At Seminole Ranch Conservation Area, the Florida Trail follows a string of hydric hammocks in the St. Johns River floodplain, spanning bridges over slow-moving tannic streams with steep sand bluffs. Ferns sprout from the tops and trunks of the cabbage palms. This is a lush, humid environment displaying the full spectrum of green across palm fronds and sphagnum moss, shoelace ferns, oak leaves, and thousands of other plants. Long distance hikers and backpackers looking for a quiet getaway will appreciate the primitive campsite tucked off the beaten path.
Length: 4.9 miles
Lat-Long: 28.569200, -81.013183
Fees / Permits: None
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: Privy sometimes available at the hunt check station
As the trail is in a floodplain, it is prone to flooding. Check on water levels in the St. Johns River before walking this trail; expect muddy feet and wading in portions of the trail.
Southbound, the trail connects to Tosohatchee WMA after a roadwalk across SR 50 and down St. Nicholas Rd.
The trail crosses SR 50 in Christmas in front of the Christmas RV Park. To park your car for a day hike, take Fort Christmas Rd north from SR 50. At the sharp left curve, turn right onto Wheeler Rd into the park entrance. Continue down the road to the parking area on the right. Follow the blue blazes to the hunt check station to meet the main trail.
Heading north from Christmas, enter Seminole Ranch Conservation Area through the open gate. There is a small trailhead with room for several cars. The trail enters the dense hydric hammock, where goldfoot ferns drape from the tops of the cabbage palms. You reach the Fishhawk Camp after 0.6 miles, which has a picnic table and fire ring.
In the hyrdic hammock, meandering oxbow streams cut deeply through the forest floor; you cross them in several places on bridges. This is a humid, jungle-like place where ribbons of shoelace fern dangle down cabbage palm trunks, shiny-leaved wild coffee grows tall all around you, and the soil (if it’s not covered with a thin layer of water) is black and earthy underfoot.
After 2.2 miles, you reach the intersection with the blue-blazed side trail to the Wheeler Road trailhead. Either turn around here, or follow the side trail 0.5 mile to the trailhead, crossing Waca Road, a dirt road, en route.
To continue farther north to the Bronson State Forest boundary, follow the directions given at Florida Trail, Wheeler Road to Joshua Creek.