In the heart of Pinellas County, Eagle Lake Park is the legacy of the Taylor family, who helped to found Largo -- then known as Citrus City -- with their groves and citrus packing plant. Surrounding their homestead was one of the last significant pine forests in the most densely urban county in Florida, as well as a lake where eagles have long nested. Left in recent times as a bequest to the people of Pinellas, the family grove is now the county’s newest park, a delight for hikers, bicyclists, birders, dog-lovers, and families alike.
While most of the trail system is paved, this is truly an urban forest, so if pavement gets folks out into the woods while still in their comfort zone, good for them! Boardwalks and natural pathways round out the 3-mile trek, which is partially shared with bicycles.
Length: 3 miles
Lat-Long: 27.930408, -82.763472
Type: Loops with connectors
Fees / Permits: None
Bug factor: low to moderate
Since there are so many possible ways to walk the trails through the park, you can design a loop hike of anywhere from a quarter mile up to five miles without too much retracing of your steps.
Park amenities also include a dog park (near the trailhead I used for this hike), playground, picnic pavilions, and fishing in designated areas.
Eagle Lake Park sits between US 19A and US 19 immediately south of Clearwater off Bellaire Blvd. From the junction of US 19 and SR 60 (Gulf to Bay Boulevard) in Clearwater, drive west 2 miles to Keene Road. Turn left. Continue south 2.1 miles, crossing Belleair Blvd, to the park entrance on the right. Inside the park, turn left and park in the parking area near the dog park and restrooms.
Starting from the parking area near the dog park, follow the paved path to the right of the restrooms and through the oak hammock. After you pass the main entrance of the park on the right, turn left on the first side trail, which leads to a boardwalk around a marshy slough. Turn left again to cross another slough flowing between the marshes. Tall longleaf pines rise well above.
The trail emerges on the outer loop, facing a forest of young longleaf pines. Turn right. In the early morning hours, spider webs sparkle with dew as they stretch between the pine needles. Following the perimeter of the property, the trail works its way along a pond on the right. A natural surface path comes in from the left. .
A fork in the path at 0.5 mile is at the edge of another parking area. Continue straight, passing the parking area and its picnic pavilions, with the remains of the old orange grove off in the distance. The trail jogs to the left, slipping around a half-fallen tree and remnant of old farm fenceline. Passing a crosswalk off to the right, where buildings from the Taylor farm sit at the edge of the orange grove, the path continues up to a crosswalk and comes to a T. This marks the start of the loop around Eagle Lake.
Turn right to start the loop and make the first left at the “Picnic Pavilion 4″ sign. This path leads to Pier 3, the first of several overlooks on Eagle Lake. Follow the path to the left around the lake, taking time to look off the piers into the water. From the comfortable shade of an oak hammock past Picnic Pavilion 5, you see the playground, a fanciful citrus grove complete with barn.
As the trail continues around the lake, keep to the right, avoiding trails that branch off to the left, including one that leads to a gate into the local neighborhood. Past Pier 2, the path crosses a small bridge over the outflow of Eagle Lake, where young cypresses have been planted along its banks. The bald eagle nest comes into view in a tall pine just outside the park boundary, to the right-hand side of the corner of the park on your left. Rounding the corner, you reach Pier 4, and cross a steel bridge over a stream flowing into Eagle Lake, a stream so clear you can see coontail waving in the current at the bottom.
After 1.6 miles, you complete the loop around Eagle Lake. Cross the crosswalk again, and up ahead, make a left at the stop sign. Ramble along the edge of the big parking area to where you can see the farmstead, including the historic home and barns. Turn right when you see them. Take a ramble into the citrus grove to follow an old gravel path between the trees. In spring, some of the trees are laden with oranges, while others are full of fragrant blossoms.
Cross the park road to walk past Picnic Shelter 3 and Restrooms 2, and work your way down to Pier 2. This overlook is great for birding, as there’s always activity going on, from red-winged blackbirds fussing and squawking from the trees to blue-winged teals cruising the open water. Follow the boardwalk around to the right between the series of ponds. Past the next pier, make a right, and you’re back at the first wetland area you encountered. Popping out at the paved perimeter path, take a left this time.
At 2.2 miles under the tall longleaf pines, you reach a T intersection. Turn right. A boardwalk crosses reconstructed marshlands, where ducklings scurry to follow their mother into the tall reeds. The longleaf pines are quite old at this end of the park, with oaks making up the understory. The paved trail ends at an exit at Rosary Road into a local neighborhood. Turn left on a shellrock path and follow it into the pine flatwoods. Take the right fork at the Y intersection. The trail swings to the left to follow the park boundary, where the sound of traffic becomes noticeable.
Although Eagle Lake Park is surrounded by busy roads, there is so much birdsong in the air and so many views to delight the senses that you don’t really notice the traffic until you reach this corner of the park. Curving left again, the trail comes up to a short boardwalk over a wetland area.
After the next major pedestrian entrance to the park, the Keene Road entrance, at 2.8 miles, turn left. Beyond a bench, another paved path heads over a bridge to the left. Continue straight, since you’re now within sight of the parking lot where you started your walk. Passing the dog park on the right, you come up to Picnic Pavilion 1 and its adjoining restrooms, completing a 3-mile walk.