Fort George Island Trail is a roughly 3.5 mile loop with a few stop-offs that include Point Isabel and Mount Cornelia (an actual almost-mountain, in Jacksonville!). It’s located near Kingsley Plantation, right across from the Ribault Clubhouse.
This trail marked week two of our go-out-and-hike-as-often-as-possible accidental New Year’s resolution, and although we didn’t have as much time to do a longer trail, this one was plenty interesting. Where the Levy Loop trail in Gainesville was nearly a perfect oval, this trail was pretty twisty-turny — I can see getting turned around pretty easily if you stray too far from the path. But something about not being able to see too far ahead down your path adds an extra element of adventure, and the miles go by a lot faster.
About one mile in, we found a little stop off with a big sign that warned of alligators and what to do if you come across one (which fortunately did not happen to us). Right beyond the sign is a shady cove on the bank of an algae-covered pond. If you hike for the sole purpose of finding good places to take a snack break, definitely add this one to your list. The quiet and the slight drizzle we had going on gives this place a sort of magical feeling, and I was glad we decided not to just walk past it.
The next mile and a half or so were through the woods — tall, vine-covered trees with spidery limbs full of Spanish moss. At times the trail was almost completely covered with leaves, but the trail markers were frequent enough that we didn’t accidentally wander.
I read before going that there’s an abandoned golf course somewhere on this trail, but there’s nothing that explicitly points it out. My best guess is that the sandy clearings we passed every quarter-mile or so used to be the different holes.
By about two miles into the hike, there’s one particularly wide clearing that forks to Point Isabel or continues on to the end of the trail. Point Isabel is most definitely the highlight of this hike, and although it adds a little extra time on, it would be a shame to pass up. The trail takes you along the coast to a concrete staircase, down about 30 steps to a gorgeous beach with a bench (another must-snack spot, for sure).
We spent a good 15 minutes here, refueling and taking in the scenery. The dunes underneath the clouds reminded me of something out of a Dali painting, and the water was super still. We saw a few pelicans, herons, some more birds I couldn’t begin to identify — it was good stuff.
After backtracking to the main trail, we were pretty immediately offered the option to trek up Mount Cornelia, or just continue on to the end. Since the objective is obviously More Adventure Always, and since I wanted to be able to say I climbed a Real Life Mount(ain) right here in Jacksonville, of course we decided to go for it.
As mountains go, I guess this one is pretty disappointing. As mountains in Florida go, this actually happens to be the highest point along the southeastern coastline! So that’s pretty nifty. Once you decide to head up Mount Cornelia the path has already started to steepen, and after about a minute, you’ve reached the top. Nichole and I performed a very solid high-five in commemoration of our achievement before beginning our descent and returning to the main trail.
At this point in the hike, there’s probably less than a half a mile back to the parking lot, but that was plenty of time for a few random armadillos to come hurtling out of the bushes and scare the crap out of me.
If we’d had more time before they closed, we might have gone inside the Ribault Clubhouse and checked that out, but that will have to be another time I guess. Overall, I’m happy to now know the exact location of Jacksonville’s sort-of-mountain. This trip also taught me to be a lot more generous with the bug spray, in hopes of not bringing ticks home with us next time.