Formerly a dairy farm, the 417 acres protected by Ellis Acres Reserve is partly wooded but mostly pastureland. Lake County acquired the property to fill a gap in natural lands.
Touching Seminole State Forest on one boundary, this preserve helps the movement of Florida black bears between the Wekiva River basin and the Ocala National Forest.
Efforts are actively underway to convert the pasture back to its natural state, a sandhill habitat with longleaf pines, exactly what you see in the Ocala National Forest across the road.
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Length: 4.3 mile loop trail network
Trailhead: 28.99472, -81.53860
Address: 25302 CR 42, Paisley
Restroom: Vault toilet at the trailhead
Land manager: Lake County
Open dawn to dusk. No pets permitted.
While horseback riding is also not permitted, you are welcome to ride the trails on a bicycle. Since many of the trails are mowed through the pasture grasses, bring a bike that can go off road.
From DeLand, follow SR 44 west across the St. Johns River to the first traffic light. Turn right and follow SR 42 along the edge of the Ocala National Forest for 10.3 miles. The entrance to Ellis Acres Reserve is on the left just past the fire station in Paisley.
Because of being pasture for so long, it will take some years before the forest fills in. Meanwhile, a network of trails is mowed through the grass, leading you past patches of scrub habitat and large live oaks that create their own little islands of biodiversity.
The trails on the south edge of the property, starting with the turnoff at Marker A to the right, are partially in the woods.
The bulk of the trail system is out in the open in pastureland north of the old limestone road that cuts through the property.
The trail system is a series of interconnected loops with alphabetic markers at each trail junction that correspond to a trail map you can pick up at the kiosk or find online.
The most direct route to Lake Akron is straight back along the main entrance road behind the gate, passing Marker C.
Turn right at Marker D and you’re at the lake shore. A round trip to the lake is 1.5 miles.
On the way, you’ll pass the turnoff to the Nature Center. Located south of Marker C and less than a half mile from the front gate, the Nature Center opens for scheduled educational and recreational activities.
These range from guided hikes and paddling trips to workshops suitable for working on merit badges such as insect study and archaeology. Check the Lake County Parks & Trails Calendar of Events for details.
When the Nature Center is open, the gate is, too, making it easier for paddlers to get much closer to Lake Akron to launch.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.