| If hiking in West Central
Florida, youll experience sandhills, prairies, coastal scrubs,
hydric swamps, hardwood hammocks and a nice assortment of other upland
The hike around Fort
De Soto, and up and down its steps,
provides solid exercise with your history lesson. A one-mile interpretative
nature trail takes you through scrub and mangrove terrain at the Arrowhead
Picnic Area near North Beach at
Fort De Soto Park.
For a peaceful brush with nature and six miles of hiking and biking
trails, head to Boyd
Hill Nature Center at 1101 Country
Club Way 893-7326. Beneath oak canopies you can picnic, play on the
playground, visit caged birds, spot butterflies, visit the nature center,
and stroll in quietude. Admission to trails is $1 for adults, 50¢
for children ages 3-17.
The 47-mile Pinellas
Trail, 464-4751, begins in downtown
St. Petersburg at 34th Street and Eighth Ave S, then heads north through
city, town and country following an old railroad route. You can hike,
bike, jog, or skate it.
For a quiet nature walk in the city, head to McKay
Nature Park at Crosstown Expressway
and 34th Street, a 150-acre refuge for more than 180 species of birds
and other wildlife. Trails head into uplands habitat.
Longboat Key: Museum
of Science & Industry (MOSI)
at 4801 E Fowler Ave, 987-6300 or (800) 998-MOSI, has three miles of
back woods trails where you can hike and experience local habitat. Walkers,
runners, cyclists, and skaters all take to the 2.2-mile trail in 126-acre
Al Lopez Park
at 4810 N Himes Ave. You can take a leisurely hike around the cypress
swamp wildlife boardwalk at Lettuce
Lake Park, 6920 Fletcher Ave,
987-6204. It also has a bike path and fitness course. $1 donation per
car suggested. Eureka
Springs on Eureka Springs Rd,
near the junction of Interstate 4 and Hwy 301, 744-5536, has trails
and boardwalks to hike, as well as a lovely botanical garden, greenhouse,
and picnic area.
At South Lido
Beach, trails take you through
woodsy parts into the swampland of Brushy Bayou.
The Longboat Key bike path crosses the New Pass Bridge and continues
for a few miles through Lido Key s northern residential section.
Scherer State Recreation Area
at 1843 S Tamiami Trail 483-5956, has more than five miles of nature
trails, plus bike paths, which allow you to witness nature and wildlife
along with your exercise. A one mile-plus nature trail accommodates
disabled persons and includes audio speakers and a butterfly observation
area. During winter season, rangers lead bird walks.
River State Park on Rte. 72,
361-6511, is treasured by both bikers and hikers. It offers extensive
nature trails, a bird walk, and close to 40 miles of wilderness backpacking
trail through prairies, hammocks, and pine flatwoods. Bobcats, bald
eagles, sandhill cranes, deer, and turkeys inhabit the less traveled
areas of the park not accessible to motorists. Seven miles of road wind
through the park for cyclists, who often incorporate the scenic ride
into longer treks along Route 72. Bike rental rates range from $4 for
two hours to $18 for a full day.
Withlacoochee State Forest Area
Withlacoochee State Trail,
352-394-2280, is one of Citrus Countys better known trails. Its
part of Floridas Rails to Trails program under which the state
bought rights to an abandoned railroad right of way, then paved a 47-mile
stretch from county line to county line with recycled rubber. It goes
through parts of the Withlacoochee State Forest and parallels US 41
and the Withlacoochee River.
Additional hiking trails in the region include:
Forest, Citrus Hiking Trail, 352-754-6777,
46.7 miles. This is a mainly uplands trail, through scrub oaks and pine
lands, that in most areas is paved and skirts US 41. The 16-mile Croom
Trail has a few prairies, rolling hills, ravines and hardwood hammocks
through a region that in the 1890s was the site of a prosperous phosphate
operation. The forests Richloam Tract has 33 miles of hiking paths
reaching through pine flatwoods, hardwood hammocks and cypress swamps.
Cooper State Park, 352-726-0315,
10 miles of trails, with interpretive plaques explaining the forts
importance during the Second Seminole Indian War.
Crystal River State Archaeological Site,
352-795-3817, at 3400 N. Museum
Drive, two miles of trails through ancient Indian mounds that were built
long before that world traveler, Chris Columbus, was born.
Springs State Park in Chiefland,
352-493-6072, 8 miles of trails as well as a boardwalk and dock that
reach into the Suwannee River. The main attraction is a first-magnitude
spring (117 million gallons of water per day). The park has a 1,200-foot
run to the river, making it a scuba divers and snorkelers
spring was described by William Bartram in his 1774 writings. The property
has cypress, gum, maple, ash and sandhill. Otters, raccoons, wading
birds and other small mammals live here. Manatees make occasional appearances,
The Jay B. Starkey
Wilderness Park, 813-834-3247,
10500 Wilderness Park Road, New Port Richey, 16 miles of trails through
an 8,300-acre park.
The Southwest Florida
Water Management District offers
The Green Swamp
has 20 miles of trails that occasionally come across the Withlacoochee
River and wetlands.
Flood Detention Area, 352-629-8162.
Yes, most places call it a flood retention area. Detention sounds like
youre being made to stay after school. That aside, there are 30
miles of trails waiting, so maybe you dont mind being kept after.
The trails move through flatwoods, swampy stands of cypress, bayheads
and hammocks in a spring region that is a vital recharge zone for the
Floridan aquifer, the main drinking water supplier for folks who live
in Central Florida.
800-423-1476, 24 miles of trails, including a boardwalk through hammocks,
wetlands and marshes. The trails are within 20,000 acres of land owned
by the district.
Flying Eagle Tract,
800-423-1476, has 15 miles of trails that pass through a mosaic of small
lakes, marshes, swamps and upland forests.
Creek, seven miles of paths through
cypress, hardwood, ridge, slash pine and palmetto areas.
The Upper Hillsborough,
24 miles of trails in a site decorated with slash and longleaf pines,
flatwoods and palmetto/gallberry stands along the namesake rivers
You can get a copy of the districts recreational guide by calling
800-423-1476 or writing to 2379 Broad St., Brooksville, FL 34609-6899.