In the western half of the Osceola National Forest, this segment of the Florida Trail ties together numerous points of interest.
Pine trees tower over vast expanses of saw palmetto and Florida scrub, interrupted occasionally by seepage bogs and cypress swamp.
The trail passes through nesting grounds for the red-cockaded woodpecker, seepage bogs with the hooded pitcher plant, and longleaf pine restoration efforts.
But be prepared to get your feet wet in a couple of spots, as Osceola National Forest supports one of the largest intact watersheds in the eastern United States.
It is home to 29 threatened and endangered species including the eastern indigo snake, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, and wood stork.
This 11.4 mile trail segment can be hiked as a day-long linear hike by leaving a car at each trailhead.
Conversely, you could camp at West Tower for a weekend and hike the north section one day as an in-and-out, and the south section the next day.
The hike begins at the Turkey Run Trailhead on NE Greenfield Tower Rd. (CR 233), which has ample parking for day hikers.
The trails are mostly well-marked and easy to follow, and are fairly dry with a couple of notable exceptions, explained below.
At the 6.3 mile point, the trail intersects a blue-blazed trail that leads to West Tower Hunt Camp, which has potable water and portable toilets.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Olustee / Lake City
Length: 11.4 miles linear
Trailhead: 30.279284, -82.480162
Address: NE Greenfield Tower Rd (CR233), Lake City, FL
Restroom: Portable toilets at West Tower Hunt Camp
Land Manager: Florida Forest Service, Osceola Ranger District
Open daily sunrise to sunset. Overnight parking at trailheads is not recommended.
Leashed dogs welcome. Foot travel only. Wear blaze orange during hunting season. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
The West Tower Hunt Camp at the midpoint of this section has numerous first come-first served primitive tent sites, potable water, portable toilets, and a flush toilet and outdoor shower (currently temporarily closed).
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 6.9 miles, turn right onto CR 250A. Continue for 7.3 miles (past Ocean Pond Campground) to NE Greenfield Tower Rd. Turn right and in 0.1 miles the Turkey Run Trailhead will be on your left.
Just past the entrance into this section from the trailhead, the trail passes through an old cattle gate and enters a thick slash pine and scrub forest area.
In 0.2 miles, the trail comes to a logging road and turns left. You will stay on this road, which shows evidence of off-road vehicles use, for 1.6 miles.
At several points along this path, the road dips down and is filled with tannin-stained water and soft mud. Depending on the season, these can be ankle to knee deep and 50-100 ft across.
Several of these water obstacles have walk-arounds (some very overgrown) and one has a boardwalk adjacent to the road.
But one or two do not provide any alternative to wading through, so you will get your feet wet.
At 1.8 miles, the trail leaves the logging road to the right into a typical slash pine forest .
It soon meets up with a seepage bog, a couple of short boardwalks, and a mostly spongy trail with a variety of mosses to study.
If you go slow through here, you may come across clumps of the elusive hooded pitcher plant.
After the bogs, the trail enters a lovely forest of mostly slash pine, with a scattering of loblolly and longleaf pine throughout.
There are at least a dozen pines here that have been tagged and marked with a white band, identifying them as nesting trees for a colony of red-cockaded woodpecker.
At 3.2 miles the trail turns onto and unused and grassy old logging road. There is a “Y” here so follow the right-most path, but it’s well blazed so you shouldn’t miss it.
The trail leaves the logging road to the right after another 0.4 miles. The trail comes to another seepage bog at 3.9 miles, with dense undergrowth and a boardwalk.
Just past this bog, at 4.0 miles, you will encounter an open forest of very young longleaf pine, probably planted as part of a longleaf pine restoration project.
At mile 4.4 the trail crosses FR 234 and passes through a wooded gate, onto another unused grassy logging road and enters an older slash pine forest.
You may notice occasionally that the pine on both sides is planted in rows, probably planted by loggers after a previous harvest 20-30 years ago.
At 6.3 miles the trail comes to a sandy forest road and junction. Take the blue-blazed path along the sandy road to the right to reach West Tower Hunt Camp.
This quarter mile side trail leads to the camp, which has potable water and portable toilets, making it an important stop.
After taking a break and filling your water bottles at West Tower, return to the junction and take the orange-blazed trail to the left.
Hike northwest on a comfortable mowed path, where you’ll see and hear an abundance of mockingbirds, catbirds, and woodpeckers.
You’ll soon cross a footbridge. Follow the orange blazes for another 1/4 mile and cross FR 233.
At mile 7.2, cross another footbridge over a creek, then another at 7.4 miles, and a third at 7.7 miles.
All the bridges are damaged from a prescribed burn, so tread carefully.
At 7.8 miles, you’ll see a double blaze. Bear left here.
There are numerous road crossings and junctions along this somewhat muddy path, so keep your eyes open for orange blazes at decision points.
At 8.4 miles the road becomes a water-filled gully. Here a double blaze indicates a right-hand turn which takes you over a series of footbridges to avoid the water.
At 8.7 miles the trail veers right off the logging road you’ve been hiking on. This area is still mostly pine forest but now interspersed with live oak.
The trail intersects another logging road at 9.2 miles. Turn right, then bear left, following the orange blazes.
At 9.6 miles you’ll enter an open area with a wet, grassy/mossy, shallow pond to the right.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the sights and sounds of red-shouldered hawks, which nest in this area.
Continue on and take a sharp left at a double blaze, and at 9.7 miles cross FR 237 and head back into the woods.
At 11 miles you’ll turn right at another double blaze. Continue on until you’ve reached the trailhead, with a small grassy area and information kiosk at the Deep Creek Trailhead.
NORTHBOUND: Roadwalk to Big Shoals State Park (4.6 mi)
SOUTHBOUND: Ocean Pond to Turkey Run (4.3 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