Finding Pat’s Island Trailhead and Getting Started
The Google Map below will take you straight to parking for Pat’s Island Trailhead. But a few notes before starting. The earth road – Forest Road 51 off of FL 19 – may not have signage. Also, FR 51 may not ride as smooth as it appears. No, you don’t need a truck. I took my small car without problem. Some dips, however, have potholes that are hard to miss. Take it easy so you don’t bottom out. Since this stretch runs only about a mile and a half, you’ll get there soon enough.
Parking is plentiful enough since the trail doesn’t bring much traffic. Also, it has multiple entrances. Since this is a portion of the Florida Trail, you can choose to go either right or left. That is north or south respectively. To reach hidden pond, you will turn left on the trail. That is north. And you will almost immediately cross FR 51 and enter the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.
Hiking to Hidden Pond as a There-and-Back
While I have a fondness for loops, the great thing about Florida Trail segments is you can choose your distance. The hike to Hidden Pond runs about 4 miles each way, which makes a great hike!
Typical Trail view hiking from Pat’s Island Trailhead to Hidden Pond
While the trail is very with shrub and trees to either immediate side, it is very well-maintained. I never found myself walking through grass or pushing through overhanging branches. In fact, I didn’t even use spray to keep the ticks away in late March. The sandy earth is mostly very well packed with only moderately soft areas. So the hike is easy, though there is no canopy growth for shade.
The sites along the way are really fun! Stepping off-trail just a bit, you can enjoy the wide, grassy fields of Juniper Prairie Wilderness. And there are multiple sinkholes along the way providing very interesting ecosystems all on their own.
On my trip, I spotted scrub jays, a zebra swallowtail butterfly, a Carolina saddlebags dragonfly, and even a large coral snake. I have images of these below.