Finding Camp Blanding Loop and Background Information
You’ll love this day hike!
Picnic Pavilion at Camp Blanding
Camp Blanding Loop lies near Keystone Height in Clay County, Florida. You’ll find the 9-mile loop off of Florida State Road 21 on Trail Treat Road. I’ve provided a Google Map to get you there, no problem. On a Friday in August, I had the entire day and the parking area to myself. The earth parking area will easily accommodate 5 vehicles.
A portion of the Florida Trail comprises most of your hike. More on that in a moment. The trail leads through the Camp Blanding Join Training Center. But you’ll hardly notice that apart from signage. Of greater significance for hikers, you will tour the remains of the Magnolia Lake State Park. Created in the 1950s, the park is a vestige of Florida’s segregationist past. Several building still remain. In fact, you will find a picnic pavilion with a table still remaining. So there is no reason not to enjoy that while you’re passing through. And you can soak in the lovely views of Magnolia Lake.
Hiking Camp Blanding Loop – The Trail Experience
Hidden Pond at Camp Blanding Loop
The first 6 miles of the 9 mile hiking loop provide plenty of shade. You’ll mostly walk through woods of oak and pine. And the trails are mostly well-maintained, typical of Florida Trail volunteers. Keep your eyes open for the orange trail blazing, and you won’t get lost. And you’ll love the sights!
Within a mile, you’ll encounter Lost Pond. I hiked in August of 2021 during a wet summer. And I found the pond overflowing. So while I don’t know if it dries up in other years, it made for great views this summer. You’ll have plenty of birding opportunities here with heron visiting Hidden Pond. It’s truly serene and gorgeous with two benches to take in the the views.
Remains of Magnolia Lake State Park
A bit further along, you’ll encounter the former Magnolia Lake State Park. Several buildings and the aforementioned picnic pavilion remain. You’ll get one more view of Magnolia Lake later on, at a boat ramp. But enjoy the watery views now. Although the trail will lead along Lowry Lake later, you’ll never meet the shore. And the woods have grown too thick for views.
But that’s okay! You’ll spot deer, woodpeckers, and all the other wonders typical of a Florida Live Oak and Pine forest. The first six miles are truly amazing. In fact, despite the proximity to water, you won’t even have much problem with biting insects. I encountered no swamps, and the trail has almost no tall grass in the shade.
The Final Three Miles of Camp Blanding Loop
Car – Three Miles Up Ahead
Yet, all good things must end. Since the Camp Blanding Loop is a Florida Trail Segment, making it a loop has one issue. That is, the final 3 miles exist basically to get back to your car. You’ll trek along Florida State Road 21 in open sun with little to see. There’s good news, though. You’re well enough off the road to have no issues with noise or car fumes. It’s simply a dull – and in summer, hot – portion of the hike.
Ultimately, Camp Blanding Loop is an exceptional, no-miss hike in North Central Florida!