I just heard from my friends Bill and Ginny, who are planning a trip up to Zolfo Springs. For those of you who have no idea where this is, it’s a quiet place in the middle of South Central Florida, about an hour east of Bradenton and a half hour north of Arcadia, in Hardee County. The Peace River flows through here, past Pioneer Park, where all the tent spaces have a nice view of the river. So, Bill’s question is:
Are there any hikes in that area? If so, do any of your books describe hikes in that area?
At the time I worked on Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State, I knew of only one place you could hike in Hardee and DeSoto Counties. Since then, I’ve poked around a little more. Closest to Zolfo Springs, there are two parks with short nature trails:
- Horse Creek Nature Trail at Solomon’s Castle, Ona (private, but free to walk during operating hours)
- Nature Trail at Brownville Park, just north of Arcadia off US 17 (it was flooded when I visited)
Neither are in my books. Too new to me!
Farther afield … and in that region, yes, you do have to drive a ways to get places … are these hikes:
- Paynes Creek Historic State Park (50 Hikes in South Florida), north on US 17
- Myakka River State Park (50 Hikes in South Florida), west on SR 70
- Carlton Reserve (Hiker’s Guide) now has a 7.5 mile linear trail connecting to the Myakka River State Park entrance
- Lake Manatee State Park (multi-use trails)
- Rye Wilderness Trails (Hiker’s Guide), west
- Duette Park (multi-use trails)
- Highlands Hammock State Park (50 Hikes in South Florida), east (Sebring)
- The Preserve of Sun N’Lakes (Hikers Guide), east (Sebring)
- Lake June-in-Winter State Park (50 Hikes in South Florida), east (Lake Placid)
- RV Griffin Reserve, southwest of Arcadia, off King’s Highway at Lake Suzy (multi-use)
- Deep Creek Preserve, south of Arcadia off King’s Highway at Lake Suzy (multi-use)
I hope that gives you enough to explore, Bill & Ginny! One caveat: Rob and I almost stopped at Rye Wilderness Friday on our way home from Venice, but we were pressed for time. Good thing, it turns out, that we skipped it. A woman was found dead at the park. She’d been murdered at least 12 hours before and discovered about the time we would have gotten there. From the news reports thus far, no way to tell whether she was killed at the park or her body was left there. So for the time being, I’d steer clear of Rye Wilderness until the murder investigation is over.