Connecting two islands of longleaf pine – Kerr Island and Riverside Island – amid the vast Big Scrub, this section of the Florida Trail delights with habitats that stay high and dry.
Hikers are more likely to spot bear scat, claw marks on trees, pawprints, and even bears themselves along this piece of trail north of Salt Springs than any other part of the Florida Trail.
Although there is little surface water, wildflowers bloom profusely in spring and fall. For a top-off of your water when backpacking, a stop at Grassy Pond is a must.
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Location: Salt Springs
Length: 6.4 miles linear
Trailhead: 29.428644, -81.788477
Fees : $5 fee to park at or use Lake Delancy Recreation Area
Restroom: inside Lake Delancy Recreation Area and The 88 Store
Land manager: Ocala National Forest, Lake George Ranger District
At Kerr Island, the 88 Store is a well-known hiker-friendly watering hole along the Florida Trail. It has a big porch out front and carries minor resupply, cold drinks, and ice cream. Ask before leaving a car or using the restroom. There is a hiker register behind the bar and a small restaurant, 88 Alibi, on site.
Random camping is permitted except during general gun (deer hunting) season. Wear bright orange if hiking during any hunting season. Check the link at the bottom of this page for hunt dates.
Lake Delancy West is a designated campsite during hunting seasons and always available to hikers. The campground is a half-mile west of the trail crossing along FR 66 and costs $10 a night.
This recreation area is a mecca for ATV enthusiasts who use the marked ATV trails throughout this part of the forest. You’ll walk right by the ATV corral near the end of this segment.
Protect your food from animals. Bears are frequently seen. The Ocala National Forest requires that you either bear bag or use a bear canister. Raccoons will also try to steal food and gear.
The 88 Store: Located along FR 11 near Lake Kerr, less than a mile south of CR 316. Ask before leaving a car here. If the lot’s full at The 88 Store or no one is around to ask, drive up to the junction of FR 11 & CR 316. Park at the old hunt check station for day use.
Lake Delancy West: From the intersection of SR 19 and SR 316 in Salt Springs, drive north along SR 19 for 5.7 miles. There will be a large sign to indicate FR 66 as the road to Lake Delancy. It’s a dirt road and can be rugged at times. Continue 2.5 miles to the recreation area entrance. If you park here, it’s a $5 fee. If you are day hiking, a couple cars can fit off the side of the road near the trail crossing.
Leaving The 88 Store, walk north along the orange blazes through the tall longleaf pines of Kerr Island. Within a quarter mile, you meet the junction for the Western Corridor of the Florida Trail.
Pass that junction sign and within another quarter mile, you draw within sight of the old hunt check station building at the corner of FR 11 and CR 316, and then the road crossing at CR 316 itself.
Watch for high speed traffic as you cross. Continue north. Leaving Kerr Island, the trail climbs up out of the pines into the Big Scrub.
For the next half mile, the trail is a tight corridor tunneling through scrub forest, a dense understory of scrub oaks, Florida rosemary, and lyonia. Watch for bear sign and bears using this as a highway.
Crossing FR 11 at 1.2 miles, the trail swings northeast and continues through a long green tunnel of scrub beneath the shade of sand live oaks.
The trail curves atop hills that offer an occasional peek from bluffs overlooking Grassy Pond, the only water source along this part of the trail, a deep hollow surrounded by wet prairie.
Past an ATV trail junction – part of the vast network of ATV trails stretching from Salt Springs to Hog Valley – walk behind an old trail sign. At 2 miles, a blue blazed trail leads west to Grassy Pond.
If you slip down the short side trail, you’ll find a flat grassy area perfect for tenting and a path leading down to the pond’s edge.
Watch the orange blazes north of Grassy Pond, as they make some turns where it’s possible to miss a turn and end up on an unmarked trail.
Cross an ATV trail into a dense scrub forest. The trail drops down from the scrub to meet a stately selection of longleaf pine, a precursor to the next pine island near Lake Delancy.
North of the next forest road, the trail transitions into another stretch of scrub with younger trees. When you cross NE 29th Terrace, a sand road, you’ve walked 3.1 miles.
It’s here that the trail joins Riverside Island, the longleaf pine island closest to the Ocklawaha River and Lake Delancy. You can tell by the change of habitat and the increased hilliness.
Spindly sand live oaks create a middle canopy beneath the longleaf pines. Wildflowers like pawpaw and hairy wicky rise above the soft grasses.
As the trail climbs, the forest becomes more majestic. You can see quite a distance thanks to the very open understory.
Around 5.3 miles, the trail loops around the upper rim of a very large sinkhole before descending beneath the tall pines.
The understory is dotted with cabbage palms and saw palmetto. By 6 miles, the trail crosses another ATV through a gap in the fence and works its way around the ATV corrals.
Continuing beneath the longleaf pines, the trail stays along the edge but within sight of Lake Delancy Recreation Area until it reaches FR 66 at the conclusion of this segment.
If you’ve parked inside the recreation area or are camping there, add another half mile to this 6.4 mile hike.
See our photos of hiking Kerr Island to Lake Delancy
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Little known except to those who frequent Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest, the Bear Swamp Trail provides a walk into an ancient forest.
One of the most famed first magnitude springs in Florida, Salt Springs was first written about in 1774 by botanist William Bartram.
Deep in the Ocala National Forest, the Davenport Landing Trail leads you on a scenic loop to a historic landing and archaeological site along the Ocklawaha River.