Just north of St. Augustine is a nearly hidden gem known as the GTM Research Reserve. When planning my visit to Anastasia State Park, I looked for somewhere else nearby that I could log some trail miles, since Anastasia only offers 2 short hiking trails. Fortunately, I found nearly 15 miles of multi-use trails at nearby GTM, so I brought my mountain bike to check out as many miles as possible in one afternoon. I was not disappointed.
GTM Research Reserve is short for Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, so named for the rivers that course through its properties. A collaboration between Florida’s DEP and NOAA, this reserve has a northern section and a southern section, separated by St. Augustine in the middle. The trails I rode are located in the north, the same section as their Environmental Education Center.
Separating the Tolomato and Guana Rivers, this northern section of the reserve forms the southern tip of a great forested coastal island that sits in the middle of the Intracoastal Waterway. GTM actually extends across the Guana River to the ocean, where beach access is available. However, these trails are solely on the island, as you’ll see in the map below. Island access from A1A is across the Guana River Dam, which seems to be a popular spot.
The trails begin at the furthest parking lot, just past the dam. These nicely wooded trails offer several beautiful views of both rivers, including the point where the rivers join at the southern tip of the island. From here they flow south to St. Augustine harbor, join the Matanzas River, and flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
GTM Research Reserve is far more extensive than this little slice of heaven, with 4 discreet sections in the north and more than 10 individual sections in the south that fall under its umbrella, including 2 state parks and 2 state forests. Links to more information on these sections are provided below, in case you’d like to investigate other trails available within its jurisdiction.
Check out the Photo Gallery to get the full picture (pun intended), the links provided, and the map of my ride below. If you’re looking for other great places to experience Florida’s Natural Wonders, see our Bucket List and Where-to-Go for hiking, biking, paddling, and other outdoor activities throughout the state.
Map of my trail ride: