Encompassing over 27,000 acres along the Gulf Coast, Crystal River Preserve State Park is an integral piece of conservation land, protecting environmentally sensitive salt marshes and neighboring woodlands.
A large portion of the preserve is only accessible by boat, though a few trails allow for exploration on foot.
One of three loop trails in the northern part of the preserve, the Eco Walk showcases a variety of wildlife and offers multiple benches for resting and reflection along the route.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Crystal River
Length: 2.3-mile loop
Trailhead: 28.947495, -82.627889
Address: 5990 N Tallahassee Rd, Crystal River, FL 34428
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open Sunrise – Sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From the intersection of US 98 and N Citrus Ave in downtown Crystal River, head west on US 98 for 4 miles, turning left at W Curtis Tool Ln. In 0.9 miles, turn right onto N Tallahassee Rd. The entrance to the trailhead is the first left in less than 100 feet.
At the trailhead, an information kiosk stands next to a box of maps. To begin the loop in a counterclockwise direction, stay to the right immediately after passing the kiosk.
Cabbage palms and live oaks border the grassy pathway as it leads into a subtropical jungle.
In a quarter mile, the habitat transitions slightly where sporadic pines rise from thick clusters of shrubs covered in tangles of grapevines and catbriers.
As the trail crosses slightly undulating terrain, low areas can hold water depending on the time of year and recent rains.
Shortly after passing a bench, the pathway skirts around the edge of a small pond that is a hospitable home to alligators.
Wax myrtles line the trail as it leads through patches of mesic pine flatwoods.
Pickerelweed flourishes in the wetter areas alongside blue flag irises that bloom in the spring with stunning purple and yellow flowers.
As the trail approaches the one-mile mark, a bridge flanked by red maple and bay trees crosses over a swampy area before the footpath begins to weave southward.
Passing a stand of sweetgum trees, the path leads into a shaded oak hammock.
Stately live oaks blanketed with resurrection ferns and Spanish moss extend their branches over the trail, forming a thick canopy over dense clusters of cabbage palms.
Several benches line the corridor, offering spots to rest within this picturesque environment.
Beyond the oak hammock, the sun shines brightly on an impressive variety of sweetgum, oak, palms, wax myrtles, and pines.
Turning to the east, the trail becomes soggier while passing along the perimeter of a hardwood swamp.
Sturdy bridges and boardwalks with integrated benches navigate sections of standing water as the trail meanders through a floodplain forest.
Ascending into a pine flatwoods habitat, the pathway gradually becomes less shaded before crossing a small clearing and completing the loop.
Learn more about Crystal River Preserve State Park
A virtual walk in the woods on the Crystal River Eco Walk
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Providing a peek at the estuary along Crystal River, the Churchhouse Hammock Trail at Crystal River Preserve State Park has accessible and adventuresome options.
At Crystal River Archaeological State Park, a paved interpretive trail winds through a ceremonial mound complex built more than 2,500 years ago. The park is the home of Florida’s only petroglyph.
The sweep of salt marshes and the salt breeze surround you on a walk through the trail system at Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, a 413-acre preserve in Yankeetown