Length: 17.5 miles (linear) plus 40.6 mile loop
By following a paved bicycle route, the Withlacoochee State Trail
, from Nobleton to Dunnellon, the Florida Trail approximates its future route through Citrus County to connect the Croom Tract to the Cross Florida Greenway
. With little shade and little variance in scenery, the rail trail is better biked than hiked. The high points of this segment are the trail towns you pass through, each a little ambassador of historic Old Florida.
There is only one opportunity for designated camping along the route, at Fort Cooper State Park
, but you will pass several reasonably priced motels that are used to catering to bicyclists. Until a new section of planned trail is completed in the next few years, the last part of this segment includes a roadwalk on a busy road.
For backpackers and day hikers, the four loop trails (A, B, C, and D) in the Citrus Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest
are not presently part of the thru-trail but offer some of the finest challenging terrain in Central Florida. The trail climbs up and down rolling sandhills topped with pines and oaks, drops down into deep ravines created by erosion of the limestone bedrock, circles massive sinkholes, where jagged limestone protrudes into the footpath, and passes by the fern-draped openings of numerous caves. Wildlife is abundant: deer sightings are virtually guaranteed, scrub-jays live in the sand pine scrub, and Florida panthers have been spotted here. The sandhills are high and dry, so plan backpacking trips carefully; you may want to cache water at trail crossings. Designated campsites let you get away from it all.