Cedar Key Scrub Reserve protects over 5,000 acres of natural land, highlighting endangered Florida scrub habitats.
A variety of natural communities are found across this unique area patch of conservation land, from salt marshes to scrubby and mesic flatwoods. The East Loop focuses on scrub.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Cedar Key
Length: 3.1 mile loop
Address: SR 24, Cedar Key
Restrooms: Vault toilet at the trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted. Trails are multi-use.
Cedar Key Scrub is a rare exception to the rule of no hunting in Florida State Parks, hence the reserve designation.
See the link at the bottom of the page for hunt dates and wear bright orange if hiking during scheduled hunts.
From the intersection of US 19/98 and SR 24 in Otter Creek, north of Inglis, follow SR 24 west for 15.8 miles to the main trailhead entrance on the right.
Starting at the parking area, walk past the covered information kiosk and head through a fence gap onto the main trail.
Tall grasses line the wide pathway, giving way to a mix of shrubs, sporadic pines, and cabbage palms.
Buttonweeds form a light ground cover over sandy edges alongside a wet section of trail, attracting numerous butterflies and other pollinators with tiny white flowers.
The damp area quickly transitions to scrubby flatwoods, with myrtle oaks and young sand pines clustered together, alongside fetterbush lyonia and goldenrod.
At the first intersection of trails, a bench sits among a gently rolling terrain with low-lying shrubs.
Continue straight though the crossroads, beginning a counterclockwise loop while climbing an ancient sand dune.
Reaching the north end of the property, the trail makes a left turn alongside a dense swamp.
Although the path remains dry and scrubby, stands of cypress provide a backdrop to short longleaf pines and oaks.
Continuing westward, a grassy path weaves through a mosaic of scrub, depression marsh, and mesic flatwood habitats.
At 1.6 miles, the trail turns sharply to the left before ascending into a desert-like scrub environment.
A soft pathway of stark white sugar sands leads to the top of a slope carpeted with scrub oak and rusty lyonia. Vultures circle high above this arid landscape, and shade is very limited.
This specific habitat supports Florida’s only endemic bird species, the Florida scrub-jay.
Scrubby flatwoods emerge where the trail descends the slope towards the south end of the loop.
Orange and yellow milkworts bloom among various sage, golden, and silver tinted grasses.
A bench placed next to the trail offers a resting spot surrounded by this quiet, picturesque setting.
The loop concludes at 3 miles. The trailhead is another tenth of a mile after the final right turn.
Picnic tables underneath a covered pavilion at the parking area provide a fantastic spot for post-hike reflection.
Learn more about Cedar Key Scrub Reserve
A virtual walk on the East Loop at Cedar Key Scrub
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
At the Shell Mound Unit of Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, the Dennis Creek Trail immerses you in classic habitats of the Gulf Coast along a 1-mile loop
Showcasing the lower Suwannee River, Manatee Springs State Park centers around a clear blue spring, one of Florida’s largest and most picturesque
The original Cedar Key isn’t where you think it is. It’s offshore, within sight of the current historic waterfront, an island called Atsena Otie Key, part of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
Along its ragged, marshy shoreline, the meandering Waccasassa River empties out into Waccasassa Bay, flats stretching out to the Gulf of Mexico. Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park can only be explored by water – from the boat ramps at Yankeetown, Gulf Hammock, or the shoreline of Cedar Key – with no landside access.