Centered close to a still-standing church established in 1889, the town of Santos stood near the current trailhead and campground by that name.
But during the Great Depression, construction began on a massive bridge north of Belleview to carry SR 441 over the planned Cross Florida Barge Canal.
Little remains of the historically Black settlement of Santos, homes and businesses condemned and removed in the 1930s as part of the WPA project.
Thankfully, little remains of the canal itself. The ill-conceived project that would have sliced into the Floridan aquifer was brought to a halt in the 1970s, hailed as a major win by conservationists.
The land is now a mosaic of protected parcels as part of the Cross Florida Greenway, connected by a surprisingly scenic section of the Florida Trail.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.1 miles linear
Trailhead: 29.105688, -82.094217
Address: 3080 SE 80th St, Ocala
Restrooms: Yes, adjoining trail access
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open sunrise to sunset. Bicycles permitted only where posted.
Camping is available at the Santos Campground. Reserve in advance.
Santos Campground is a pleasant stop for long distance hikers. It offers showers, potable water, and picnic tables with your campsite. An outfitter with snacks and protein bars is just outside the gates.
From Interstate 75, head east on SR27 for 2.8 miles, then turn right onto US301/ US441. Continue for 7.2 miles, then turn right at SE 80th St. In a tenth of a mile, turn left at the entrance to the Santos Campground. Turn right at the first road, and the trailhead will be immediately on the left. Park your vehicle near the restrooms close to the campground rather than at the larger parking area which serves the mountain biking trails.
The Baseline Trailhead (end point) is 5.7 miles north of Belleview via SR 35 just north of the intersection of SR 464 (Maricamp Road) and SR 35 (Baseline Road) in Silver Springs Shores, to the east of Ocala and south of Silver Springs.
An intermediate access point, the Historic Santos Recreation Area, is east of the Santos Sheriff Station along SE 80th Avenue and should be used as your starting point if you prefer not to cross the four lanes of busy US 441 when day hiking this section. Exit the parking area at the ballfields near the picnic pavilion to SE 80th Ave to catch the trail as it emerges for a short roadwalk through historic Santos.
Starting at the Santos Trailhead adjoining the restrooms, head south on the blue-blazed connector trail for a tenth of a mile, turning left at the orange-blazed Florida Trail.
A short pathway through tree cover ends at the Santos Campground. Continue across the campground and through a tunnel of grapevines, emerging at US 441.
Take caution crossing the bustling high-speed highway to what is known as The Island. As orange blazes head into the woods, a huge concrete pillar comes into view.
This structure is one of a few remnants of the unfinished Cross Florida Barge Canal. The Historic Ship Canal Trail leads southward from this junction, exploring the site.
A kiosk at the junction informs hikers of the town that once stood here, and what might have been if the construction project had been completed.
Continue heading east on the Florida Trail, crossing the northbound side of 441 before entering the woods again for a short distance.
The path skirts along the edge of a baseball diamond at Historic Santos Recreation Area. It is bordered by dense clusters of bidens alba, an important food source for numerous pollinators.
Leaving the park and crossing a set of active railroad tracks, a 0.7-mile roadwalk is required to reach the forest again, passing the historic Santos church soon after the railroad.
Past a curve and SE 79th St, orange markers affixed to telephone poles lead the way to a well-marked passage through the trees.
The trail cuts through a square parcel of preserved mixed hardwood hammock for a quarter mile before crossing another paved road, then entering a dense oak hammock.
A leaf-littered pathway meanders through the shaded emerald-green understory underneath tall, arching branches overhead.
In a half mile, the trail emerges from the hammock as a wide, mowed path leads through a former pine plantation.
The undulating terrain underfoot is one of the only visible signs that remain from past agricultural uses as the landscape slowly returns to a natural state.
Crossing railroad tracks in 1.2 miles, the trail follows along the southern edge of the Rotary Sports Complex off SR 464, offering another access point.
It then enters another restoration area, a former pasture. Planted longleaf pines grow in rows alongside a well-maintained corridor.
The sound of traffic increases while approaching the first of two underpasses constructed for the trails.
Alamo vine covers the grassy embankments of this man-made structure, sporting multiple round white and magenta flowers.
Despite the nearby busy intersection, the trail has been thoughtfully routed though patches of relatively undisturbed hammocks.
These forested oases provide a great deal of shade for the remaining half-mile to the trailhead.
Emerging from the woods, the trail follows markers directly through a pavilion to the parking area at Baseline Trailhead.
Learn more about the sweep of the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
6.7 miles. Between the Land Bridge Trailhead and Santos, the Florida Trail winds its way around horse farms to meander through stands of oaks and pines.
The shortest trail on the Cross Florida Greenway interprets nearly a century’s worth of efforts to dig a canal across the Florida peninsula and split it in two.
With miles of twisting, winding off-road bicycle trails that dip into old limestone pits, the Santos Trails south of Ocala are a mecca for cyclists who enjoy riding through the woods