Length: 20.1 miles (linear) from Willow St. to Ridge Manor plus 20.1 mile loop
Leaving the Richloam Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest, the trail continues to its westernmost point (less than 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico) en route to the Croom Tract. Plans are in the works to build a connecting trail between Blue Sink (at the northwestern most point of the Richloam Loop) and the Croom Tract. Meanwhile, hikers must connect the two natural areas via a roadwalk. The Croom Hiking Trail is a gem along the route, anchored by two beautiful developed campsites on either end as it winds through hardwood and floodplain forests along the Withlacoochee River.
After you complete the Croom Hiking Trail, it’s back to a connecting roadwalk to reach the Withlacoochee State Trail, a rail trail that serves as the FT’s temporary route to the north. Backpackers and day hikers have the option of accessing the Croom Loops (A, B, and C) from the Silver Lake Trailhead or the Withlacoochee State Trail off Croom-Rital Road. These loop trails are described by some hikers as “fitting exercise to get in shape for the Appalachian Trail,” as they ascend and descend rolling sandhills topped with pines and oaks. When the river is in its floodplain, don’t miss a 3.5 mile loop day hike by taking the access trail from Silver Lake Recreation Area to the blue-blazed low water trail; it passes through spectacular stands of old-growth cypress trees. Use the orange-blazed high water trail to create a loop back to the trailhead.