Anyone who says that all the hiking trails in north central Florida look the same isn’t familiar enough with them yet. I’m new myself, and could go a little crazy trying to distinguish between longleaf, loblolly, and slash pine. But if you want a break from flat hiking as well as the sawtooth palmetto and cabbage palm, Spring Grove Trail at San Felasco Preserve in Alachua County might be just the spot.
The parking area at 11101 Millhopper Road northwest of Gainesville lands you at the entrance to Sink Creek Trailhead, but Spring Grove Trail lies just across the street – careful crossing! From there the 6-mile loop is easy to follow with two cutoffs, Sand Hill Cutoff and Hammock Cutoff, to shorten your hike or run while Old Spanish Way can lengthen it. Dogs are welcome on a leash, as are bikes, but some sections have very soft sand prohibitive to biking.
Hiking Spring Grove Trail
What I noticed right away was an abundance of hills in the hammock forest. The old growth hammock provides enough shade to keep the earth moist year around, with plenty of ferns, laurel oak, flowering dogwood, American beech, and some of the largest Southern Magnolia I have seen in the region.
Try going early for the solitude and amazing chorus of bird calls. At 7am, two other cars quickly followed behind me. I quickly lost sight of others due to the number and length of trails, but returning by 10 found not only a number of morning joggers along the way, but parking filled and spilling onto the street.
Creek Sink Trail shares the same parking lot, so be sure to check that out for an additional 2.5 miles of hiking amid several sink holes turned to ponds and a creek.