In the Osceola National Forest, this short loop adjacent to Olustee Battlefield is one of the easiest places in the state to see red-cockaded woodpeckers. It’s part of the statewide Florida Trail, and provides a prime spot to watch these endangered birds around their nest holes in ancient longleaf pines. It also has is a firm natural surface suitable for motorized wheelchairs and for regular wheelchairs with assistance, providing accessibility for outdoor recreation.
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Location: Osceola National Forest
Length: Up to 1.6 miles
Lat-Long: 30.212617, -82.389083
Type: Linear with loop and spur
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: Yes, at adjacent Olustee Battlefield visitor center
There is no entrance fee, except during special events.
From I-75 exit 427, Lake City, drive 18.6 miles east on US 90 east to Olustee Battlefield Historical State Park. The trailhead is immediately to your left as you enter the park. If you’re traveling on I-10 westbound, use exit 324 and follow US 90 west for 5.5 miles to the park entrance.
Start your hike at the kiosk, crossing a short boardwalk to follow orange and white blazes towards the forest to your left. The fire tower and Olustee Battlefield Visitor Center are off to your right. You pass a historic cemetery. After the trail passes through a gate, it leaves the road to start down a footpath into the longleaf pine forest.
The understory is very open with only scattered patches of saw palmetto. After 0.3 mile, the trees become denser. Listen closely, and you can hear the tap of woodpeckers on the wood. At 0.4 mile, you reach an intersection with a jeep road, and Loop A follows blue blazes to the right. Continue straight. The white-banded trees are where the red-cockaded woodpeckers live. This endangered species only nests in old-growth longleaf pines, at least 100 years old, and is best seen early in the morning.
At 0.5 mile, look up into the trees to see the sap dripping from the nest hole areas; the woodpeckers do this to protect the entrance to their nests from predators such as rat snakes. Loop B turns off to the right; continue straight. You can see a break in the trees off to the left where a seasonal marsh exists.
At 0.8 mile, the trail ascends a gently sloping boardwalk through a wet area with two benches for resting. Where the boardwalk ends, the orange blazes lead straight ahead—that’s the main Florida Trail. Turn right here to follow the white blazes back along a forest road back to the gate where the footpath through the forest began. You may prefer to walk back the way you came, as the long, straight forest road is in the sun and the footpath is in the shade.
The Loop B crossover meets the forest road at 1.1 miles, and the Loop A crossover at 1.3 miles. Passing a “Horse Trailer Parking” sign and a cattle pen, you complete the loop. Continue through the gate and make a beeline to the trailhead, completing the hike after 1.6 miles. Continue down the white-blazed forest road through the gate and back to the trailhead. Emerging from the cool shade of the oaks, you reach the trailhead at 1.6 miles.