Sweetwater Preserve provides excellent hiking and nature viewing in Gainesville Florida with a break from the cabbage palm and saw palmetto with plenty of American Beech and oak to provide ample shade for most of the hike.
It is really two hiking trail loops, an east and a west loop, connected by a bridge over Sweetwater Branch Creek to form a sort of figure eight for your hike. It has two entrances, a west entrance off the street where there is parking, and an east entrance accessible by parking at Gainesville Bike Trailhead Parking (Google Map below) near Boulware Springs State Park and walking north up the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail a couple tenths of a mile. Taken together, the trails will lead you about 3.5 miles.
The trails are relatively hilly for the region but common to Gainesville, with a good number of sub-trails. A map provided when they are in stock at the entrances helps you find your way, an the major intersections are numbered. Where Sweetwater Preserve really shines, however, is the pond overview on the East Trail Loop. A sign warns of alligators, and though I saw none that day, it's an area rich in animal life. A bench allows you to sit back and enjoy the symphony of croaking frogs in summer months. Trail traffic is light to moderate with some joggers and people taking their dogs on walks in the creek area.