Take a Hike! - Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park
Itching to break away from the hustle and bustle of city life? Consider taking a hop, skip and a jump over to one of Tallahassee’s biggest urban oasis, Ellinor Klapp-Phipps Park! This gorgeous getaway is located north on Meridian, past Timberlane and Phipps’ expansive 670 acre tract of land on the eastern shore of Lake Jackson is sure to delight any nature lover. Birdwatching, scenic hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding. Boredom is a dying breed on the trails of Phipps Park!
The paths that twist and turn through Phipps ensure that every visit will be an exciting “Choose Your Own Adventure” of a hike. With so many forks in the trail, no two adventures will look the same. On my last visit with my 6 year old, I parked by the Meadows Soccer Complex off of Miller Landing Road. We took the mixed use trail down south west through the slope forest, past restorative longleaf pines and ancient, looming magnolias. We were without a map (the trail head was out of them at the time - you can print one from the city website here) but the clearly marked trails made them easy to navigate. Our goal was to find the creek and find the creek we did! On our journey, we also stumbled upon trickling streams, a wetland, a swamp and a lagoon. Yes, a lagoon in the middle of the forest. It was quite the site to see. I felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere, a feeling that is hard to come by so close to a big city. On our trip, my daughter and I only explored a small fraction of the 7.4 miles of available trials and we can’t wait to go back.
Aside from the serenity that washes over one’s soul on a quiet hike through the woods, Phipps is an enriching feast for the eyes and ears as wildlife abounds. For bird watching enthusiasts, the morning is the best time to head out for an ornithological odyssey. Phipps Park is site #66 on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and one can possibly spot: eastern bluebirds, indigo buntings, wild turkeys, wood and gray-cheeked thrushes, black nurnian warblers, anhingas, tricolored herons, ospreys and black-bellied whistling-ducks. If you are in the favor of the birding powers that be, you might even get a rare glimpse of a wintering Western Tanager! For a list of what fellow birders have seen at Phipps, check out the birding checklist.
Phipps Park is also a perfect location to see some of Florida’s most stunning butterfly varieties. Butterflies can be seen in the spring through fall, but mid-summer is prime. When exploring the trails of Phipps, bring along a butterfly brochure from the trailhead (or download one from the city website here) and keep an eye out for spread-wing skippers, like the silver-spotted, golden-banded, hoary edge and southern cloudywings.
There are two ways to access the Phipps Park trails. I have only ever used the Miller Landing Road entrance but I hear the entrance at the Meridian Youth Sports Complex is a great place to start as well. Here are some simple directions.
To park at the Meridian Youth Sports Complex (directions compliments of Florida Hikes! which has a spectacular write up on the park): From I-10 exit 203, go north on Thomasville Rd (SR 61 / US 319) for 0.9 mile to the traffic light for Maclay Road. Turn left and follow Maclay Road for 2.2 miles, passing the entrance to Maclay Gardens State Park and ending at a T intersection and traffic light with Meridian Road. Turn right and continue a half mile to the Meridian Youth Sports Complex on the left. Make a left and follow the one-way road around to the trailhead on the left.
To park at the Miller Landing entrance (reposted from Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail): Directions: From I-10 in Tallahassee, take exit 203 for US 319/SR 61/Thomasville Rd. Drive north for 0.9 mi. and turn left (west) on Maclay Rd. Follow Maclay Rd. for 2.2 mi. to its end and turn right (north) on N. Meridian Rd. Drive 1.0 mi. and turn left (west) on Miller’s Landing Rd.; the park entrance is 0.2 mi. ahead on the left (south) side of the road.
Next time you are needing that breath of fresh air, consider exploring the fabulous Phipps Park! Happy trails, friends.