This section of the Florida Trail features an immersion in the longleaf pine ecosystem, an increasingly rare habitat with a diversity of endangered plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.
The hike begins with a short boardwalk through a pristine cypress swamp, followed by vast stretches of slash and longleaf pine towering over saw palmetto, ferns, and mosses.
The flat and easy-to-follow path makes for an enjoyable stroll through one of Florida’s most beautiful and ecologically important National Forests.
The Florida Trail’s oldest shelter sits at the northern end of this hike and is a welcome spot for lunch or camping. Non-potable water is accessible from a nearby creek if you bring a water filter.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 4.3 miles linear
Trailhead: 30.2436, -82.4401
Restroom: Vault toilet at Osceola Shelter
Land manager: U.S. Forest Service, Osceola Ranger District
Open daily sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Foot travel only.
Wear blaze orange during hunting season. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and water.
Primitive camping is allowed in Osceola National Forest, but random camping is not permitted during the fall deer hunting season.
Overnight parking at trailheads is not recommended. When Ocean Pond Campground is open, it has a camp host on duty and it’s best to leave your car there while backpacking this National Forest.
Heading west on Interstate 10, take exit 324 toward US 90 W. Keep left and follow signs to Olustee/Lake City and turn left onto US 90 W. After 7 miles, turn right onto CR 250A. Continue for 4-miles and you will come to the sign for Ocean Pond Campground. Turn left at the entrance. You will pass the trailhead/Florida Trail in 0.1 miles. Continue another quarter mile to the small parking area on your right.
From the parking area, walk a quarter mile back along the Ocean Pond Campsite entrance road until you reach the Florida Trail crossing.
Take the trailhead entrance on your left, which heads northwest by compass. The trail is marked with Florida Trail and Great Florida Birding Trail signs.
In 500 feet you will reach a boardwalk crossing over a shadowy cypress swamp replete with its distinctive and mysterious “knees.”
The swamp’s water below is stained by dark tannins while epiphytes above add to an otherworldly environment.
Continue on your path following the Florida Trail’s orange blazes until you come out onto FR 241. Take a right and walk to the end of the road.
Continue your hike through the pine forest with a dense understory of palmetto and scrub. The trail comes back out onto CR 250A again.
Cross the road and you’re back on the trail, where you will come back onto CR 250A for a third time. Take a left, walk 100 feet, and take a right, following the orange blazes back into the woods.
In addition to unique flora like the hooded pitcher plant, you may encounter wildlife along your hike, including white-tailed deer, pileated woodpecker, eastern indigo snake, and maybe even a wild turkey.
After crossing CR 250A for the last time, the trail follows a creek to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge, take a right, and you will have reached the Osceola Shelter, the oldest shelter on the Florida Trail.
The shelter features two picnic tables, a fire ring, a vault toilet, and a water source, the creek you just crossed. There’s room at the site for 3 to 4 tents.
Continue a half mile north of the shelter and you’ll reach the Turkey Run trailhead, which has ample room for parking.
For a linear hike, drop a car at the Turkey Run trailhead for a linear hike between parking spots or have someone pick you up here.
Or you can turn around and hike back to Ocean Pond to double your fun for an 8.6 mile day hike.
NORTHBOUND: Turkey Run to Deep Creek (11.4 mi)
SOUTHBOUND: Olustee to Ocean Pond (5.5 mi)
Learn more about Osceola National Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
In the Osceola National Forest, this short loop along the Florida Trail adjacent to Olustee Battlefield is one of the easiest places in the state to see red-cockaded woodpeckers.
The short, easily accessed Mount Carrie Wayside in Osceola National Forest showcases an old growth longleaf pine forest with a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
The hike through Olustee Battlefield is short, but its historical significance is great. More than 2,000 men died in this forest on February 20, 1864, when Confederate and Union forces met and fought Florida’s bloodiest battle