Best Nature Trail Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2007 - Cypress Creek Trail at Fern Forest Nature Center
In South Florida, getting "close to nature" often means fishing off a crowded pier or getting spritzed with juniper-berry body spray in the mall. But it doesn't have to be this way. At the Fern Forest Nature Center, easily found just south of Atlantic Boulevard on Lyons Road, you can stroll one of five very different trails. They range from the long (the one-mile Prairie Overlook trail loops through an open prairie) to the arduous (boots are recommended for the primitive and often soggy Maple Trail) to the wimpy (the Wetlands Wonder trail is a mere eighth of a mile, less than the average Super Wal-Mart). But our favorite trail splits the differences: The Cypress Creek trail is a half-mile jaunt through a tropical hardwood hammock. Willowy branches of red maples and bald cypresses shade a handicapped-accessible wooden pathway, giving a simultaneous sense of protection and immersion. But don't get too comfortable: Gray foxes and bobcats occasionally terrorize the trail, which takes about 20 minutes to complete and lands you at the nature center. Bonus: It's all free.