In an extensive natural corridor that the Florida Trail follows in its arc around the east side of the Orlando metro area, Bronson State Forest is a surprisingly wild destination.
Along the 12.2 mile route panning from the edge of Orlando Wetlands Park to Chuluota Wilderness, the trail hits a broad array of habitats along the St. Johns River basin.
These include floodplain-rim stands of ancient live oaks and towering cabbage palms, floodplain forests and bayhead swamps, pine savannas, sandhills, and scrub.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Christmas & Chuluota
Length: 12.2 miles linear
Central trailhead: 28.5919, -81.0423
Fees: $2 per person day use fee at Phillips Rd trailhead
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Leashed dogs welcome. Insect repellent a must. Primitive campsites must be reserved in advance.
Seasonal hunting occurs in some portions of the forest. Check ahead before you make plans for outdoor recreation.
The forest is laced with a network of rough forest roads. Active cattle leases mean the potential of encounters with cows and bulls along the trails.
From Interstate 95 in Titusville, drive west on SR 50 for 10.3 miles through the town of Christmas to Fort Christmas Road. Turn right. Continue 2.3 miles, passing Fort Christmas. After the curve in the road, continue continue a half mile and turn right on Philips Rd. Follow it 1.5 miles, taking the jeep track at the sign for Bronson State Forest to the Joshua Creek trailhead. This is the only official trailhead providing direct access into Bronson State Forest.
Directions to the Wheeler Road and Chuluota Wilderness trailheads flanking this section are provided under those individual hike segments, below.
Of this 12.2 mile route connecting three trailheads, only seven miles are within the boundaries of Charles H. Bronson State Forest.
Those seven miles lie in the middle, so the start and end points are in adjoining public lands. For the full traverse, begin at Wheeler Rd and end at Chuluota Wilderness.
Along this 8.6-mile route spanning the eastern side of Bronson State Forest, experience the majesty of ancient oak and palm hammocks near the St. Johns River.
Using the primary trailhead for the forest at Joshua Creek, you can also make round-trip hikes to scenic destinations or tackle a 9.5-mile loop using the River Trail.
In addition to the River Trail Loop, the Northeast Loop shows off the wildest corner of the forest, with access to the Florida Trail via Orlando Wetlands Park.
Learn more about Bronson State Forest
See our photos from the Florida Trail in Bronson State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
For a hike filled with the flutter and squawk of birds about their daily routines, Orlando Wetlands Park is one of the best birding spots in the state. This 5-mile loop showcases our favorite route
Protecting more than a thousand acres, Savage Christmas Creek Preserve east of Orlando has more than 8 miles of trails through panoramic prairie and pine flatwoods landscapes
In every season, wildflowers are the highlight along more than 4 miles of trails at Pine Lily Preserve, where its namesake lilies bloom in late summer.