Ready to start hiking to and from the Land Bridge Trailhead in Marion Oaks? This one is worth a quick background check!
Approved by the US Congress in 1942, the Cross Florida Barge Canal was a major construction project that would have created a canal across Florida, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Among others, Marjorie Harris Carr successfully gave voice to halting the project in protection of the Ocklawaha River among other natural sites. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway of protected lands bearing her name cut across Florida where the canal was once proposed.
Entrance at 49th Avenue Trailhead
The trail here is not only a portion of that greenway, but also of the Florida Trail, a 1500 mile footpath leading from the Florida Panhandle to deep in southern Florida. As mapped on this page, I took this portion of the trail as an 8 mile there-and-back hike from the 49th Avenue Trailhead to the Land Bridge Trailhead at 4 miles each way.
Since I like working toward a destination, I started at the 49th Ave. Trailhead to put off reaching the land bridge that crosses over I-75. The first of its kind in the United States, the land bridge is at a near turning point, with the associated trailhead just a mile further.
There’s a lot of parking at the 49th Ave Trailhead, and the lot is often nearly full to overflowing. Don’t let this put you off if you prefer some solitude. There are separate hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, and nearly all the vehicles are bikers there for the (mostly) paved bike trail. I encountered few people along the foot trail except when near the land bridge.
Typical view of trail
Hiking the Trail
The trail itself is narrow but not the least overgrown, and it is well-blazed with orange markers that designate it as a segment of the Florida Trail. You may not find the most amazing sites here, but the lack of water mean fewer mosquitoes. What makes the trail especially fun is an unusual number of hills for the region. These little hills and ravines tend to be short and steep. It’s easy enough to trip on exposed roots, so boots are a good idea. In summer, the trail is said to have many wildflowers and likely better birding opportunities than I found in January.
Since the trail is so near Ocala, it’s ideal for getting into nature without much of a drive for town-dwellers. Given the ideal length of 8-miles when taken as a there-and-back between trailheads, abundant small hills, the uniqueness of the land bridge, and a good amount of shade with trees growing right up to the narrow footpath, it’s one of my favorite hikes in the region.