Best Place to Hike - 2003
Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area
Hiking in South Florida can sound about as enticing as swimming in snot. It's hot, it's muggy, it's buggy, and -- let's face it -- those breathtaking vistas are few and far between. But if you pick your spots carefully, you'll discover that the natural wonders of the area extend far beyond the beach. The 747-acre Royal Palm Beach Pines proves that hiking in South Florida is not just oxymoronic or even just plain moronic. A stunning example of what the area used to look like before it was sliced and diced by developers to make room for well, us, it features what environmentalists call pine flatwoods and wet prairies. To enjoy this wonderland, put on some boots or some trashed-out shoes and walk. Along the way, you'll undoubtedly run into a wood stork or two, surely some anhingas drying their wings, and, if you're lucky, a bald eagle. Plants along the well-marked trails are among the rarest in South Florida. So go slowly. Observe. It's a hike, after all, not a jog. The hardest part is finding the western Palm Beach County preserve in the first place. It's north of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards, at the far end of the Saratoga subdivision. Call for directions so your walk in the woods doesn't turn into a frustrating drive through suburbia.