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Two Trails to Try for Happy Hiking

Explore an amazing variety of trails throughout Nature's Place to Play! Here are two examples of hardwood hammock ecosystems that we recommend. Watch for wildlife and unique native plants along this pair of lush and pleasant trails, each about two miles long.

Florida is unique in that our climate provides blooms in both spring and fall. In fact, there is always something fresh and new to see year round.

Our first stop, the Annuteliga Hammock, offers a scenic hike through ancient woodlands, with a variety of trees, wildflowers, mushrooms and ferns to spot along the way. Our second trail at McKethan Lake is a peaceful walk in a park built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and has a surprising variety in plant life. This is also a great location to spot butterflies and wading birds. The two trails highlighted here exemplify the Temperate Hardwood Forest: a shady habitat containing the greatest diversity of trees and shrubs per unit area in the continental United States.

Day 1:
South Loop of the Annuteliga Unit – part of the Withlacoochee State Forest – 2.0 mi.

Directions: From Brooksville, head north on US 98 for about 8 mi., then turn right onto Citrus Way. Continue until you see a sign on the left for the Annuteliga Hammock. Make a sharp turn to the left; here you will see a dirt road that leads to the trailhead. Sports cars or low-riding vehicles will not do here, but a mid-size vehicle can easily make the drive while going slow. Keep right at about 1000 ft. and park at the trailhead marked by kiosks. Download the brochure and trail map here

Good Morning: To beat the Florida heat, most hikes are best taken in the morning. For a quick breakfast, stop by the Mountaineer Coffee offering house-roasted and creatively-crafted coffees and baked goods.

The Annuteliga Hammock is a hardwood forest that once stretched from this trailhead to the town center of Brooksville. Now part of the Withlacoochee State Forest, this unit offers exciting hiking opportunities and a chance to see real Florida. Live Oaks, Red Cedars, Sweet Gum and Cabbage Palms are just a few of the trees giving shade to most of the trail. After walking about a half mile from the entrance near the kiosk, the trail passes by a large sinkhole on your left, where ferns and mosses grow on the sides of trees and rock outcrop.

After the 1.5mi. mark, the trail turns sharply and becomes what is known as a ‘Dim Trail.’ Use diligence in following the yellow trail markers as the path narrows. When the trail meets with a service road, keep left, and look down for various wildflowers.

Tips for Happy Trailing: Please note that this trailhead does not have bathrooms or water. Make sure you prepare for your hike with plenty of water, insect repellent and sunscreen. Consider bringing a few trash bags; these are great for sitting down on or using to pick up any litter you may find (thank you).

Although the shade is pleasant year-long, this trail is best avoided after a recent rainfall. The 2.0 mile South Loop trail is marked by yellow paint on trees and mile markers. This medium-difficulty hike with uneven terrain can be shortened; the sinkhole is less than a mile from the entrance, making this a good turn-around point also.

Lunch: Chances are that after that hike you will feel tired, hungry, or both! Take a break inside the Main Street Eatery sandwich shop, or take your lunch to the nearby Tom Varn Park for a picnic. If you still have energy, take a stroll along downtown Brooksville and check out the local shops, museum and art gallery.

Day 2:
Nature Trail at McKethan Lake – part of the Withlacoochee State Forest – 1.9 mi.

Directions: From Brooksville, head north on US 41 for about 7 mi., passing the Withlacoochee State Forest Visitor Center. The next left turn after the visitor center is the entrance to the park – follow the one-way road to the end, where a parking lot near the trail head will be on your right. Download the brochure and trail map here.

The McKethan Lake Trail offers a low-difficulty hike with flat terrain, and offers a mixed pine and hardwoods habitat. Although less ‘pristine’ or undisturbed as the Annuteliga Hammock, the plant community at McKethan Lake provides great habitat for swallowtail butterflies, birds and many other wildlife. Tree species include Longleaf Pine, Laurel Oaks, Red Bays and Southern Magnolia. The nature trail includes a bridge passing over the lake, a good location to spot wading birds.

Lunch: Did you pack a cooler? With on-site picnic benches, bathrooms, and a beautiful view, there is no reason to go anywhere else for a picnic lunch.

Next Stop: Chinsegut Hill Museum

Directions: head south on US 41 for 2.8 mi, and make a sharp right turn onto Snow Memorial Driveway. Take the first left onto Chinsegut Hill Road, and follow the road to the first entrance on your right.

Chinsegut Hill Manor dates back to the 1840’s, and offers a unique history of Florida and its early residents. Stroll the estate and arrange an unforgettable guided tour of the two-story manor house.