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Untangling the Jacksonville Woodlands

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

The Latin phrase 'solvitar ambulando' is the best way to approach the trail puzzle of the woodlands: "It is solved by walking." But if you prefer guidance, here's a hand-drawn map of my favorite winter route.

I'm obviously not a cartographer, so I have included sequenced and captioned trail sign photos for reference. You can print this!

I have hiked the Jacksonville woodlands nearly every day for ten years. What started as a way to offset cheese-and-wine indulgence, has become so much more: a life-changing practice. As I tread along its paths, I’ve had many inspirations—for businesses, and art projects, for essays that I’d compose while I walked, each turn-of-phrase coming with each the turn of the trail. I have plodded the woodlands paths during seasons of heartbreak, and nearly galloped them giddy in love. To the Jacksonville Woodlands Association and the trail namesakes—like “Liz” and “Jane”: Thank you for this place!

There are over a dozen different trails winding around each other within this protected 255-acres. First time visitors can be confounded by the maze—and the map posted at the trailheads doesn't always clear things up: it can look like a pile of spaghetti dropped on a page.

The upside of this complexity is that the trails can be mixed-and-matched according to the season in order to maximize sun or shade, to match the length of hike you desire, or to accommodate how much uphill and downhill you want to take on.

The best and most interesting way to learn the routes is by walking them. The Latin phrase solvitar ambulando means “It is solved by walking,” and I think that applies here!

But if you are short on time or patience, I have provided here a hand-drawn map my favorite winter route—a sort of “trail hack”. I prefer this route in winter because it maximizes sun exposure in an otherwise fairly shady grove. It also provides a nice stretch of relatively flat walking. But do note: since the woodlands criss-cross a hillside, steep sections are all but inevitable. The route here is about 3.2 miles—far enough to settle into a rhythm and have a few inspirations of your own.

Since I’m quite obviously not a cartographer (nor a precise artist!), I have also sequenced together captioned photographs of trail signs. Follow these, and you should be right on track!

I’ll share my summer route when things heat up a bit more.

Have a great hike!

In the winters, I like to set off from the sunny parking lot behind the Britt Amphitheater. This is Rich Gulch Trail.

Follow the signs to Panorama Point.

Keeping heading up to Panorama Point.

A very beautiful madrone waits for you on Panorama Point.

Things get a little confusing after you head down from Panorama Point. Stay on the wide path and follow the signs to Petard Loop.

You'll know you're on track when you see this sign.

You've arrived at Petard Loop! I prefer to walk clockwise in the winter to get get a little sun on my face and to build up some warmth by starting with the uphill portion.

After you finish the loop, follow the signs back to Rich Gulch Trail. That will get you back to the parking lot.

Stay on Rich Gulch to the parking area behind the Britt Amphitheater.

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