Within the city limits of northern Palm Beach County is a treasure known as Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area. The natural area protects “slash pine flatwoods, live oak hammock, cypress swamp, hydric hammock and tidal swamp and mangrove habitat”. The natural preserve is located at 12201 Prosperity Farms Road, right off Prosperity Farms Road, not to far from the Garden’s Mall in Palm Beach Gardens. Follow the winding drive to a small parking area and prepare to step backward in time to the old Florida of the first settlers in South Florida.
Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area consists of 4 trails. Each of the different trails are described on the information board and it describes which type of wildlife you may expect to see on your hike. If you prefer not to walk very far in this 158-acre natural area, make your way to the covered observation platform with benches and views of the lake where fish and softshell turtles swim.
The easiest and shortest trail is the Blazing Star Nature Trail for an easy walk on paved surface that loops back around a 0.4 miles distance. You will find lots of shades from the majestic live oaks and birds, tortoises, squirrels and iguanas. The Saw Palmetto Hiking Trail is the main loop, with yellow markers. It is a very sandy 1.3 miles hike through Florida splash pine, sabal palm and Virginia live oaks. The Staggerbush Hiking Trail, with red markers, runs east and meets the 500-foot Cypress Swamp elevated boardwalk which loops back through scrub habitat.
Palm Beach County Natural Areas System is encompassed of environmentally sensitive lands that are managed by the County's Department of Environmental Resources Management. These natural areas, with their biological characteristics were acquired “to preserve the rare and diverse native ecosystems present on these sites and the endangered, threatened, and rare species of plants and animals that live there”. There is no smoking, hunting, fishing or feeding wildlife and no alcoholic beverages or pets allowed at Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area.