Along more than 40 miles of the Florida Trail, it offers surprising changes in elevation thanks to piled-up remains of canal diggings up to a century old, now covered in forests.
Providing backpackers an alternative for overnight trips while fall hunting season is in full swing on other public lands, this section of the Florida Trail is ideal for day hiking thanks to its many trailheads.
An overview of the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway, including a trail map, is in our full-color guidebook Florida Trail Hikes. You’ll also find specific recommended segments in detail in this book, as well as in our book Five Star Trails Gainesville & Ocala.
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
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.
Backpacking the Cross Florida Greenway
In the fall, this section of the Florida Trail is popular with backpackers since hunting is not allowed along it. We suggest backpackers stick to the section between the Pruitt trailhead and the Marshall Swamp trailhead, a 32-mile trek, since minimal roadwalks are involved.
Backpacking the Florida Trail across the Cross Florida Greenway requires one of two things: either a membership in the Florida Trail Association or a free permit.
Contact the Office of Greenways and Trails (352-236-7143) in advance of your trip and outline your planned route. It’s always smart to let them know where you are leaving your car while backpacking.
This is a decent section for backpacking with your dog. It is high and dry pretty much the entire way. Alligator sightings are unlikely except at Marshall Swamp.
Use designated campsites, established campsites, or campgrounds. Benches and a fire ring are provided at designated campsites.
While bears are infrequently seen along this piece of the Florida Trail, they have been spotted. You’ll want to bear bag your food to secure it from nosy raccoons.
Water sources are very limited along the trail. Surface water is mostly non-existent except in the swamps at either end of this section.
Potable water can be found at the Ross Prairie, Shangri-La, Land Bridge, Santos, Baseline, and Marshall Swamp trailheads.
Water can be filtered from horse troughs (fed by wells) at the Pruitt and SW 49th Avenue trailheads, as well as at the land bridge.
Long distance hikers have quite a few stops to choose from.
Dunnellon is a welcoming trail town with services starting less than a mile off-trail. You’ll find hotels, restaurants, and several full-service grocery stores to choose from. It’s worth a zero day for a float down the Rainbow River.
A Walmart is less than a mile north of the road crossing at SR 200. It’s 2 miles south along CR 475A to hotels, restaurants, and an array of services at SR 484 and Interstate 75.
The town of Belleview is less than 3 miles south off the trail for hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Right outside the gate of the Santos trailhead, Greenway Bicycles has snacks and drinks geared to athletes.
The town of Silver Springs is 4.3 miles northwest of the Marshall Swamp trailhead, with hotels, restaurants, a Walmart, and access to one of the world’s largest springs.
PARKING & SHUTTLE
If you’re leaving a car for multiple days, best to do so behind the gates of one of the campgrounds, where a camp host is present.
If you need assistance with a shuttle, join the Florida Trail Hikers Facebook group and ask for assistance. There are a number of volunteers in the area who can help. Be sure to compensate them for their gas and time.
Even with its buffer zone, much of the Cross Florida Greenway is surrounded by homes, subdivisions, and working ranches. Road crossings and trailheads may bustle with activity.
Use street smarts. Don’t leave your gear unattended, lock your car and leave nothing of value in view, and don’t stay at a trailhead if someone makes you uncomfortable.
All of the mileages below start with mile 0 at the CR 39 trailhead and end with mile 39.2 at the Marshall Swamp trailhead. These mileages are calculated from the Florida Trail App. Those marked with * have water sources, ** for potable water.
0.0 – CR 39 trailhead
0.8 – Withlacoochee River bridge
2.3 – Bridges Road trailhead
7.2 – Pruitt trailhead*
12.2 – Ross Prairie trailhead and campground 0.7E**
13.6 – Ross Prairie campsite
14.1 – Spring Park campsite
15.8 – Shangri-La trailhead and campground 0.9E**
19.0 – SW 49th Ave trailhead 0.2E*
19.1 – SW 49th Ave campsite
21.2 – Land Bridge*
22.2 – Land Bridge campsite
22.4 – Land Bridge trailhead**
27.4 – Vortex trailhead
30.0 – Santos trailhead and campground 0.1E**
34.1 – Baseline trailhead**
36.2 – SE 64th Ave trailhead 0.2E
39.2 – Marshall Swamp trailhead**
41.9 – Sharpes Ferry Road roadwalk
43.8 – Ocala National Forest
These are the trail segments that make up the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway, south to north along the Western Corridor section of the Florida Trail.
2.3 miles. Tunneling through dense floodplain forests to bridge the Withlacoochee River, this paved segment of the Florida Trail offers accessible users an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
7.5 miles. With switchbacks, scrambles, and ancient oaks, the Pruitt section of the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway offers a fascinating hike into the history of the Cross Florida Ship Canal
6.5 miles. With hilly terrain to traverse past fern-covered boulders and large sinkholes beneath the pines, this is a rugged and interesting segment of the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway.
3.6 miles. Bookended by soft sand pines and ancient oaks, this particularly fascinating hike along the Cross Florida Greenway includes a massive dune-like slope and the Land Bridge over Interstate 75.
6.7 miles. Between the Land Bridge Trailhead and Santos, the Florida Trail winds its way around horse farms to meander through stands of oaks and pines.
5.1 miles. History is on display along this segment of the abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal, from a town demolished nearly a century ago to agricultural land undergoing habitat restoration.
2.7 miles. On a sliver of restored sandhill, the Baseline section of the Florida Trail provides a stroll within a forested oasis surrounded by suburbia.
CR 484 Roadwalk. A gap exists in the trail between the Dunnellon Trail and the Pruitt Trailhead. Presently, a short segment of blazed trail leads through a forest from the Bridges Rd trailhead to CR 484. From the traffic light at SW 180th Street where the trail ends at the road, you must follow CR 484 for 2.8 miles due east to the Pruitt trailhead.
Santos. There is a gap in the Cross Florida Greenway itself between the Historic Santos Recreation Area and SE 79th St. Hikers must follow a paved road for 3/4 mile.
Sharpes Ferry Roadwalk. After the trail emerges from a 2.5-mile segment in Silver Springs State Park northeast of the Marshall Swamp trailhead, it’s necessary to follow this paved road for 1.9 miles across the Ocklawaha River to the trail entrance into the Ocala National Forest. Power poles are blazed.
Due to high speed traffic on these highways and a lack of a paralleling path, we do not recommend hiking the gaps unless you are working on a section or thru-hike and don’t want to skip it. Santos has traffic at lower speeds but drivers do not expect pedestrians there.
Articles about the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway
Basic wayfinding – understanding where the sun is, looking at landscape, picking out landmarks as you hike – comes as second nature to some people. It’s an important skill that all hikers should cultivate.
A landmark along Interstate 75 near Ocala, the Land Bridge remains one of the more popular destinations for hikers, bikers, and equestrians on the Cross Florida Greenway.
A visit to the Barge Canal Diggings near I-75 after 13 years of the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway reveals steady changes over the years, shown in a series of photos.
Loop & Side Trails
The following trails connect to the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway, and in some places, use a portion of the Florida Trail to create a loop.
3.5 miles. Circling the largest prairie ecosystem on the Cross Florida Greenway, the Ross Prairie Loop showcases massive oaks and panoramic views
A 2.4 mile loop showing off the habitat diversity of Ross Prairie State Forest, this easy hike provides scenic panoramas across the prairie on a mostly shaded trail.
ALL Cross Florida Greenway Information