What a wonderful there-and-back trail. A little of everything and a lot of fun!
This trail at Little Orange Creek Preserve is called a Kathy Cantwell Trail. But it is not physically connected to the Kathy Cantwell Trail you can find at Prairie Creek Preserve, also in Alachua County. You may take it as an easy. be taken as a 4.2 mile there-and-back trail. Or, you may choose to shorten it slightly by using the new trail addition as a loop.
Great for a short hike, nature walk, or a morning run, this trail is easy, well-kept, and well-blazed. The trail twists and turns through a woodsy canopy with a surprising diversity of flora including pine, various oak, beech, pignut hickory and more. You’ll spot many wildflowers, wide-leafed grasses, and ferns. It’s particularly nice for an autumn or winter short hike during hunting season. No hunting is allowed here, making it safe for your leisure time. Plus, the abundant beech trees add beautiful red splashes throughout.
Have a sit!
2022 Trail Update
As of summer 2022, you’ll find a new, half-mile section of trail added. Don’t miss it! Though short, it connects at two intersections of the main trail. In this way, you can take the new trail to form more of a loop. It also offers a nice, relatively long incline on the way back to get those muscles going. The trail takes you out of the woods for some open views and fun birding opportunities.
Hiking Little Orange Creek Preserve
Starting from the trailhead off of County Road 20 (NE 6th Ave between Gainesville and Interlachen) you will enter narrow but well-maintained trail that takes you into the woods. There’s not much altitude gain, and the trail is even though winding.
There’s a lot of sound from the highway, but that soon fades into the background but soon overcome by bird calls, croaking frogs and other sounds of nature. Palmettos have not overrun the area, and the quick moves from entirely shaded, wetland areas with ferns and frogs to more open areas will keep anyone interested in local flora and fauna quite busy. If you go in the early morning, you may spot armadillos, possums, and deer. Plus, for infrequent hikers, you will find benches at about every third of a mile to stop and take a rest.
Little Blue Heron
Observation Areas Offer Nice Views of Orange Creek
At little over halfway in, an observation deck offers a great view of a prairie. Take in and watch for herons, ibis and other birds in the wide and sunny distance. Meanwhile, the mostly canopy shaded trail provides swampy areas and plenty of shade with a few breaks to let in the sun and very nice views.
The last leg of your short hike is a bit less even – not hilly, but some quick ups and downs as the trail leads you to yet another nice view. After a narrow boardwalk, you are greeted by an expansive marshland where the waters are quite alive! I spotted no alligators, but something big was moving in there. A bench welcomes you to stop and take in the view.