Hiking Trails of Florida’s National Forests, Parks, and Preserves

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Book Excerpt Below

Hiking Trails of Florida’s
National Forests,
Parks, and Preserves, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 0-8130-2110-3

This book covers hiking destinations throughout the Sunshine State, from the Panhandle to the Everglades. Truly a comprehensive book.

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Book Overview

And as more and more transplants move to Florida from other states, they are bringing their passion for hiking with them. Once here, they find surprisingly ample outlets for their feet and pass on the word about just how good hiking in Florida can be. So what makes hiking here so appealing?

A unique hiking environment — most of Florida stretches along a peninsula that juts southward into Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. This southward direction and being situated between these bodies of water helps result in Florida having flora unlike other hiking areas in the United States. Where else in U.S. mainland can you walk beneath palms or tread through a tropical hardwood hammock?

Florida has a long hiking season and is ideal for walking during times when it can be unpleasant elsewhere. The lower part of the peninsula, in such areas as Everglades National Park, the drier, cooler weather, is during winter and early spring. In central Florida, the hiking season extends from late fall through early spring. Finally, moving north, hikers can comfortably enjoy the trails from fall through spring.

Backpacker on Florida Trail in Osceola National Forest

Book Excerpt

Florida Trail, Olustee Battlefield to Turkey Run

Begin: Olustee Battlefield

End: Turkey Run Trailhead

Distance: 9.7 miles

Trail Difficulty: Difficult when water is high

Highlights: Civil War battle site, trail shelter

Hazards: Wet trail

Trail Connections: Florida Trail, Turkey Run to Deep Creek, Ocean Pond Connector Trail

Season: Spring through fall

Maps: Osceola National Forest map

Trailhead: From the Osceola Ranger Station, 12 miles east on Lake City on US 90, keep east on US 90 for 3.2 miles past the ranger station to the Olustee Battlefield. Turn left into the battlefield area and turn left again into a parking area just past the railroad tracks on your left.

This section of the Florida Trail is well marked, groomed and maintained. Formerly known as the Osceola Trail, it starts out at the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battlefield and heads into attractive pine flatwoods, passing occasional cypress depressions. It then keeps north and west, eventually coming to a welcome trail shelter on the banks of a waterway. This section of the Florida Trail ends shortly after the shelter, at the Turkey Run trailhead.

Leave the Olustee parking area and head north, crossing a boardwalk and passing through the Olustee Battlefield site, a state park, on a gravel road. In February, 1864, Union forces had taken Jacksonville and headed west to cut off Confederacy bound food supplies from central Florida. Southern forces picked Olustee as a good defensive place, with Ocean Pond on one side and a deep swamp on the other. The opposing armies battled beneath the towering pines until dark and the Union was forced to retreat easterly to Jacksonville. The state park provides picnic tables and a water spigot

Today, the Florida Trail winds beneath tall longleaf pines with a mown grassy understory. This spot, first memorialized in 1913 by the Florida legislature, is used for the battle reenactment held every February. Beyond the battlefield site, palmetto grows under the longleafs and the FT shares treadway with the Nice Wander Loop, a nature trail. Pass through a clearing and a wet area overlain with boardwalks then reach Forest Road 208 at 1.0 mile. Turn left on Forest Road 208 and follow it for .4 mile — the Florida Trail then reenters the woods on road right. The forest here is young and offers less shade.

Come to a long boardwalk at mile 1.6 and reenter pine/palmetto flatwoods, swinging around a cypress head on your left. Pass another cypress head at mile 2.2. Keep through open flatwoods until a oak woods are reached just before coming to Cobb Hunt Camp at mile 3.5. The FT meanders through the camp to intersect a logging berm at mile 3.7. Turn right. The berms of these logging tracks were raised so trains could get through the often-soggy forests. Laurel oak, pine and bay complement the cypress trees. A boardwalk traverses the wettest section. Leave the berm at mile 4.3, making a sharp left and come to Forest Road 207A. Cross the road and enter a timbered section of forest, coming back to shady woods at mile 4.5. Swing around a marsh and a dug pond, then come to County Road 250A at mile 5.1. Take a few steps to the right along the road and step back into the woods. The Florida Trail reaches a junction at 5.4 miles. A blue-blazed path leads left one mile to Ocean Pond Campground.(INSERT FIGURE #16 HERE)

Keep northwesterly through pine, bay and palmetto woods, soon coming to Forest Road 268, which also leads to Ocean Pond Campground. Keep forward and cross a long boardwalk over a cypress head. There are numerous bay trees in this area. Emerge onto Forest Road 241 at mile 6.2. Turn right along the forest road to County Road 250A. Turn left here and walk over the paved road to cross I-10, where the cars below are moving startlingly fast. Leave the high speed world behind at the bottom of the bridge and dive left into the woods at mile 6.8. Soon cross Forest Road 263B and begin a long stretch of open flatwoods. Come to a pine plantation at mile 7.7, and wind among the dense rows of shade bearing evergreens, emerging onto County Road 250A at mile 8.2. While crossing the road, you also bridge a creek below you.

Pass through an ATV-proof gate and parallel the stream, soon turning away from the water and resuming a westerly course through pine flatwoods. Watch for a pond off to your left at mile 8.6. Keep northwest, coming to a footbridge over a creek and turn sharply right. Dead ahead is a trail shelter, at mile 9.3. This shelter has wood board floor, is open on all sides, and is covered with a tin roof supported by beams at the corners. A metal fire grate is nearby. Water can be obtained from the creek below and a vault toilet lies a short distance away.

To continue on the Florida Trail, backtrack just a short distance, and continue northwesterly. The trail bisects a timber cut then pine plantations, crossing another stream. Emerge onto County Road 250 and the Turkey Run trailhead at 9.7 miles. It is 11.4 miles west on the Florida Trail to Deep Creek trailhead and the end of the FT through the Osceola National Forest.