What a wonderful there-and-back trail. A little of everything and a lot of fun!
Let’s first get some bookkeeping out of the way. This 4.2 mile (combined, there-and-back) 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.
Great for a short hike, nature walk, or a morning run, this trail is easy, well-kept, and well-blazed with orange paint. The trail twists and turns through a woodsy canopy with a surprising diversity of flora including pine, various oak, beach nut, pignut hickory and more. You’ll spot many wildflowers, wide-leafed grasses, and ferns.
Have a sit!
An observation deck offers a great view of a prairie with birding opportunities. 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.
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 are an infrequent hiker, there are benches at about every third of a mile to stop and take a rest throughout the hike.
A little over halfway in, you will be greeted by an observation deck. This stands in one of the denser areas of forest, so the short climb up offers a welcome and surprising view of a prairie where you can spot herons and other birds in the wide and sunny distance.
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, and there’s a second observation deck though as date (July 2020) incomplete.
Enjoy this short but greatly rewarding nature trail!