Immerse in the pine savannas of Central Florida along the Florida Trail at Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area. With a 20.5 mile loop traversing these wide open spaces as well as the tributaries of Crabgrass Creek, it’s a place for weekend backpackers to feel truly unplugged from the busy metro area of Orlando to the northwest. The official route of the Florida National Scenic Trail follows the east side of the loop, but day hikers may find the west side, with its marshes along Crabgrass Creek and pitcher plants growing on seepage slopes, particularly interesting.
Length: Up to 20.5 miles loop (shorter if accessed from hunt camp)
13.8 miles linear (Florida Trail route from Levee 73 to Forever Florida property line)
Lat-Long: 28.117032,-80.932463 (Levee 73 gate) or 28.084741,-80.967182 (Crabgrass Creek Rd)
Type: loop or linear (if following the FNST)
Fees / Permits: free, but register at kiosk
Difficulty: moderate to difficult (if wet)
Bug factor: moderate to annoying (if wet)
Two designated campsites, Jane Green and Little Scrub, are available to backpackers. Please check hunting regulations before visiting, as hiking access is limited during certain hunting seasons. Be sure to wear blaze orange if hiking during hunting season.
Follow US 192 east from St. Cloud, passing Harmony and Holopaw. Or, follow US 192 west from Melbourne, crossing the St. Johns River and passing Deer Park. Both access points are south of US 192:
[28.084741,-80.967182] The western access point (on the west side of the loop) is at the end of Crabgrass Creek Rd at the entrance to the hunt camp.
[28.116550, -80.932517] The eastern access point (near Jane Green campsite) for Florida Trail hikers is 10 miles east of the junction with US 441 in Holopaw. Do not block the gate.
(Hike details written for northbound thru-hikers)
Climb under/over the barbed wire fence separating Forever Florida from Bull Creek WMA. You’ve reached the Bull Creek Loop trail. The eastern side is the official FNST route, with better access to water and campsites, but you may use either side to traverse Bull Creek WMA. Turn right (southeast) and follow the loop to the crossing over Nursery Slough.
[SOUTHBOUND HIKERS] On the Bull Creek Loop, it’s a slightly shorter hike along the western side of the loop, and you’re less prone to encounter flooding if the creeks are high. However, in dry seasons, you’re also less likely to find any water along this side of the trail. Choose wisely.
[ALTERNATE ROUTE] For the shortest route, turn left and follow the orange blazes north through miles of open palmetto prairie before you reach the hunt camp and hunt check station where there is potable water available. Camping is permitted if it is not hunting season. Continue north along the orange blazes through pine flatwoods past seepage slopes thick with hooded pitcher plants growing at the southernmost extent of their range. At the loop junction, turn left (north) to continue on the main route.
A blue blazed trail leads to the Little Scrub campsite, a primitive campsite with a pitcher pump. If the pump doesn’t work, continue 0.5 mile east to access water at Bull Creek.
When you reach Loop Road, watch for blazes. The trail jumps on and off the road and the nearby railroad grade for the next 4 miles. When you reach the trail junction at the north end of the loop, continue north.
[SOUTHBOUND HIKERS] Continue straight at the trail junction to follow the thru-trail, or turn right to follow the western side of the loop, where you’ll encounter a pitcher plant bog within the next mile. Potable water is available at the hunt camp; you may camp there if it is not hunting season. The trail heads out into a long, open stretch of palmetto prairie with little shade. Reaching the western fenceline, the trail continues south. The thru-trail through Forever Florida begins where you see blazes on the opposite side of the fence. Climb over/under the fence and continue into the palmetto scrub.
Just north of the trail junction, you encounter the Jane Green campsite. Set in a shady hammock, the campsite provides a fire ring, picnic bench, and pitcher pump with non-potable water. Several narrow bridges permit a crossing over Crabgrass Creek and its jungle-like floodplain forest. The air is heavy with humidity, encouraging the growth of massive bromeliads in the trees.
When you emerge from the forest, turn left (north) and follow the fenceline to Levee 73. Continue 0.8 mile to the Bull Creek Trailhead parking area, just inside the gate from US 192. Sign the trail register before you depart.