An absolutely breathtaking series of many trails (my six mile hike seemed to only graze the surface) with rich diversity including pines, old forest, and swamp and marshlands, lovingly and well maintained by the Alachua Conservation Trust.
Trails such as these are often hard to find, difficult to reach, or lack parking. In this case, it’s easy to reach simply by going to Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail Parking (Google Map below), parking in the wide designated area, and walking straight ahead (watch for bikers on the paved trail!) toward the picnic bench pictured below. Almost immediately you will see a sign for the Susan Wright Trail, and after that you can take your pick of many trails including the Kathy Cantwell Trail.
Alligator at Prairie Creek Preserve
Taking the Kathy Cantwell Trail as a loop, make sure not to miss the Jane Walker Trail spur, as I’ve mapped in AllTrails. It runs maybe 1 mile each way as a there and back, but where it leads it what matters. There is a very nice, small clearing near a creek. A picnic table awaits if you feel like having a sit down or maybe some lunch midway through your hike.
Within a few feet of this picnic table is what appears to be a creek, though the water is still. You are apt to see various wildlife here throughout the year, and I was fortunate enough to see in January two alligators warming in the sun.
These trails – the Kathy Cantwell loop and Jane Walker Trail spur worked out to 5.3 miles for me with great views and just a few friendly people near town. Enjoy, and happy hiking!