Quaint bridges, cypress-lined ponds, shady pine forests, magnificent old live oak trees, a historic battlefield, flocks of wild turkeys: They’re all part of the lovely landscape that makes Riverbend Park in Jupiter a delightful place to explore.
Opened two years ago, the Palm Beach County park is particularly fine for a family bicycling outing. It’s also the starting point for the outstanding canoe or kayak trip down the Loxahatchee.
We visited Riverbend twice recently — once with our canoe, once with our bicycles. The best paddling option is covered in this post about the Loxahatchee. That paddle down the Loxahatchee hasn’t changed in decades, which is good, because it is just about perfect.
What’s new at Riverbend Park, though, is the extensive trail system. The entire 680 acres is criss-crossed with hard-packed shell trails designed to be shared by hikers and bicyclists. (While not paved, the trail surface was fine for even our skinny-tire bike.)
The trails are so entwined, in fact, that it drove us a little batty trying to follow where we were on the detailed park trail map. Our advice: Give up and just enjoy the scenery. You can’t get lost and the worst that can happen is you’ll cover the same trail multiple times.
The longest stretch for a cyclist who just wants to pedal through the woods is the 1.5 mile section of the Ocean to Lake portion of the Florida Trail that runs through the park. I’d recommend taking that first and then meandering along the other trails. With 10 miles of trails, we managed to spend a nice afternoon doing that.
The trails are all scenic, with many passing through shady woods and all of them providing vistas across marshes, ponds and rivers. We saw many families bicycling, and the short loops and wildlife seemed ideal for kids.
Pack a picnic and enjoy the chickee hut shelters scattered throughout the park. Ours came with a resident peacock, one of several we spotted on the grounds. Native birds were plentiful, too, including a flock of two dozen turkeys.
The turkeys were encountered as we walked the less-developed northwest corner of the park, where the historic live oaks once witnessed the Battles of the Loxahatchee, skirmishes between the Seminole and the U.S. Military in 1838. The park has set aside a future battle re-enactment area and there is an active preservation society involved in developing this area.
I should note that the park does offer paddle and canoe trails within its own series of ponds and rivers. You have to portage your canoe from the Loxahatchee River into this system. Our experience, however, was the that these trails are so narrow, shallow, overgrown with aquatic plants and difficult to navigate that paddling here was far less satisfying than the river itself.
We loved Riverbend Park and it is perfect for many uses, but be warned that its level of development — all those nice trails — means you never feel like you’re in a very wild place.
Canoe Outfitters, the concessionaire that rents boats for the Loxahatchee trips, also rents bicycles at very reasonable rates — another reason it’s a good outing with kids. Adult bikes are $10 for a half day; kids’ bikes are $5 a half day. Rent a bike and a kayak and you get 10 percent off.
- Riverbend Park
- Park’s trail map
- Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservationists
- Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage
- Canoe Outfitters (for both bicycle and boat rentals)
- Canoeing or kayaking the Loxahatchee
More things to do in Palm Beach County and nearby:
- A great beach and kayaking spot, MacArthur State Park
- Peanut Island County Park, a beach, kayak and snorkeling destination with a unique historic site
- Howley’s, an authentic 1950s diner in West Palm Beach
- Lake Trail, a bike trail on the elite island of Palm Beach