Sandhill ChapterServing Alachua, Levy, Gilcrist, and Marion counties
The Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association has brought together North Central Florida’s hikers since it was chartered in 1980, when the first meetings were held in member’s living rooms. The chapter hosted the very first North Regional Fall Conference in 1983 at Suwannee River State Park and has participated in every state and North Regional conference since. A subchapter, the Sandhill ’s Kinfolk, became the Suwannee Chapter.
Members of the Sandhill Chapter have built many bridges over the deep gorges along the Suwannee River, have maintained an open trail in Lake Butler Forest despite frequent timber clearcuts, and, working in coordination with biking and equestrian groups, built a 35-mile segment of trail through Marion County along the Cross Florida Greenway, crossing the prominent 3.3 million dollar Land Bridge over I-75 between Belleview and Ocala.
The chapter schedules a variety of activities each month such as day hikes, picnics, kayak/canoe trips, overnight pack trips and bicycle outings. Annual events include the chapter Christmas party in December and the “Goodbye for the Summer” picnic in June.
The Sandhill Chapter maintains the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River from Suwannee River State Park west to White Springs and along the length of the Cross Florida Greenway between Dunnellon and the Eastern-West Corridors junction in the Ocala National Forest.
Cross Florida Greenway has been a premier destination for day hikers and backpackers since its debut in 2000. Offering both short loop hikes (at the Land Bridge and Ross Prairie trailheads) and a linear 35-mile corridor for long distance outings, this section of trail takes hikers on a walk through history, following the route of the failed 1930’s effort to build a Cross Florida barge canal. Of interest are the canal diggings, some of which fill with water and become lakes during the rainy season, and some of which resemble tall sand dunes. Access the trail from trailheads along CR 484, SR 200, CR 475A, SW 49th Av, SE 80th St, Baseline Rd, and Sharpes Ferry Road.
The Florida Trail along the Suwannee River provides some of North Florida’s most rugged hiking, scrambling in and out of natural drainages , skirting enormous sinkholes, springs, natural bridges, and waterfalls. It’s a place of geological delights, accessed from trailheads at Holton Creek WMA, Suwannee Springs, Stephen Foster State Park, and Camp Branch. Some portions cross private property, so you must be a Florida Trail member to hike the entire 41 mile linear stretch. A must-see side trail, the Disappearing Creek Loop at Camp Branch showcases the creek’s rapid descent into a deep sinkhole.