The Florida Trail meanders from the southern most tip of Florida to the northern end of the panhandle. In the central corridor of the trail is the states largest water supply, the Green Swamp. While it may seem like a mosquito and mud filled hike, it in fact is relatively dry. The only water you can see is a few swamp bottoms and the Withlacoochee River. While it can get a bit muddy during the wet season (winter), high bluff trails allow one to circumvent the area.
This linear trail is located between the three cities of Dade, Lakeland and Zephyrhills. This trail can be hiked easily in one day with two cars. The two trailheads are located on opposite ends of the trail. The River Road Trailhead is located off of River Road on US 301 in Dade City. The CR 471 Trailhead is located off of US 98 on CR 471 about 5 miles between Lakeland and Zephyrhills. Full services can be found at either town.
Primitive camping is allowed in the forest for a small fee. Colt Creek State Park Campground is nearby CR 471 and offers a full service camping experience. Withlacoochee River Park offers even more camping opportunities, easily making this hike into an overnight adventure.
Much of this hike meanders through flat bottom pine scrubs, offering a great opportunity to see the endangered scrub jay and gopher tortoise in their natural habitats. Wildlife abounds in this wildlife management area (WMA) and it hosts some of the best whitetail deer and Osceola turkey hunting in the state. Care should be taken when hiking during hunting seasons.
High bluffs and scenic views around gator hole make for an interesting story and pictures. A primitive camping area is nearby. Further along the trail, a number of humorous bridges cross wet areas. Names like “No Jumping Bridge” makes you laugh when you realize it’s only a few inches off of the ground.
This is a great day hike or overnight hike for anyone who lives or visits the state of Florida.