It’s been 15 years in the making. Envisioned as a connector across the Withlacoochee River to join the Cross Florida Greenway and the Withlacoochee State Trail together, the Dunnellon Trail opened on May 16, 2014 with great fanfare focused on its big bridge over the cypress-lined banks of the Withlacoochee.
Length: 2.5 mile
Lat-Lon: 29.03125, -82.45610 (CR 39) or 29.043703, -82.435858 (Bridges Rd)
Fees / Permits: Free
Bug factor: Moderate to high
This is a paved path suitable for biking, walking, and inline skating, and is part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.
Off a side road off CR 484 east of Blue Run Park, the Bridges Rd trailhead is at the end of a very bumpy dirt road adjoining the public ballfields. The CR 39 trailhead in Citrus County is immediately on the left as you turn off US 41 S onto CR 39 heading south from Dunnellon. Both trailheads have signs that say “Dunnellon Trail.”
From CR 39, follow the ribbon of pavement as it parallels the trailhead entrance road to the trailhead parking area, where you’ll find a kiosk with an overview map of the area and its trails. The trail curves along the line of the former railroad route, flanked by climax sandhill habitat dominated by oaks. A broad grassy berm parallels both sides of the path for a long stretch, preventing much shade from filtering across the path.
Shade begins in earnest as the trail dives into the floodplain forest of the Withlacoochee River. On both sides, you’ll see pools of standing water in pits excavated for phosphate over a century ago. Dunnellon became a mining boomtown after the first phosphate in Florida was discovered by Albertus Vogt not far from this spot in 1889.
Approaching the big bridge across the Withlacoochee River – which seems oversized for its location, but at this size should withstand the significant flooding that sometimes fills this river as it flows northward from the Green Swamp – the bridge fills the horizon. Once you’re on top of it, enjoy the views of the cypress-lined banks and the lily-dotted coves. Several observation decks let you step out and look across an unimpeded view, and there is a bench built into the bridge on the far side on the left.
Once you’re off the bridge, the trail continues into a deeply shaded floodplain forest for the next half mile. You’ll see tree-topped mounds that are old phosphate mining spoil piles, and a few gates and fences preventing access off the trail onto private property to the shoreline of the Rainbow River, which meets the Withlacoochee at a confluence you can’t see. Eventually, the trail draws close enough to the Rainbow River for you to be able to glimpse its crystalline waters between palm fronds and tree trunks.
At 1.5 miles, the trail curves to the right, leaving the river and its floodplain to head into an upland area. At the curve is a footpath to the left that continues along the Rainbow River; this is the connector to the Blue Run Park trailhead. Once the trail enters the uplands, it swings east and passes a series of ballfields before ending up at the trailhead at the end of Bridges Rd.
Long distance hikers wishing to access services in town (Dunnellon makes a good zero day stop) can do so safely by following the Blue Run Park connector trail to the sidewalks of Dunnellon.
|0.0||CR 39 trailhead entrance|
|1.5||connector trail in Blue Run Park|
|2.5||Bridges Rd trailhead|