Living in Dunnellon while the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway was built, Sandra had a hands-on role maintaining the section between the Pruitt and Ross Prairie trailheads for a number of years. Pruitt was the westernmost trailhead for nearly 15 years before the new paved Dunnellon Trail section opened a couple years ago, with trailheads at Bridges Rd and Blue Run Park.
On trips to the area to see family and to check out the new trail as it evolved, we started to notice another evolution too, behind the Sonic on US 41. As the walls went up, we said, “well how about that! It’s a hotel!” Now Dunnellon has a few nice little mom and pop motels that we’ve recommended to hikers on the Florida Trail – this is a trail town, after all – but when the Marion County VCB put the call out for a hotel to put us up for a couple days while we were doing trail research for them on this side of the county, the brand-new Comfort Suites welcomed us in.
The exterior stonework lent a clue: the lobby is centered around a big fireplace, which may seem a little odd for Florida but will be very welcome on those chilly days that are so good for hiking in the winter. Big windows let the sunshine in across the common areas, including the big dining area, a nice place to hang out with friends.
The room surprised us: it was quite spacious, living up to the “Suites” portion of the name, with a couch that doubles as a sleeper sofa in its own nook. And yes, the king bed was a welcome comfort after hours of hiking and biking. We had plenty of room to spread our equipment out, sort things out, and get work done between our visits to nearby trails, most of them on or near the Cross Florida Greenway. Rainbow Springs had some hurricane damage that day, so we only took a short walk there before working our way towards Santos. However, this is the closest place you can stay to Rainbow Springs without being in the campground itself.
It’s a very new property, so it’s still kind of quiet. We don’t doubt it will get quite busy in summer when people come to play along the Rainbow River. There are special spaces in the parking lot (with power) for guests with RVs and boats who want to keep their rigs powered while they sleep in more comfort. Pets are welcome.
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Here’s where you can hike, bike, and paddle near the Comfort Suites in Dunnellon. Florida Trail hikers take note: this is the closest lodging to the Walmart and grocery stores, if you are in Dunnellon to resupply. They welcome dogs, have an on-site laundry, and several restaurants are within a very short walk.
Our thanks to Comfort Suites in Dunnellon for providing a complimentary stay while we researched hiking trails in the area.