Bull Creek WMA protects over 23,000 acres of public land, primarily on the western side of its namesake waterway.
Free to the public, a system of roads and trails offer many recreational activities including horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and hiking.
Although the cypress swamps along the creek were extensively logged in the past, the remains of a defunct railway slip through them.
Thanks to the elevation afforded and the bridges that connect these broken tramways, hikers can immerse in the creek’s otherwise inhospitable floodplain.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 13.8 miles linear
Trailhead: 28.02610, -80.96836
Restroom: At the Hunt Camp campground on the White Trail
Land manager: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Open 24 hours. Leashed dogs welcome. Cars may be left overnight at the Hunt Camp trailhead [28.082708,-80.962234] on the White Trail.
Check ahead regards flooding. This route is not safe if water is flowing over it. Use the west side of the loop as an alternative.
Two primitive campsites are in place for backpackers. Both have pitcher pumps but are unreliable due to frequent breakage.
Car and small trailer camping is available during hunting seasons at their hunt camp. Check with the camp host upon arrival.
To reach Bull Creek WMA, follow US 192 east from Holopaw, passing Triple N Ranch WMA. Just beyond it on the right is Crabgrass Creek Rd. If you are leaving a car overnight, follow this sometimes-rough road to the hunt check station. The Hunt Camp trailhead is on the right between the campground entrance and the gate.
The trailhead for the north end of this hike is 4.9 miles east of Crabgrass Creek Rd along US 192 on the south side of the highway. Parking is limited. Do not block the gate. It’s best not to leave a car overnight here.
The south end of the Florida Trail in Bull Creek WMA begins at a 3-way intersection at a stile crossing into the preserve from adjoining Crescent J Ranch (Forever Florida).
To the left, due north, white blazes mark the western side of the Bull Creek Loop.
To follow the Florida Trail northbound, turn south after crossing the stile and follow orange blazes along a sandy service road for about a tenth of a mile.
Running parallel to a barbed wire fence, this road is bordered by an assortment of carnivorous vegetation including hooded pitcher plants and tiny crimson sundews.
At sight of the first orange blaze, turn left onto a narrower service road carpeted with grass.
The path remains dry while it follows a small strip of land between thick swamps. Cypress trees rise from the horizon, resembling distant ridges.
Golden grasses and palmettos line the trail, interspersed with fetterbush lyonia, which may have showy pink blooms depending on the time of year.
At 0.8 mile, the trail veers left onto a gravel forest road for a short jog then turns right at a well-marked sign.
For the next quarter mile, the path becomes a straight cut through an expanse of palmettos, trailing off into the distance.
Reaching the other side of the pine prairie, turn right onto a sandy road and follow the orange blazes to navigate through a series of intersections as the terrain rapidly changes.
Large clusters of palmettos and tall longleaf pines give way to scrubby live oaks and sand pines.
The trail turns right at tall sand pine on the corner of Billie Lake Road, continuing down a sugar sand service road along the western edge of the scrub.
In about two hundred feet, a curious metal column protrudes from the bushes with the words “Bull Creek” welded vertically down the post.
Follow the service road for 0.4 mile to a sharp left turn, finding the Little Scrub designated campsite on the right side of the trail in a couple hundred feet.
Complete with benches and a rock-lined fire ring, this campsite is an especially scenic spot to take a break or spend the evening.
A pitcher pump is provided but procuring water here can be hit or miss.
Leaving the campsite, the trail crosses a desert-like scrub habitat covered in an array of short oaks, palmetto clusters, and prickly pear cactus.
Well-dispersed sand pines rise from this hardy assortment, many of which tend to lean at a peculiar northward angle.
A little over a half mile from the campsite, the scrub ecosystem transitions quickly.
Lyonia becomes more prominent as the trail skirts around a small depression marsh and across Billie Lake Road into wide open pine savannas.
The vegetation becomes more lush, indicating a clear drop in elevation towards Bull Creek.
Half a mile from the road, a bridge crosses through dense brush and aquatic plants.
In the continuing descent towards the creek, a long wooden span with benches on each end allow dry passage over soggy terrain.
Shortly after crossing a gravel road, the trail climbs onto the remains of the Union Cypress Railroad.
Constructed at the turn of the twentieth century for logging purposes, the trail roughly follows this raised bed for the next six miles.
A series of walkways span seasonally dry creeks while the straight path passes through alternating pine stands and open pastures.
An abundance of hooded pitcher plants mingle with grasses alongside the trail, including an impressively large cluster found after passing a bench overlooking prairies to the west.
Columns of scorched cabbage palms line edges of the old railroad as the overall landscape becomes wetter. Paralleling Bull Creek, oaks and palmettos become more frequent.
At the next forest road crossing, a brief eastward detour along the road leads to the edge of a thick cypress swamp with surprisingly clear water.
In a half mile, the narrow railroad bed enters a strikingly scenic cypress dome, allowing dry passage through this otherwise sodden landscape.
Emerging from the swamp, take a sharp left turn through a field of tall golden grasses towards a shady oak hammock draped in Spanish moss.
Winding around a particularly wet section, the pathway rejoins the railroad bed and continues northward.
It takes another quick detour west to cross Yoke Branch on a forest road bridge.
North of the bridge, the trail turns left to make a beeline through dense swamp with a series of bridges over slow moving tannic water.
A sign indicates the railroad again on the north end, and the trail turns left onto a service road for a short jog.
A pair of benches covered in reflectors sit at the end of a forest road where the trail turns right into an open flatwoods prairie.
Continue for a quarter mile, taking a sweeping turn to the west before reaching the north end of the Bull Creek Loop at the white trail junction at 10.8 miles.
From here, it’s 2 miles westbound on the white blazes to the Hunt Camp trailhead. The Florida Trail continues north from the junction, crossing small bridges in a palm hammock.
A little less than a mile farther, the footpath, now in a vast pine savanna, merges into a two-track road northbound.
When you reach the wall of trees, it marks the Crabgrass Creek floodplain. This tributary of Bull Creek frequently floods.
Don’t be surprised to find yourself wading from blaze to blaze under the shade of the tree canopy.
By 12.5 miles, the trail starts a swing to the northeast, still in the heavy cover of the floodplain.
A series of three narrow bridges carry the Florida Trail across the inky flow of Crabgrass Creek.
Just 0.4 mile later along this old east-west railroad tramway route, the trail reaches Jane Green Campsite, which has a picnic table and pitcher pump.
Camping is under an open understory of pines visible from a levee in the distance used by water management staff.
Crossing a bridge over the last flowing waterway you’ll encounter in Bull Creek WMA, the trail sticks to the pine flatwoods for the last mile.
It emerges from the forest to climb the levee and guide you to a trail register and kiosk at the levee gate that leads to US 192, completing 13.8 miles.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Vast pine savannas and pitcher plant bogs await at one of the toughest loop trails in the Orlando area a 7.5-mile challenge at Triple N Ranch WMA.
Hugging the eastern shore of Lake Lizzie, Lake Lizzie Conservation Area encompasses more than a thousand acres along several lakes set among a vast mosaic of prairies, pine flatwoods, and scrub forest
11.4 miles. Enjoy the counterpoint of moss-draped oak hammocks and expansive prairies at Prairie Lakes, one of the older and more beloved pieces of the Florida Trail
NORTHBOUND: Deseret roadwalk (30.4 miles) to Tosohatchee WMA
SOUTHBOUND: Crescent J Ranch (Forever Florida)