Best Hike/Palm Beach County - 2000
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
If variety is the spice of life, then the nine and a half-mile loop trail at Jonathan Dickinson is one flavor-filled hike. Wending along its way, the trail itself varies from loose-packed sand to dirt to downright bog (especially during the rainy season, from June through October). The path is well maintained by the Florida Trail Association, though, and while it's changing its geological makeup, the strand carries hikers through six different habitat zones, from open plains to a thick forest of vine-covered trees that seem to form a wall. Toward the end of the one-way loop, a lake comes into view, and the area is a good one in which to spot the occasional armadillo, alligator, or raccoon. About midway around the loop, a well and pump have been installed, but water from them needs to be thoroughly treated and filtered, so you might as well bring enough of your own clean H2O -- at least two quarts per hiker. As if more than nine miles isn't enough for a good day's trudge, a spur trail heads off some three more miles to a primitive campground, where wanderers will find another water pump and an outhouse. (Hey, we said primitive.) Camping overnight requires advance authorization from the park.