The Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail is a multi-use trail for walking, running, biking and other human-powered transportation. This 19-mile, paved path is also known as the Rail Trail because it follows the former rail line for the Florida East Coast Railway. The twelve-foot wide path is a beautiful linear park that runs alongside SR207 through the farmland of Elkton and Hastings.
There are three trailheads to the trail within St. Johns County with parking, picnic areas, and restrooms. These areas allow you to access the path at different points. Vermont Heights, Armstrong, and Hastings are the communities that host these trailheads.
When riding the trail with your family please practice good etiquette toward the other recreational users. Yield to faster riders or hikers/runners if you are on your bike. Prior to passing, a faster rider may call out “on your left” as a way to indicate their presence and position. Keep control of your group and be aware that cyclists can approach very quickly.
The closest trailhead is in Vermont Heights, just off the I-95 exit as you head toward Hastings at SR 207, Elkton, FL 32033. If you want to cycle the entire path, this is a perfect area to start. There is ample parking, a restroom, a water fountain, and a picnic area. The path to the west follows the road from this trailhead and may not be the best starting point if you are traveling with young children. You can take the path east to the old rail line, and the end of the path if you head toward St. Augustine.
**As of 8/22/2019 The playground at Armstrong park is being replaced and will be removed during the week of 8/19/2019. Parks and Recreation will complete the project in the Fall of 2019. We will post a notification as soon as the park is completed and ready for your children to play. Check back for updates!** For families, I suggest starting at the Armstrong trailhead, largely because this park has a fun little playground. To get to this area of the trail, turn left onto Armstrong road off 207, right next to the St Johns County Fairgrounds. After about a mile, the park is on your left at 4950 Harvey Ave, Elkton, FL 32033. This park includes three picnic pavilions, a playground, a multi-use field, swings, a basketball court, and access to the State Trail.
Armstrong Park is located within a historically Black community that thrived when the Florida East Coast Railway transported food grown in Hastings to the Ponce de Leon hotel (what is now Flagler College) in St. Augustine. There is a rich African American heritage here and many of the residents are Gullah Geechee. Historical markers along the trail identify points of interest and railroad relics. This part of the trail offers children a nice round trip in either direction under a shaded canopy of trees.
Cora C. Harrison Preserve
The newest trailhead is located just past Main street in Hastings at 9001 State Rd 207, Hastings, FL 32145. This park has a restroom, parking, a water fountain, and a picnic pavilion. If you head to the west (left) you will go over a bridge and past farm fields. The path crosses SR 207 after the fields, which I do not want to do with my slow family caravan. If you bike to the East (right) you have a perfect length for more advanced little bike riders before you must cross SR 207 again. If you ride this trail, you can stop just after the big crossing at Railroad Park, or drive down the main street for lunch.
St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop
This portion of the path will be part of the larger River to Sea Loop that is planned to cover 5 counties and 260 miles between the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean. The path into St. Augustine city limits has been partially funded (the area in purple) and will eventually connect the current trail with St. Augustine Beach.
A safe and beautiful trail for recreation is important for our community. The tragedies that have befallen so many skaters and bicyclists along our roads are appalling. The trail will increase the health, ecosystem, and economy of our city in addition to improving our quality of life.