Crossing Kerr Island, a stronghold of old-growth longleaf pines in the Big Scrub, the Florida Trail makes a languid curve around Salt Springs and Lake Kerr.
This is one of the drier sections of the Florida Trail, with no water except along the connector trail to Salt Springs and at The 88 Store.
Extensive understory views beneath towering longleaf pines on rolling hills make this an excellent section for a day hike.
Length: 10.4 miles linear
Trailhead: 29.342217, -81.734356
Fees / Permits: free
Restroom: At the 88 Store
Land Manager: U.S. Forest Service
Open 24 hours. Leashed pets welcome.
Backpackers are welcome to random camp along this part of the Florida Trail except during general gun (deer hunting) season in the fall. The owners of The 88 Store welcome hikers to camp for a small fee.
Bears are frequently seen in this area. The National Forest requires you to bear bag or use a bear canister.
NORTH END: The 88 Store is a small watering hole along FR 11 near Lake Kerr, less than a mile south of CR 316. Ask before leaving a car here. They are friendly to hikers – there’s a trail register behind the bar – and generally don’t mind, but may direct you where to park it. If the lot’s busy or no one is around, go up to CR 316 and look for the small building near the trail crossing, an old hunt check station. You can park there for day use.
SOUTH END: On SR 19 in Salt Springs, just north of where CR 314 merges in, make a right at the sign for the Salt Springs Marina. Follow the dirt road into the woods. The trailhead is on the right.
No matter whether you park along SR 19 or at the parking area near the marina, or even at the Salt Springs Observation Trail, you won’t miss the entrance to the blue-blazed connector trail.
It’s a big break in the fenceline on the south side of the highway, with signage and plenty of blazes into the pine forest. If they vanish, watch for a beaten footpath between the prairie ponds.
After a mile, the trail rounds a very large, picturesque flatwoods pond on the left side and then rises up into longleaf pines as it passes a large shallow depression on the right.
Climbing up and away from the ponds and prairies, the trail enters a mixed forest of sand pines and slash pines before reaching the next prairie, which is thickly rimmed with saw palmetto.
Crossing a series of Jeep roads, the footpath tunnels beneath oak hammocks thickly draped in Spanish moss. Reaching the signposted junction with the Florida Trail after 2.9 miles, turn right.
Sand pines tower over a lower canopy of rusty lyonia and sand live oak, providing shade while affording peeks out towards Kerr Island, the rolling hills of longleaf pine and wiregrass nearby.
Crossing two forest roads within a quarter mile, you finally reach Kerr Island. Like Pat’s Island in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, this is a biological island, a longleaf pine habitat.
White bands on tall pines mark the location of red-cockaded woodpecker nests. These endangered birds prefer building their homes in pines that are a century old.
Following the trail across this undulating landscape, you drop through a large hollow and rise back up to cross a narrow ribbon of pavement, FR 11 – the old 88 – at 5.5 miles. Just a half mile more through the tall pines, and you reach CR 314.
Traffic whizzes by this crossing despite the trail signs, so be cautious. Heading uphill, the trail transitions out of the longleaf pine forest through open savannas dotted with the occasional pine or cluster of sand live oaks.
The openness of Kerr Island fades behind you as you enter a thicket of scrub, the trail boring a tunnel right through the dense myrtle oaks, Chapman oaks, and lyonia.
Crossing a jeep trail around 9.2 miles, you can hear vehicles on FR 11, which parallels the trail to the east.
In the last mile, the trail ascends the island of longleaf again. Enjoy the majestic longleaf pines, interspersed with small clearings where turkey oaks shed their colorful leaves.
Waiting at the end of your journey? A cold beer. Or a cold soft drink, if that’s your pleasure. And restrooms. And a trail journal on the counter of the bar, well worth perusing. It’s a slice of local color you won’t want to miss.
Wrapping up your hike at The 88 Store here means a 10.4 mile walk. If you need to continue up to CR 316, it’s a 10.8 mile hike, with the junction with the Western Corridor along the stretch between the two.
Our slides from hiking this segment of the Florida Trail
Other nearby trails and springs 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.
With a strong aquamarine hue accented by refracted rainbows as sunlight plays across the ripples on its sandy bottom, Silver Glen Springs is a first-magnitude spring in the Ocala National Forest.
Florida Trail segments to the north and south of Salt Springs
9.6 miles. Sweeping along the shoreline of one of the largest prairies in the Ocala National Forest, this section of the Florida Trail lingers on prairie panoramas.