2023 February Update
One section of the trail is now marked with sheriff’s notice of “No Trespassing.” Do not let this turn you off from the area. It’s only one segment of the red trail, and you still have the yellow and white trails to explore. Red now serves as a connector rather than a hiking loop of its own. See AllTrail map above with off-limits portion marked with an image and waypoint.
On County Road 318 just east of Fl State 301 near Citra, this is one of those hiking and horseback riding areas that you are prone to drive by daily without thinking to make a stop.
But in fact, it offers a hiking just south of Hawthorne and Gainesville and north of Ocala near Fort McCoy. You’ll have the trails to yourself most likely too. Well, you and some cows as this is ranchland.
If there is a downside, it’s that the trails are maintained by machine tilling up the soil which, in this area, creates a lot of soft, sweet sand to trudge though. But the trails are wide enough to walk along in the grass in these recently tilled area. For a an easier hike check out the Orange Creek Conservation Area North Tract. It’s in Alachua County, but just a couple of miles away as both lie on the county line.
Hiking Orange Creek Conservation Area
Numerous trails greet you, each well-blazed. I made use of red, white, and yellow trails to create two loops (a sort of figure-8) over about seven miles, but there were numerous other connectors and trails to follow. The terrain is flat, it is diverse and includes a very nice pier overlooking a small, unnamed lake or marshland. It’s a damp area. And the yellow trail – the small loop mapped to the east – may be flooded after rains. But no worries. Even then, you have a strong 5 miles of hiking.
Parking is ample, with enough space for your horse trailer, but it’s rare to see anyone else there. When you do, the conservation is area is large enough that you won’t likely meet them so you have this hike to yourself and your dog, friend, or date.
While the sand is too soft for enjoyable biking in the woodsy trails, a main dirt road will provide the workout you crave, and there are few better places for hiking or horseback riding in the area.