With its first segments developed as backpacking loops in Withlacoochee State Forest in the 1970s, the Western Corridor of the Florida Trail is one of two options for circling around the Orlando metro. Well-established loops in Green Swamp, Richloam, Croom, and Citrus provide excellent weekend getaways for backpackers.
The thru-trail connects these trails with other public lands to provide a pleasant trail corridor up through the Cross Florida Greenway and the Ocala National Forest. The route starts out with the Florida Trail’s longest roadwalk, but also showcases some of its most beautiful parks and preserves along the Nature Coast.
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FLOODING can be a concern along the Withlacoochee River floodplain from Green Swamp East through Croom. At times the river and its tributaries may be high enough to inundate the trail past the point where it is safe to wade it. Check the river gauges near Richloam and Croom before heading into those areas. Even when river levels are normal, the ford at Devil’s Creek in Richloam can be dangerous after a rain since it drains a large floodplain. Never walk into flowing water.
Free permits are required in advance for camping in both Green Swamp East and Green Swamp West. Contact the Southwest Florida Water Management District at 352-796-7211 or reserve online. Camping access is limited during hunting seasons. In Withlacoochee State Forest (Richloam, Croom, Citrus), camping is only permitted in designated primitive campsites (free) and recreation areas (fee).
The Cross Florida Greenway provides a 39-mile corridor for backpacking the Florida Trail where hunting is not permitted. It’s an ideal destination for overnight trips during general gun season in the fall. The Office of Greenways and Trails requires a free permit for primitive camping along the Cross Florida Greenway. Call 352-236-7143 to obtain a permit. Florida Trail Association members do not need permits; simply carry your membership card with you.
During general gun (deer) season, backpackers in the Ocala National Forest must use designated campsites, none of which exist along the Florida Trail in Ocala West. Your only option is a commercial campground off SR 40. Random camping is permitted at all other times.
A bear bag or bear canister is required for backpackers in the Ocala National Forest. The Florida Trail Association has partnered with the US Forest Service and Buck N’ Bass Sports Center in Salt Springs to offer free loaner bear canisters: a 10 liter Backerpackers Cache 812 model. Deposit required. Call ahead to reserve at 352-685-0200.
Portions of the trail are high and dry with limited water sources. Because of this, logistical planning is crucial when backpacking in Croom, Citrus, and the Cross Florida Greenway.
Brooksville, Dade City, Dunnellon, Inverness, and Silver Springs make great base camps for day hiking portions of the Florida Trail that surround them. You’ll find both motels and campgrounds on public land in these communities.
The trail route passes through urban, industrial, and suburban areas for much of the roadwalk connector up to Green Swamp, so make use of motels in St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and Davenport: stealth camping isn’t safe. Use your street smarts while walking through urban residential areas and don’t leave your backpack unattended.
These are the Florida Trail segments found along the Western Corridor, south to north. Those that show images and descriptions include information about hiking that segment.
68.9 miles. Three Lakes to Green Swamp East (roadwalk + bike paths)
13.4 miles. Green Swamp East
7.3 miles. Green Swamp West to River Road
14.8 miles. River Road to Lacoochee Road
5.9 miles. Richloam
2.9 miles. Ridge Manor roadwalk
1.1 miles. Whispering Pines Park
14.7 miles. Withlacoochee State Trail
2.5 miles. Silver Springs State Park
1.8 miles. Sharpes Ferry roadwalk
6.0 miles. Sharpes Ferry Road to Hulls Creek
Loop & Side Trails
The Western Corridor is known for its many large loops that enable backpackers to enjoy easy overnighters. These are trails on our website that intersect with the linear Florida Trail along the Western Corridor.
Using the Florida Trail and the Blue Loop Trail, hikers can explore a picturesque corner of Withlacoochee State Forest in Ridge Manor along a 3.9-mile loop.
24.9 miles. With three stacked loops of blazed footpaths in Withlacoochee State Forest, the Croom Hiking Trail is one of the oldest and driest loop hike destinations for backpackers on the Florida Trail
39.1 miles. Savor a rugged hike through rolling hills and rocky terrain on one of Florida’s longest backpacking loops when you take on the Citrus Hiking Trail near Inverness
Tracing 46 miles of railroad history down forested corridors, past big lakes and city parks, and through quaint communities with restaurants, bicycle shops, and restrooms: the Withlacoochee State Trail is one sweet ride.
Recent articles about the Florida Trail along the Western Corridor