The Green Swamp is a unique and precious element of Florida’s varied ecosystems. As a wetland situated on an upland area, the massive amounts of rainfall that land here are distributed to four major rivers.
The Florida Trail winds through miles of this publicly accessible land, offering gorgeous views of natural landscapes, with several primitive campsites available for backpackers along the way.
It is 1.4 miles from the Ranch Rd trailhead to meet the orange blazes of the Florida Trail plus 13.3 miles linear to Lacoochee-Clay Sink Rd to the next place you can leave a car.
The official trailhead for Richloam is the Richloam Fire Tower, another 3.6 miles past the road crossing, or 18.3 miles total. Most hikers tackle this segment as an overnight trip, with Devil’s Creek a significant obstacle to plan for.
The Florida Trail Guide and app includes this full route; Florida Trail Hikes includes the Richloam River Loop.
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Location: Dade City
Length: 14.7 miles linear (13.3 linear on orange blazes)
Trailhead: 28.352977, -82.1248285
Address: 13347 Ranch Rd, Dade City
Land manager: Southwest Florida Water Management District
Open Sunrise – Sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Free online registration is required for use of primitive campsites.
FWC manages hunting on the property. Check in advance regards scheduled hunts and always wear blaze orange clothing during hunting seasons.
For the southern trailhead: From US 98 in Dade City, head east on River Rd for 2.6 miles, then turn left to remain on River Rd. In 2 miles, turn left onto Ranch Rd. After you cross the Withlacoochee River, the trailhead is on the right at a prominent kiosk.
For the northern road crossing: From US 98/301 at the north end of Dade City, drive 6.2 miles. Keep right when the roads split. Turn right on SR 575 through Lacoochee and continue 2.2 miles. Turn right on Lacoochee-Clay Sink Rd and continue 1.4 miles to the trail crossing.
From the Ranch Road trailhead of Green Swamp West, follow blue blazes eastward for 1.4 miles to an intersection with the Florida Trail.
Turn left to join the orange blazed trail, continuing 0.2 mile along Cumpressco Grade, a main access road for the property.
Immediately after leaving Cumpressco Grade, the trail crosses a bridge over a slow moving blackwater creek.
Reaching the opposite side, follow the well-defined pathway as it cuts through palmettos in a scrubby flatwoods habitat.
The trail slowly ascends into a large open area of rolling hills and prairie ponds, passing the Concession Stand campsite in 1.6 miles.
Offering a cozy spot to rest or spend the evening, this campsite features picnic tables, a fire ring and pitcher pump.
After crossing Ranch Road in a mile, the trail delves into an impressive hammock of large oaks and cabbage palms.
Large open areas to the east and west reveal pine-encircled ponds, as the chirps of distant frogs fill the air.
At 6.6 miles, a blue-blazed trail leads eastward to the Foster Bridge campsite.
This beautiful site is situated along the edge of a wet prairie, with an access trail to the Withlacoochee River for water.
Heading northward, the trail follows alongside Cedar Pocket Road, using the road at points to navigate some of the swampier areas.
Ferns and palmettos flourish under a thick canopy of oaks before the path emerges into scrubby flatwoods.
In the late summer to fall, vibrant purple blazing stars and Florida paintbrushes intersperse with yellow goldenrod, dotting a hilly landscape of tall golden grasses.
In another half mile, the trail reaches a bank of the Withlacoochee River, providing beautiful views.
After passing the High Bluff campsite, and a slough with several large cypress trees, the trail enters the Richloam Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, signage marking the land management boundary.
The floodplain is clearly evidenced by head-high waterlines on many of the trees, as orange blazes lead the way through muddy terrain.
The trail crosses Devil’s Creek a half mile later, a relatively infamous creek crossing on the Florida Trail and a potential obstacle after a serious rain.
The waters can be anywhere from ankle deep to swimming height. A bridge over this waterway has been proposed for future construction.
In another 0.8 mile, meet the south end of the Richloam Loop. Turn left to continue north. Immediately after that turn is a turnoff for the blue-blazed Richloam River Trail.
It offers a detour alongside the Withlacoochee River when water levels are low, with enormous cypresses and riverside views. Use either path to continue northward.
Staying with the orange blazes provides access to South Campsite in another 0.7 miles off a blue blaze to the left. It’s a small site with a picnic bench but no water source.
After a mile, the trail reaches the north intersection of the blue-blazed River Trail right before this 14.7 mile segment concludes at Lacoochee-Clay Sink Rd, which has limited roadside parking.
SOUTHBOUND: Green Swamp West
Learn more about the Florida Trail Western Corridor
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Traversing scenic oak hammock, sandhills, and pine flatwood habitats, the southernmost six miles of the Florida Trail in Green Swamp West offers spectacular day hike and backpacking experiences.
With two different trails – gentle and wild – showing off the park’s natural features, Withlacoochee River Park is a popular overnight camping destination.
At Cypress Lakes Preserve, a 1.7-mile segment of the Florida Trail follows the edge of a series of cypress-lined lakes where ancient trees have survived the ages