This is one of my favorite hikes, an easy five-mile loop with plenty to see in deep woods and across fields covering 4200 acres in Putnam County near near Palatka and Interlachen.
After parking in the wide parking area, a dirt road continues beyond a simple gate and soon splits. You can continue straight ahead on the no vehicle access road for horseback riding and biking, or veer northwest for a great trail hike. The hiking trail takes you across an open prairie and into the dense woods about half a mile away.
Here you will follow a segment of the Florida Trail that takes you through canopy forest, marshlands and a creek that flows year around, with well-maintained bridges throughout, and even an observation platform. I hiked the woods for a five mile loop where the last mile brings you back to the dirt road for horses or biking. The trail never strays far from either the highway or cleared areas and with plenty of markers, you’ll never get lost.
Yet you get a pretty good feeling of being deep in the sub-tropical forest with lots of bird watching opportunities and animals, camping areas, creeks and marshlands, and a true nature feel rather than seeming like a park. The flora and fauna are each very diverse with a variety of flowers in spring, great swamp and marsh areas in summer, and dense woods opening into large fields year around.
That “back to nature” feel comes with the downside of lots of mosquitoes and ticks. Banana spiders – big ones – build webs throughout the trail in summer, so carry a stick to clear the way!