More than twenty years ago, we watched as volunteers planted longleaf pine seedlings across rolling hills covered in mounds of blackberry brambles.
What is now the Baseline section of the Cross Florida Greenway was a ranch. But before that, it had been sandhills topped with longleaf pine and wiregrass.
It takes a while to bring a forest back to life, but it can be done. And as the trees grew, the Baseline section has become a pleasant place to hike.
Paralleling and crossing several paved bicycle loops on its way to the southern edge of Marshall Swamp, the Florida Trail makes its own way through this restored forest, luxuriating in the shade of the maturing pines.
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Guthook Guides GPS-driven map-based guide to the Florida National Scenic Trail with thousands of waypoints from The Florida Trail Guide. Works offline. For iPhone and Android.
Length: 2.7 miles linear
Trailhead: 29.142204, -82.052940
Fees / Permits: Free
Restroom: Restrooms at south end, portable toilet at north end
Land Manager: Cross Florida Greenway
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome.
The footpath along the Baseline section was developed for hiking. Cyclists have many paved loops to choose from between these two trailheads. No camping facilities are provided along this section.
At the south end of this hike, the Baseline trailhead is 5.7 miles north of Belleview via SR 35 (Baseline Rd) just north of the intersection of SR 464 (Maricamp Road) in Silver Springs Shores.
From the intersection of CR 464 (Maricamp Rd) and CR 35 (Baseline Rd), drive east on CR 464 for a half mile and turn left onto SE 64th Ave Rd. Follow it for 2.1 miles. The SE 64th Ave Rd trailhead is on the left just before the road dead-ends.
Follow the orange blazes from the Baseline trailhead through the picnic pavilion and past the restrooms and playground to a sign at a junction with the paved bike trail. The Florida Trail crosses it and heads into the young forest.
Among the trees, it stays close to the south boundary of the Greenway. The footpath crosses the paved trail after a few minutes.
In this next section of restored forest, watch for blazes. The trail emerges into an area where wild cherry trees grow, and a sea of blackberry bushes stretches around you. Be here in May to sample their delights!
In an older longleaf pine forest, there is shade and a haze of blackberry bushes and wiregrass beneath the pines.
After a downhill, the footpath is well-worn through a younger forest with maturing longleaf pines amid sandhill plants.
The footpath crosses the paved trail and dives down a steep embankment past the Ocala Disc Golf Course. You’ll see at least one of the “holes” along the course as the trail curves left and uphill.
The landscape undulates rather severely and then gently through a mature forest, obviously terraced, but not so deeply as other canal diggings.
Ambling up and down the hills through sandhill habitat – which is dominated by turkey oaks with leaves that turn brilliant hues in late fall – you can see the bike trail to your left through the woods. You’ve walked 2 miles.
Making a steady descent, the trail reaches an old farm fence. Posts embedded with barbed wire draw your attention. You spy a blue blaze off to the right near the fence line. It leads due east to the SE 64th Ave Rd trailhead, 0.2 miles east of this point.
However, you haven’t reached the edge of Marshall Swamp yet. Continue in an arc through the sandhills.
As the trail draws closer to the edge of the hardwood forest, it comes to another blue blazed trail. Since the Marshall Swamp sign is just around the corner, this is the one to take to the trailhead.
Follow it through the sandhills to meet the bike path at a set of benches and a kiosk. Make a left on the bike path to follow it out along its shaded corridor to the SE 64th Ave Rd trailhead, wrapping a 2.7-mile hike.
Our slides from hiking the Baseline section of the Florida Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area
Part of the Florida State Forests Trailwalker program, the Bear-N-Oak Trail at Indian Lake State Forest is a 1.6-mile loop that provides a fascinating look at habitat diversity centered on Indian Lake, a major karst feature in the Ocala Limestone
3 miles. Marvel at towering trees in an ancient forest along this Florida Trail segment on the Cross Florida Greenway
Built to showcase the Cross Florida Greenway, the Silver River Connector is a 3-mile round-trip from the Ocklawaha Visitor Center to Ray Wayside Park.
Silver Springs Conservation Area protects upland habitats crucial to recharge of Silver Springs. Two stacked loop trails (with a cross-trail on the upper loop) provide several options for hiking.
Official Map (PDF) Official Website