A beautiful community resource along the Rainbow River, Blue Run Park provides a gateway to the Dunnellon Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway and access to the Rainbow River for paddlers.
It is also a take-out point for tubing down the river from Rainbow Springs State Park and K.P. Hole.
The park tends to stay pretty busy near the bridge, but once you walk into the woods, things quiet down. These gentle interpretive trails are ideal for families and popular for walking dogs.
Nearly a mile of natural footpaths interconnect with paved trails to offer a variety of possible loops. We outline one nice hike below.
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Length: 2.7 mile loop and round-trip
Trailhead: 29.0494, -82.4465
Address: 19680 E Pennsylvania Ave, Dunnellon
Restroom: Portable toilet at main trailhead
Land manager: City of Dunnellon
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted. Paved portions are accessible, natural surfaces are not. The main parking area tends to get very busy on weekends.
From downtown Dunnellon at US 41 and CR 484, drive east and cross the Rainbow River. The parking area is immediately on the right after the bridge. If it is full, continue to San Jose Blvd on the right. Turn right and look for the park entrance and alternate trailhead on the right.
Starting at the main trailhead off CR 484, go to the far end of the parking lot from where the busy put-in / take-out on the Rainbow River keeps most of the park’s visitors occupied.
Follow the beaten path along the split rail fence around a small retention pond. It’s worth walking around that pond to reach the larger pond, which is an oxbow pond off the Rainbow River. In this corner, irises bloom in spring.
Continue along the beaten path into the woods. As it winds through the forest, the Pond Trail roughly follows the south edge of the pond, offering an occasional overlook from the oak hammock. A couple of beaten-down side trails lead to the water.
When you reach the next bit of split-rail fence after a quarter mile, you’re at the San Jose Rd trailhead. The trail slips behind the fence and comes up to a kiosk that shows the trail system here along with its connections to the Dunnellon Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway.
Where visitors walk up to the trail from the parking area, turn right onto a broad path into the forest to stay on the Pond Trail. A side trail, the Longleaf Pine Trail, leads off to the left. Pass by it for now and continue deeper into the shade on the Pond Trail.
A sinkhole sits in the woods off to the left, its water coated in vegetation that glows an eerie green. The trail draws close to the pond again, leading you to side paths and a bench along the water. Watch for alligators.
At the next trail intersection, go straight ahead. You pop out at the Dunnellon Trail, passing the other end of the Longleaf Pine Trail at a half mile. Turn right and walk past the junction of paved paths, where there is a bench.
Follow the Dunnellon Trail south through the lush swamp forest. By 1.2 miles, you reach the Withlacoochee River Bridge and its sweeping view of the river basin. Benches are built into the near side of the bridge.
Return back the way you came, passing the trail junction at the bench. At the next turn, make a left and an immediate right to follow the Longleaf Pine Trail through the woods.
It heads uphill, sweeping along a bluff above a small stream, before it tunnels into sandhill habitat with some open areas where you might see a gopher tortoise. Interpretive signs call attention to native plants.
By 2.2 miles, you’re back at the T with the Pond Trail near the San Jose Rd trailhead. You can turn right and follow the Pond Trail for another 0.3 mile back the way you started this hike to complete a 2.5-mile walk.
But it’s more interesting to turn left and follow it back down to the pond. Sweeping past the edge of the pond again, make a right at the next junction. It’s a brief connector over to the paved connector to the parking area.
At the T, make a right and join the paved connector to walk over a culvert where water is flowing out of the pond through a very jungly area out to the Rainbow River. Keep alert for a beaten path on the right and follow it.
This side path traces the edge of the pond, leading you past benches with very nice views across the water. It eventually returns to the paved path within sight of the parking area.
Returning to the parking area by passing the take-out, you complete a 2.7-mile hike.
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