Vast prairies and seepage bogs, a historic crossing of the Econlockhatchee River, and two campsites set under a live oak canopy are all part of Hal Scott Preserve.
What’s stunning, however, are the outstanding pine-palmetto prairies. Well managed to keep them open, they boast a year-long array of wildflowers.
Our route follows the easiest of the three loops in the preserve, the White Loop, accessed directly from trailhead. It has a group campsite at the end of a spur trail.
The Yellow Loop extends west from the White Loop and has the Yates Campsite, for individuals or groups, in an oak hammock near the river.
The Red Loop extends north and requires fording a stream to reach it. It’s mainly used by equestrians.
By adding the Yellow Loop, you can hike or bike 10 miles. Adding the Red Loop gives you 15. That loop is very much out in the open.
And there’s more! Off the Red Loop, trails connect to neighboring Long Branch Preserve and Pine Lily Preserve in Bithlo. For that connectivity, see the official map you can download at the bottom of this page.
For campers, sunset at Hal Scott Preserve is one of the most incredible outdoor shows in the Orlando area.
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Length: 5.1 mile loop (up to 15.3 miles possible)
Trailhead: 28.486333, -81.095833
Address: 5150 Dallas Blvd, Bithlo
Restroom: None at the trailhead, but the campsites both have one
Land Manager: St. Johns Water Management District
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. A free permit is required in advance for camping.
Some of the trail crosses drainage areas and may require wading after a heavy rain. The trails are shared with bicycles and equestrians.
From the Orlando International Airport, drive east on SR 528 (Beeline aka “Beachline” Expressway). Take exit 24, Dallas Boulevard. Turn left at the end of the ramp, and drive 2.4 miles to the park entrance, on the left.
Starting out at the parking lot kiosk, follow the trail that begins at the hiker symbol. It parallels the immense parking area before heading out into the pine flatwoods.
After you pass the parking area, keep alert for a trail junction on the right. Turn right and follow the trail through the pine flatwoods.
A little more than a half mile in, a ditch on the left drains a small wetland. Look closely along the ditch for a hooded pitcher plant.
It’s a carnivorous plant that is one of Florida’s threatened species. The pitcher plants bloom in spring, with thick, rubbery-looking flowers of red or yellow.
After 1.1 miles, the trail drops down to cross a very narrow drainage towards the Econlockhatchee River, where the crossing may get your boots wet.
Rising back up into the pine flatwoods, short saw palmetto seems to stretch to infinity off to your left.
The trail reaches a T intersection at 1.9 miles. To the right, a red-blazed trail leads off to the tributary.
It’s a 5-mile loop that crosses the creek (no bridge), primarily used by equestrians. To stay on your 5.1-mile loop, turn left at this intersection.
Leading through the open flatwoods, the trail eventually meets the treeline, where shade is provided by sweetgum and live oaks. The next trail junction is at 2.7 miles.
Turn right to follow an interesting but short spur down to historic Curry Ford. If you’re an Orlando resident, you’re familiar with the name from Curry Ford Road.
This spot is where travelers on horseback and stagecoaches crossed the river, near the Curry Plantation, as they traveled between Titusville and Tampa.
In 1924, the Cheney Highway opened and all traffic between Orlando and Titusville shifted to Bithlo.
This old wooden bridge over the Econlockhatchee River leads to the Yellow Loop, where the Yates Campsite is not too far along the loop clockwise.
Walk back through the floodplain forest to the the intersection where you turned off on this spur. Continue straight through it.
Turn right at the next marked trail junction, where a campsite sign faces the opposite direction from your approach.
Follow this spur trail through the pine flatwoods to the canal. Turn right to walk to the Group Campsite, which is set in an oak hammock.
It’s the perfect place to pitch a tent, with a seamless canopy of live oak overhead, a picnic bench and several benches around a fire ring with a grill.
A pitcher pump is over by the canal, and there is usually a portable toilet nearby. Even if you’re not here for an overnight stay, it’s a good picnic or rest stop along the hike.
Return along the same spur trail, admiring the sundews that glisten in the path.
When you reach a T with the main loop, turn right to follow the trail back to the parking area, passing a reclaimed phosphate pit that’s been turned into a fishing pond.
The trail seals the White Loop as you pass that turn, and heads back past the kiosk before exiting through the fence down the long straightaway to the parking area.
We launched a new full-color edition of 50 Hikes in Central Florida at the National Trails Festival in Deland the first weekend of October. Take a peek inside.
See our video of Hal Scott Preserve
See our photos of Hal Scott Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Wildflowers are the highlight of Pine Lily Preserve east of Orlando, where the threatened and colorful pine lily (Lilium catesbaei Walter) blooms in summer.
In the floodplain of the Econlockhatchee River, Econlockhatchee Sandhills Conservation Area is a 706-acre showcase of upland habitat diversity with a 3.2 mile loop trail
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