Future plans for the statewide Florida Trail take it into Savage Christmas Creek Preserve, on a route roughly paralleling a bayhead swamp.
Blazed orange, the linear path uses portions of the pre-existing hiking-only Blue and Green Trails to optimize the scenic views for hikers.
On a summer trip to see wildflowers, we discovered it was easy to make a loop out of the hiking-only footpaths by connecting them with the Yellow Trail.
An equestrian route, the Yellow Trail is mainly high and dry along this side of the preserve, providing its own natural beauty and panoramas of pine flatwoods.
Our route was a 1.7 mile loop using the Yellow, Blue, and Orange Trails, but you can expand or shorten it for hikes of 1.2, 2, or 2.7 miles.
To expand the hike to 2 miles, follow the Orange Trail to its trail junction with the Yellow Trail south of the Blue Trail junction we describe.
To stretch it to 2.7 miles, add on the hiking-only Green Trail loop, which is just 0.1 mile south of the above junction along the Yellow Trail.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 1.7 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.557349, -81.030192
Address: 11046 NW Christmas Rd, Christmas
Land manager: Orange County
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs and bicycles not permitted.
A picnic table is provided at the trailhead, which also has ample room for horse trailers. Equestrians welcome.
From the intersection of SR 50 and SR 520 in Bithlo, drive east 3.6 miles along SR 50 to SW Christmas Road (which is before Fort Christmas Road) on the left. Turn left and follow Christmas Road for 1.8 miles to the trailhead on the left.
The approach to the trail system from the trailhead is the same for all hikes and for equestrians, along a long, sweeping curve through open scrubby flatwoods.
The forest road is broad, and after a rain, collects puddles in the low spots. Wildflowers peep up from the grasses.
After 0.2 mile, the trail reaches a bat house and the intersection with the orange-blazed footpath. Turn left to follow it.
Grass-stage longleaf pines, clumps of wiregrass, and newly sprouted pond pines poke up between the saw palmetto and gallberry in these scrubby flatwoods.
Scattered older pines rise above the trail, which passes a cluster of scrub oaks before squeezing between a gauntlet of young longleaf pines.
The bayhead is a ribbon of green off to the east, defining the edge of these expansive pine flatwoods.
With several zigzags beside old ditches and around clumps of saw palmetto, the trail meets the Blue Trail at a junction after 0.6 mile.
This is the first place you can make a return loop to the trailhead by following the blue arrows to the right to reach the Yellow Trail.
We continued left. The trail heads into a series of oak hammocks with more mature oaks, becoming a nicely shaded tunnel under the oak canopy.
Tacking between oak hammocks, the trail crosses expanses of open palmetto prairie. While crossing one of these, we could hear an eagle in the distance.
Orange and blue markers designate the route, which does have some side paths to avoid, mainly beaten down by deer.
Amid the open sweep of palmetto prairie, the trail comes up to another junction amid a clump of small oaks and rusty lyonia.
This is the second junction along the orange blazes. While they turn left to stay to the perimeter, the blue marker points straight. For our route, follow the blue.
Within a few moments, the Blue Trail ends at the Yellow Trail after 0.8 miles. This trail is open to equestrians. To continue making a loop, turn right.
Despite its width, the Yellow Trail is a pleasant walk, although deep in sand in a few spots. From it, you still see the sweep of palmetto prairie to the east.
The trail gains a slight bit of elevation, entering scrub habitat. It’s on this higher ground that a series of oak hammocks begin.
Each provides a welcome patch of shade under grand old live oaks. After the final oak hammock, the other end of the Blue Trail comes in from the left.
Soon after, the trail comes to an intersection with the Red Trail. Veer right to stay on the Yellow Trail.
This part of the Yellow Trail parallels an expansive panorama of longleaf pine flatwoods, one of the most beautiful examples of this habitat in the area.
The understory is a sea of saw palmetto, but within it are patches of scrub oaks and wiregrass establishing a foothold.
Many of the understory plants are hidden under the palm fronds. But yucca makes itself known by sprouting its showy white blooms.
One stand of tall longleaf pines shows the “candle wax” drip patterns created by red-cockaded woodpeckers building their nests.
At the next trail junction for the outer loop, turn right. It doesn’t take long to pass by the entrance to the Orange Trail.
Within less than a quarter mile, you finish up at the trailhead.
Discover more hiking routes at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve
See our photos of the East Loop, Savage Christmas Creek Preserve
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