The Johns Landing Trailhead lies less than a mile south of Mud Spring Trailhead on County Road 309 just south of Welaka. These have to be some of the best maintained trails I have found, wide enough for a car with grass cut to keep the bugs away. Even the kiosks near the entrance were well stocked with brochures from Florida State Forests.
The entrance is hard to miss with signage (below) and offers a covered picnic pavilion, wheelchair access, and even toilets – plumbing rather than outhouses. After two stops, I have found this area far less frequented than Mud Springs just up the road, and ideal for family gatherings or a quiet picnic.
There are a few trails, including a half mile Education Trail loop and a connecting trail that leads to Mud Spring, but the main attraction is a series of trails that form a seven mile loop. In succession, these are Longleaf Lane, Deer Run, Black Bear Slough, Turkey Path, and Indian Pond Road with Hammock Hideaway cutting through for those who want to cut the hike down to 4 or 5 miles. If all this sounds confusing, don’t worry. The trails are wide and clearly marked, with pamphlets available at the trail head, so you will not lose your way.
The diversity of forest is amazing, with open stretches of long leaf pine as well as dense, old growth areas of palms and leafy evergreens. There are also two side extensions of the trail to take, leading to the primitive camping areas of Orange Point and John’s Landing, each overlooking Little Lake George of the St. John’s River.
Maybe most amazingly for me, I saw my first bald eagle in the wild and then, just fifteen minutes later, I saw another. I tried my best to get a picture (below) with amateurish results. Regardless, this is a wonderful set of trails and definitely not to miss.