This partial description of the Florida National Scenic Trail is oftentimes referred to as the Osceola Trail. This particular 35-mile leg, of the already completed 1,100-mile trail, spans into the Osceola National Forest for approximately 22 miles. When the National Scenic Trail is finished it will travel from the southern reaches of Gulf Island Seashore to Big Cypress National Preserve and northward to terminate in Blackwater River State Forest. Upon completion, more than 1,300 miles of trail will be a preserved educational resource.
This trail is open to foot travel only. Two trailheads into the National Forest are offered. At the western end lies Stephen Foster State Folk Cultural Center. At the southeastern edge sits Olustee Battlefield State Historic Site. Both are interesting places in their own right. Olustee tourists can visit the location of the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War. Each February, a re-enactment takes place on these grounds. A small museum relives the history daily.
Beginning at the Folk Center, hikers will be treated to several miles of trail along the steepest banks of the Suwannee River. Hikers will get a view of Florida's only whitewater rapids at Big Shoals at 8.5 miles. The trail enters the National Forest at approximately 14 miles and continues to follow power lines and old timber roads. Remnants of past forestry practices in Florida exist in many places along the trail. Several areas are blazed on old railroad trams used around the turn of the last century for the timber industry. Tram beds are easily recognized as elevated ridges on which ties of cypress and pine may still be found.
Traveling through a forest of pine flatwoods and cypress, the trail endures a number of creek crossings. These were once challenging, especially during the wet season. Recent efforts of the U.S. Forest Service have resulted in more than 20 boardwalks. Spring wildflowers, resident endangered species, several small scenic ponds, and Ocean Pond are the highlights of this flat journey. Possible wildlife sightings include white-tailed deer, gopher tortoise, wild turkey, red-cockaded woodpecker, and gray bat. Plant identification includes spoonflower, rosebud orchid, and pondspice.
Several noteworthy miles markers:
Cobb Hunt Camp; reservations required. (Mileage east to west: 3.4 miles - Mileage west to east: 33.4 miles)
Ocean Pond; campsites, drinking water, restrooms, swimming and more. (Mileage east to west: 5.6 miles - Mileage west to east: 31.2 miles)
Primitive campsite with shelter and latrine. (Mileage east to west: 10.0 miles - Mileage west to east: 26.8 miles)
Parking and trail crossing on State Route 250. Turkey Run Trailhead. (Mileage east to west: 10.5 miles - Mileage west to east: 26.3 miles)
Campsite with water and latrine. (Mileage east to west: 16.4 miles - Mileage west to east: 20.4 miles)
Parking and overnight parking with landowner's permission. Check with Bob Peloni, across the road. Trailhead to Deep Creek. (Mileage east to west: 20.4 miles - Mileage west to east: 16.4 miles)
For detailed maps and more information contact the Florida Trail Association at P.O. Box 13708, Gainesville, FL 32604. Their phone number is 1-800-343-1882.
Directions: From White Springs, FL, Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center: Travel U.S. Highway 41, just northeast of the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 10. Trail begins just outside the south entrance park gate at the Spring House Spa.
Elevation: 5 - 10 feet
Elevation Gain: Minimal
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Osceola National Forest, Florida
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