Tiger Bay State Forest sits just a few miles outside of downtown Daytona like a hidden little gem. Even long time residents of the city don't realize it is there. The state forests of Florida are the unsung cousins of the bustling and often award-winning state park system, but rarely get the attention they deserve due to their lack of development towards camping, fishing and other recreational activities. Tiger Bay State Forest is the same; it hosts a more primitive setting and only hosts one formal hiking trail - the Buncombe Hill Trail.
The Buncombe Hill Trail runs in a two mile loop about the state forest and provides a look at its most scenic area. The forest gets its name from the ancient marine terrace that runs between two ridges creating a vibrant wetlands full of native wildlife. The wetlands cover over 40% of the park, but hikers will only get their feet wet in the dampest of years.
The trail starts at the Indian Lake Recreation Area, skirting Indian Lake itself before moving on to the outlaying wetlands. While hikers can spot the wetlands from the trail, it primarily winds through loosely growing pine forests, oak hammocks and sandy scrub areas.
Lucky hikers may be able to spot a few shards of broken terra cotta pots lying on the ground. These clay pots were used to collect pine resin in the area for turpentine production in the early 1900s. Park rangers have collected the majority of the intact pots and they are on display in the visitor's center, but finding an intact one that sports its trademark etched cat fact on the side is a rarity.
Near the northern part of the loop as the forest dips into thick oak trees, hikers will notice some old and long degrades ruins of a homestead that used to thrive in the area. All that remains of the building aside from its foundation is pieces of a tin roof and an old rusted iron gate. There is a fair bit of melted glass in the area that suggests that the homestead house actually burnt down rather than being abandoned to rot in the damp Florida heat.
As the loop skirts between US Highway 92 and the swamp lands, visitors will happen across a strange patch of brick paved flat land among the sandy scrubs. This is among one of the last remaining pieces of the old Pershing Highway. This was once a beautiful red brick road that connected towns around Daytona after being constructed in 1917. It has long been defunct since the construction of modern highways after World War II, but the piece that sits lonely and dilapidating in the Tiger Bay State Forest is remarkably preserved.
The remainder of the trail is uneventful as hikers slug their way through the sandy scrubs that stretch on towards Daytona Beach, however the hiking doesn't have to be done after visitors return back to Indian Lake. While there is only one formal hiking trail in Tiger Lake, visitors are still welcome to walk the rest of the state forest at their leisure. Tiger Bay is relatively small, making it difficult to get lost in the area, but it is a wonderful piece of wilderness. However, visitors need to be careful near the swamplands and lakes. Some of the nine lakes and ponds as well as the swamp land in between have a few alligators. For those that stick to dry land away from the water, visitors will be privileged to see a number of wildlife including white-tailed deer, foxes, rabbits and feral hogs. Tiger Bay also happens to be a ripe area for bird watchers. Thousands of birds live here including the wood stork, Bachman's sparrow and bald eagle. On sunny days, hikers will likely spot more than a few bird watchers with their eyes on the skies hanging around the woods.