I remember being afraid. Alone in the woods for the first time by myself on a trail to nowhere. Hiking pack filled with essentials, sleek and light-but still too heavy-I was on a mission. A mission to hike the nearby forest trails I had heard about from a friend. I was 17.
Now I know it well, having hiked many times on the Citrus Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest. Located directly west of Inverness, Florida, the Citrus Trail is a 40+ mile hike stretching across some of Florida’s most punishing, glorious and secret hiking spots in the state.
The Citrus trail is composed of four distinct loop trails or sections. Together, over 40 miles of trail exist and that number increases with each additional section that is added to the proposed west corridor of the Florida National Trail. It now connects with the Withlacoochee State Trail, doubling the length of trail sections available for hiking and biking.
Section “A” of the Citrus trail is the shortest loop. It is known as the day loop. This 8.5 mile hike into the interior of the northern most section of the Withlacoochee State Forest is filled with amazing scenery you would never expect in Florida. Hilly bluffs filled with scrub oaks create an amazing labyrinth that is easy to navigate with the orange blazes on each tree.
The perfect lunch spot can be found midway through the hike on “A” section. Known as Bull Sink, this natural sinkhole really isn’t a hole at all. A sunken prairie yields some of the best areas for watching wildlife in the forest. This area is strictly off limits to any hunting and the animals seem to know it.
“B” loop and “C” loop are very similar in diversity and length. The only difference between the two is that “B” loop has a camping area called Perryman’s Place for hikers only. While there is no water at the site, there is a fire ring and log benches set up with level ground for tents. There are even a couple of good places to stick a hammock.
“D” loop is without a doubt my favorite section of the Citrus Trail. This 20 mile loop has a similar campground to “B” loops campground, but boasts sinkholes, ghost towns, rock formations and caves. Dames Caves is located just off the western section of “D” loop. You can also find the two ghost towns complete with cemeteries along “D” loop at Mannfield and Lizzie Hart Sink.
Two full service campgrounds, Mutual Mine and Holder Mine are connected to the trail, allowing you to get fresh water and supplies.