11:00 am. The trail started with a long boardwalk across the marsh.
The proper trail began at the end of the boardwalk. This first section was wooded and shady. Soon I reached the Bird Observation Tower. There were other people in the tower, so I decided to continue the hike (and visit the tower on the way back).
This is an educational trail and there were many signs—some marked points with latitude and longitude. Others had poems added by visitors.
Soon I arrived in a clearing that held a pavilion, used for outdoor classes, on the left. To the right was a short side trail that went to the shore of Rose Bay. This spot had a pleasant view of the bay and US1.
After a short stop, I continued west as the trail dove into the mangroves. The tide was out, so I was able to walk some distance until the trail was underwater. Here I chased swarms of tiny fiddler crabs.
I turned around and followed the same trail back to the Bird Observation Tower.
This time the tower was vacant, so I climbed the stairs to have a look. The view looks west over Spruce Creek.
A nice couple arrived so I turned the tower over to them. I returned on the same trail back to where I started at the first boardwalk.
The suggested route was not finished so I walked west to start a small loop trail. Around the middle of the loop trail part of the hike, I came to a long fishing pier. I walked out to the end of the pier for panoramic views of Spruce Creek.
I returned to the loop trail and continued counterclockwise back to the parking lot. Unlike Part 1, this day was reasonable cool with no horseflies at all. This part of the hike was less than three miles.
Since I was again near New Smyrna Beach, I made the short drive down to New Smyrna Beach Brewing for a cold pint.