|MEETUP|Serving Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties
On one of the coldest days on record in January of 1981 seventy five people gathered to form what would become the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Trail Association. Officially chartered in August the same year, the Suncoast Chapter now serves a seven county area in west central and southwest Florida. With over 500 members it is the FTA’s largest chapter.
Active members lead and participate in many activities, including a yearly clam bake, the popular Sunday morning Exercise Walk at Lettuce Lake Park, and the long running annual Stone Soup gathering each January. The chapter regularly maintains over 200 miles of trail and offers recreational events throughout the region.
The Suncoast chapter maintains the Florida Trail between US 98 north of Lakeland and Hernando, including all of the Withlacoochee State Forest.
Loop trails maintained include Citrus, Croom, Green Swamp West, Hillsborough River State Park, Little Manatee State Park, Myakka River State Park, Potts Preserve, Richloam, Upper Hillsborough and Withlacoochee River Park.
The Citrus Hiking Trail is the state’s longest backpacking loop trail in a single contiguous forest. With rolling sand hills, descents into sinkholes and the occasional rock-strewn footpath these trails have terrain and elevation changes uncommon to Florida.
The Croom Tract Loop Trail is a favorite for backpackers training for strenuous mountain treks, as it is one of Central Florida’s more rugged hikes. The “low water” route passes through cypress stands with some immense trees, while the “high water” route heads right up into the sandhills to access the three backpacking loops. Loop A is part of the Florida State Forests Trailwalker Program.
Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest state parks in Florida. It is well known for its abundant wildlife. The Myakka Hiking Trail meanders through hammocks of live oak and cabbage palm, across open palmetto flatwoods and along small marshes. The trail traverses broad open prairies up to two miles across, a preserved remnant of Central Florida’s original grasslands.