Florida Trail, Cross Florida Greenway

For a sweep of more than 32 miles, the Western Corridor of the Florida Trail follows the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway between Dunnellon and Silver Springs, passing just south of Ocala. One of the best destinations in North and Central Florida for backpacking during general gun deer hunting season in fall and winter, this mile-wide corridor of forests and trails exists thanks to a large-scale and originally well-meaning (put people to work!) government project that was stopped, with the help of local environmentalists led by Mrs. Carr, before it permanently destroyed the delicate aquifers of the region.

As a child, I remember watching the big bridges go up around Ocala because they were going to flood the landscapes around us to let barges cross the state, and the horror at realizing what that meant to the Silver River and Silver Springs. I am thankful that those much older than me, including my high school biology teacher Marjorie Bielling, led the good fight against the project – which started in the 1930s – and shut it down permanently. The land passed from federal to state hands in the 1990s, and the corridor opened for outdoor recreation in 1999. I was among those assisting Florida Trail section leader Kenneth Smith in planning and building the hiking route along the Cross Florida Greenway, and was honored to help cut the ribbon when the Land Bridge over I-75 opened.

With vast green space in my backyard for so many years, it’s the one place I’ve rambled more than just about anywhere else in Florida. Here’s what you’ll find along the Cross Florida Greenway: I hope you’ll savor it too.

TRAIL SEGMENTS
On these individual pages, I’ve described each Florida Trail segment from the perspective of a day hiker, noting landmarks, water, and campsites along the way. Segments posted on this website include detailed descriptions and mileage charts. Just link through to pull full details off the site.

Distance (miles)SegmentDirection Described
Start: CR 484, Dunnellon
6.2Pruitt to Ross PrairieSouth to North
6.2Ross Prairie to SW 49th AveSouth to North
3.6SW 49th Ave to Land Bridge THSouth to North
7.0Land Bridge TH to SantosSouth to North
4.5Santos to BaselineSouth to North
5.0Baseline to Marshall SwampSouth to North
End: Sharpes Ferry Road, Silver Springs

On the Cross Florida Greenway near Palatka:

5.3Buckman Lock to RodmanNorth to South
7.6Rodman to Lake DelancyNorth to South

Connect south to the main section of the Cross Florida Greenway via the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest and its Western Connector.


ALTERNATE FLORIDA TRAIL HIKES
Round-trip hikes on the FT instead of trailhead to trailhead:
Florida Trail, Pruitt (10.2 miles)
Florida Trail, Santos (3.5 miles)
Land Bridge Loop (3.5 miles)
Marshall Swamp Trail (4.5 miles)

LOOP & SIDE TRAILS
Additional day hikes along the Cross Florida Greenway:
Historic Ship Canal Trail
Holly Hammock Hiking Trail (in adjacent Ross Prairie State Forest)
Ross Prairie Loop
Silver River Connector Trail

For more information, see the Cross Florida Greenway section of this website.


Resources

You should grab a Cross Florida Greenway map from the Florida Trail Association along with the Data Book. They are invaluable resources for trip planning and making you feel comfortable while you’re out there on the trail.

Hiker's Guide to the Sunshine StateExploring Florida's Botanical WondersOrlando & Central Florida: An Explorer's Guide

These books provide planning information for prepping before your trip, but the trail segments we share here on Florida Hikes are more recently updated and go into much greater detail than any of these books are able to provide. Our trail segments are based on day hiking from trailhead to trailhead.


Logistics

DOGS
Dogs are welcome on this section of the Florida Trail, and as it is high and dry pretty much the entire way, you’re very unlikely to see an alligator except at Marshall Swamp, unless you go looking for a gator hole as a water source in the old diggings. The interface with suburbia, however, means numerous road crossings and trailheads bustling with activity, so your dog should play nice around people and noise.

CAMPING
Designated campsites are found along the Florida Trail route. If you are backpacking and plan to camp en route, please contact the Office of Greenways and Trails (352-236-7143) in advance for a free permit. Inform them of the general area in which you plan to camp or the specific designated campsite you plan to use. Keep in mind that most of the trail is without water sources except at trailheads. There are three full-service campgrounds along the Cross Florida Greenway where tent camping is welcome and costs less than $20 per night.

Florida Trail Association members do not need a permit to camp along the Cross Florida Greenway if carrying their Florida Trail membership card, but in this urban corridor, it’s safer if you check in and let them know your camping plans.

MilesLocationWhat’s available
3.1PruittGood camping area under live oaks, lots of room for a group, no water
5.2Ross PrairieUse Ross Prairie loop to access full-service Ross Prairie Campground, 0.8 mile blue blaze
6.8Ross PrairieDesignated campsite on bluff on hill, 0.2 mile blue blaze, no water
6.9Ross PrairieUse Ross Prairie loop to access full-service Ross Prairie Campground, 1.3 mile blue blaze
7.3Spring ParkEquestrian campsite with sinkhole spring, water pump broken
12.4SW 49th AvDesignated campsite, 0.2 mile blue blaze west of TH, no water
15.6Land BridgeDesignated campsite, 100 ft blue blaze south of trail, no water
15.8Land BridgeLand Bridge trailhead, camping permitted in equestrian area with permit
20.1VortexPotential campsite just south of footpath, no water
22.7SantosSantos Campground, full-service, 0.2 mile blue-blaze, access through trailhead
32.1Marshall SwampCamping permitted for section / thru-hikers at TH, check in with deputy who lives there

North end of the Ocala National Forest:

0.0Rodman Damparking area, no camping
1.0Rodman CampgroundDESIGNATED full-service campground with restrooms, security, fee; 0.2 mile blue blaze
5.3Buckman LockPrimitive campground with privy, fee, at trailhead

PERMANENT WATER SOURCES
Water sources are very infrequent, since the terrain is on a landform called karst – high, dry hills of limestone with lots of sinkholes, boulders, and caverns. Water flows beneath the surface.

Distance (miles)LocationWater SourceTypeNotes
0.0Pruitt THTap for horse troughfilter
3.7PruittGator holefilterIn the old canal bed. Use caution.
6.4Ross Prairie THRestroomspotableMust access via 1.2 mile blue blaze
7.3Spring Park SinkholespringfilterErratic flow, undependable
12.4SW 49th Av THtapfilter
14.7Diggingspond at basefilterOff-trail. Look for the “Dunes”
14.9Land BridgeTap for horse troughfilterSouthwest side of Land Bridge
15.6Land Bridge THRestroomspotable
22.7Santos THRestroomspotable
27.2Baseline THRestroomspotable
29.8Marshall SwampSwampfilterEasy access on sides of causeway
32.1Marshall Swamp THRestroomspotable

North end of the Ocala National Forest:

0.0Rodman DamRestroomspotable
1.0Rodman CampgroundRestroomspotable
3.5SR 19 bridgeCanalfilterEasy access under high bridge
5.3 Buckman LockTapfilter

HUNTING SEASON
No hunting is permitted along the Cross Florida Greenway, making this an ideal backpacker’s getaway during general gun season in the Ocala National Forest and other nearby public lands. You may hear hunters in the distance on adjacent lands like Ross Prairie State Forest and Halpata Tastanaki Preserve.

SAFETY
As you would in any urban area, be safety conscious around trailheads and road crossings. Designated campsites are far enough from the nearest road that it’s unlikely they’ll be stumbled across by casual walkers. Be alert around the restroom areas of the trailheads, which police monitor (and arrest individuals) for inappropriate activity in public places.

WILDLIFE
Frequently sighted wildlife include threatened species like the large and colorful Sherman’s fox squirrel and gopher tortoises. Wild hogs dig up the landscape and you may see traps or trappers trying to get rid of them. White-tailed deer roam throughout the corridor, somehow attracted to the no-hunting-zone. Sandhill cranes stride along the edges of the prairies. Several hikers, myself included, have seen a Florida panther and panther tracks.


Services

SHUTTLE
We know of no shuttle service for the Cross Florida Greenway – here’s a business opportunity! If you do, please leave a note on this page.

RESUPPLY
Since the Cross Florida Greenway sweeps from Dunnellon to Silver Springs past the communities of Ocala, Belleview, and Silver Springs Shores, many stores are within a mile of the trail.

Trail Communities / Access to Services
DUNNELLON Historically significant for the first discovery of phosphate in Florida and a mining boomtown of the early 1900s, Dunnellon sits at the confluence of the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers and has become a significant outdoor hub with easy access to canoe and kayak routes, biking and equestrian trails, and the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway—a great stop for a zero day! The source of the Rainbow River is beautiful Rainbow Springs, three miles north of town, popular for snorkeling, diving, and tubing the clear spring run. Take a cool splash at the confluence of the rivers at Dunnellon Beach (from CR 484 at the bank, take Adams Street S, left on Granada, right on Palmetto Ct to the park; small fee). Services are clustered around the downtown historic area and along US 41 north of where the Florida Trail follows CR 484 (E Pennsylvania Ave) as a roadwalk connecting the Withlacoochee State Trail to the Cross Florida Greenway.

ROSS PRAIRIE Suburban sprawl creeps up to the Ross Prairie section of the Cross Florida Greenway at CR 484 and SR 200, 0.5 mile north of the trail crossing, providing hiker services. SR 200 is a dangerous road crossing, with vehicles passing at high speed and not expecting hikers crossing. A pedestrian underpass is planned by the Florida Department of Transportation, but I’ve been waiting to see progress on the project for a decade, so don’t hold your breath. Walk north along SR 200 for a half mile to access a 24-hr Wal-Mart, numerous restaurants, and a 24-hr emergency room, Timberridge Medical Center. OUTFITTER: Flint Creek Outfitters (352-237-5325) 4414 SW College Rd # 910 Ocala, FL 34474-2703, about 10 miles north. Carries top-name backpacking gear. Call if you need assistance with gear.

CR 475A Road crossing; for services head south 2 miles to CR 484 / I-75 junction with Microtel Inn (352-307-1166); Sleep Inn (352-347-8383). Restaurants at Interstate include Sonny’s BBQ, Zaxby’s, Dunkin Donuts, Cracker Barrel, Little Joey’s Pizza. Short-term resupply and ice cream at fruit stands and convenience store at corner of CR 475A & CR 484. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and Museum of Classic Automobiles (877-271-3278), 13700 SW 16th Ave, open 9-5 daily, $15 admission.

US 441 The Florida Trail crosses US 441 twice across northbound and southbound lanes with a large forested island between them. Very dangerous high-speed traffic, use caution. Santos sheriff station on island has restrooms, water during office hours. To access city of Belleview services, walk south along US 441.

BELLEVIEW Incorporated in 1885, Belleview began as a settlement around Nine Mile Pond nine miles south of Fort King along the military trail that led to Fort Brooke in Tampa. Nine Mile Pond is now Lake Lillian, and the city of Belleview has grown from its original 350 residents to more than 3,800 today. Still, the city’s history can be seen in its core residences and public buildings, from City Hall, a Spanish mission-style structure built as a schoolhouse in 1926, to the Chamber of Commerce building and visitor center, a former railway station. Belleview’s library, founded in 1886, is the second oldest in the state. Belleview signed on as a Florida Trail Gateway Community in 2006, so they are quite welcoming to hikers. Services include grocery, hardware, motels, banks, barber shop, restaurants, medical, pharmacy, post office.

SILVER SPRINGS SHORES The Florida Trail emerges from the woods and crosses under Baseline Rd (SR 35) and CR 464 to access the Baseline Trailhead. Services east along CR 464: 0.7 mile to Ocala 34472 Maricamp post office (Mon-Fri 8:30-5, Sat 8:30-12), at 6530 SE Maricamp Rd and SE 64th Ave Rd; 1 mile to Dollar General (grocery, hardware); 1.2 miles to Winn Dixie (grocery, pharmacy) plaza with Hungry Howies pizza, SunTrust bank ATM.

SILVER SPRINGS In the mid-1800s, tourists came by steamboat down the winding Ocklawaha River from Palatka to visit Silver Springs, one of the world’s largest first magnitude springs. The community is centered around Silver Springs State Park and its adjacent (summer only) waterpark, Wild Waters, with 1960s motels and restaurants, and more modern shopping plazas. If you’ve never peered through a glass-bottomed boat at the beauty of Florida’s springs, here’s your chance! The park also has extensive gardens along the river, native wildlife, and several different river cruises, and takes a good day to explore. The community is about 7 miles northwest of the Marshall Swamp Trailhead. Services include motels and hotels, banks restaurants, 24-hr Wal-Mart, post office.

Trail Map

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