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.
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Location: Salt Springs
Length: 10.4 miles linear
Trailhead: 29.342217, -81.734356
Fees : free
Restroom: at 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.
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.
Salt Springs trailhead: 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.
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.
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 fence line 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 FR 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.
See our photos of Salt Springs to Kerr Island / The 88 Store
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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.
See the beauty of William Bartram’s “amazing crystal fountain” as you gaze into the depths of this rocky spring in the Ocala National Forest
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.