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Recreation and Wellness

Nature Trails

History of the Trails

The Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails

Named for the Distinguished UNF Professor Robert W. Loftin, the trails at UNF continue to foster his memory while protecting over 500 acres of natural habitat. Today three main trails and two loop connector trails are open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset.

Encouraged by campus planner Hilton Meadows, the first President of UNF, Thomas G. Carpenter applied to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for campus designation as a state protected Bird Sanctuary to control hunting around campus. This designation continues to protect hundreds of acres and millions of organisms on UNF campus.

Robert Loftin along with the Sawmill Slough Conservation Club, UNF faculty, staff and community members established our original 12 mile nature trail system on campus. In early 1973 they were opened to the public and by 1977 were recognized as National Recreation Trails, listed by the Department of the Interior. Today the remaining 5 miles of trails are complemented with interpretive education signs and are maintained for environmental education, research and low impact recreation. The University of North Florida has one of the best natural assets of any Florida university. All policies and regulations are designed to protect the integrity of this site.

The Sawmill Slough Preserve

A three-hundred acre natural area on campus was designated as a preserve in May 2006 by UNF President John Delaney. The Sawmill Slough Preserve includes the original Sawmill Slough, a wetland habitat stretching through the western portion of the campus from Central Parkway to J Turner Butler Boulevard. In addition to the wetland, small areas of drier habitat including some longleaf pine-turkey oak woodlands may be found in the Preserve.

The stated purpose of the Preserve is to "assure that the Sawmill Slough Preserve will persist in a natural condition." The Preserve will protect the natural water drainage of the slough through campus as well as the native plants and animals associated with this habitat. The Preserve is a great place for a quiet hike or to view wildlife.

The curator of the Sawmill Slough Preserve is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of natural habitats in the Preserve and restoration of natural habitats where required. The Curator coordinates activities in the Preserve and represents the Natural Assets Management Plan in the Preserve. The position reports to the UNF Environmental Advisory Council. For more information please contact the Curator at or (904) 620-4261.

Visitor Information

Leave only your cares, Take only memories

Even after 35 years of growth, UNF continues to protect hundreds of acres of Wild Florida. All regulations are designed to protect the integrity of the habitat. Remember you are a visitor here; help us protect this place for future generations of plants, animals and people. Low-impact recreation, education, research and exploration continue as our guiding principles.

The Nature Trails are open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days per year.

Visitor Regulations

Nature Trails & Picnic Areas

  • Not Permitted: animals (except service animals), bicycles, motor vehicles, alcohol, weapons, metal detectors, camping, fires, plant or animal collection/release/harassment
  • Groups are welcome but must be registered with and have a contract prior to their arrival.
  • Picnic areas are first come first serve
  • Enjoy natural areas at your own risk; follow all posted signs
  • For your safety, walk or run in pairs; note red numbered posts
  • Campfires are not allowed on ground; grills for cooking are okay
  • Report interesting visitors or wildlife

 Campus Water Bodies

  • Call UNF Police Department at (904) 620-2800 to check-in
  • No swimming or diving
  • No harassing wildlife
  • No plant or animal collection or releasing


  • Catch and release only
  • No live fish as bait, shiners, etc.
  • Dispose of fishing line in trash receptacles appropriately
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission license regulations apply


  • Vessels available through Gear Checkout may be used on the lake; unauthorized vessels not permitted.
  • Personal flotation device required for every person
  • Be prepared and watch the weather

Our Trails

Goldenrod Trail

This 2.85 mile trail traverses the gambit of UNF habitats; from Swamp to Sand-hill, Flatwoods to Seepage Slope. Named for the goldenrod flowers that bloom in the Fall season, this single track provides good cover for birding and occupies a transition zone between swamp and sand-hill. This trail overlaps the Blueberry Trail at times.

Blueberry Trail

This 1.44 mile trail guides you around Lake Oneida, through pine Flatwoods and the deep swamp, overlapping the Goldenrod Trail at times. Blueberries are abundant here which feed bird, deer, both residents and migratory species as well. This trail also has permanent exercise stations for you to maintain a good work out.

Gopher Tortoise Ridge

This .78 mile sandy trail is home to a healthy Gopher Tortoise population. These land dwelling tortoises live over 60 years and provide underground homes to countless reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.

Big Cyprus Trail

Connecting the Goldenrod and Blueberry trail, this .47 mile loop passes by one of the grandfather Cypress Trees that lives on campus. The Cypress Tree is estimated to be over 500 years old.

Red Maple Boardwalk

Originally built in the late 1970’s, restored in 2017, this 0.31 mile trail is wheel chair accessible,1600 feet long, and traverses Buck Head Branch Swamp.Sitting areas and interpretive signs guide you through this quiet and beautiful wetland.

Donation and Sponsorship Opportunities

Donations to the Trails Foundation Account are used to maintain and improve our trails as well as address large initiatives like boardwalk repairs. All donations are tax deductible.

Give to the Trails

Leave your legacy at the UNF trails through an endowment, or by sponsoring a bench, lookout area or gazebo in your name.

  • *Red Cypress Sponsor: $25,000
  • Red Maple Sponsor: $10,000
  • Cypress Sponsor: $5,000
  • Loblolly Sponsor: $2,500
  • Yellow Pine Sponsor: $1,000

*For $25,000 you will create a named endowment that will fund the Nature Trails and boardwalk system in perpetuity.

For sponsorship information, please contact us at