Length: 33.8 miles (linear)
This trail segment passes through deep woods, stretches of scrub oak, pine-palmetto flatwoods, beautiful cypress swamp and suburban jewels such as Big Tree Park. There are low areas where typical marshland vegetation prevails.
Leaving Spring Hammock Preserve, the trail follows the berm of General Hutchinson Parkway up to Big Tree Park, a Seminole County park noted for “The Senator,” perhaps the largest (17.5 ft. diameter, 138 ft. high) and oldest (3,500 years) cypress tree in the world. Calvin Coolidge dedicated the tree in 1929 but it was lost to a fire in 201. Big Tree Park is also home to the Senator’s sister tree, “Lady Liberty”, an approximately 2,000 year old Bald Cypress Tree. The park is open daily from 8-sunset and well worth a stop.
The central portion of this section is on Seminole County’s Rinehart Rd/Crossings bicycle path and Seminole-Wekiva bicycle path. In Lake Mary the trail crosses Interstate 4 on a $3.6 million non-motorized suspension bridge, opened on National Trails Day 2003. This is a very suburban area with many motels, restaurants, and grocery stores– and no camping. Once north of SR 46, you return to the woods again at Lower Wekiva Preserve State Park, emerging to cross the Wild and Scenic Wekiva River on the highway bridge. The trail then enters Seminole State Forest, which is open for hiking as well as canoeing, nature study, fishing, and hunting. It boasts a large black bear population, and provides you with one of your best opportunities along the trail to see one of our shy Florida Black Bears. Crossing SR44, the trail continues north through the Royal Trails subdivision, a rural and sparsely populated community, en route to a separate tract of Seminole State Forest. Plans are in the works for a major reroute of this section to the western side of Lake Norris to provide a wilderness corridor. The segment ends at the Clearwater Lake trailhead in the Ocala National Forest, where the first blaze of the Florida Trail was painted in 1966.