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Florida Trail: Ocala Northeast Hiking Guide

Florida Trail: Ocala Northeast Hiking Guide

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Official companion app to "The Florida Trail Guide" guidebook by Florida Hikes! The oldest section of the Florida Trail, this sweep of trail between the Ocala National Forest and the Osceola National Forest was the first to be completed and the first to be traversed by backpackers in the 1970s. It began in October 1966, when the initial blazes were painted near Clearwater Lake, an act commemorated by a state historic marker at the south end of this section. The Ocala National Forest protects the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest, which remains high and dry when other portions of the Florida Trail are soggy. Offering 72 unbroken miles of well-worn footpath through sandhills, prairies, pine flatwoods, and the Big Scrub, the Ocala is a compelling backpacking destination. 

As the Florida Trail curves its way north and west from the Ocala National Forest, it touches on centuries of Florida's history, from the British colonial period atop the dikes at Rice Creek to the boom of Civil War cannons through the pine forests at Olustee. Connecting an array of public lands with walks on backroads and a stroll down a former rail line, now the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail, it's an introduction to a different pace of life. Some of the trail's day hike gems are found here, including the loop around an ancient floodplain forest at Rice Creek Conservation Area; the bluffs above Etoniah Ravine, which drop more than 40 feet to the creek in Etoniah Creek State Forest; and the rolling sandhills that cradle crystal-clear lakes at Gold Head Branch State Park and Camp Blanding. In Osceola National Forest, it's always on the soggy side, but the bogs are rich with colorful wildflowers.

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