Along the Hogtown Creek Greenway, a series of wild spaces hemmed in by neighborhoods share the duty of preserving natural shorelines along the city’s longest creek.
While none of these parks are truly wild – all are surrounded by neighborhoods and subdivisions – few of them have developed amenities except for trails.
All of them provide places inside Gainesville city limits for hikers and cyclists to immerse in deciduous forests on natural pathways.
Resources for exploring the area
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Restroom: At Loblolly Woods and Alfred Ring Park
Land manager: City of Gainesville
Most preserves along the Hogtown Creek Greenway are open dawn to dusk daily, with the exception of Hogtown Creek Headwaters, which opens 8 AM.
Leashed dogs permitted. Some parks have no parking areas, see details below. Trails are typical natural footpaths or singletrack.
What is the Hogtown Creek Greenway?
Childhood trips to Gainesville meant leafy green forests, where houses were nestled under a canopy of woods unlike the horse farms and sand ridges of our youth.
Back then, poor Hogtown Creek, named for an 1824 Seminole village four miles to the west of what is now downtown, wasn’t in the best of shape.
Shunted under expanding roads and parking lots, encased in concrete culverts, it was treated badly, “in the way of progress.”
After two decades of land acquisitions amid the urban quilt of this forested city, the city of Gainesville takes a different view now.
It started with Loblolly Woods Nature Park, where a trail was dubbed the “Hogtown Creek Greenway” back when we first started researching trails.
It’s expanded along the length of the creek, from its headwaters to the north to its splashdown into the Floridan Aquifer through a sinkhole not far from Lake Kanapaha.
The Greenway is non-contiguous, that is, you cannot walk, bike, or paddle its length. Hogtown Creek fluctuates wildly in depth and still passes through culverts.
The water, too, suffers in quality from both urban runoff and dumping, with water quality warnings posted at the preserves when things get dire.
However, the string of preserves that make up the Hogtown Creek Greenway provide access to slices of nature in urban Gainesville and havens for wildlife.
Depending on the preserve, you can hike or bike the trails, enjoy either groomed or wild trails, take the kids to playgrounds, and savor the botanical beauty.
Hogtown Creek Greenway Preserves
The preserves are listed from north to south, the direction of the creek’s flow.
Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park
Address: 1500 NW 45th Ave, Gainesville
Trailhead: 29.696516, -82.342923
One of the easier preserves to find, Hogtown Creek Headwaters has twisty little footpaths through its hardwood forest. The preserve encompasses 70 acres that was part of Hartman’s Dairy for more than a century.
Old-growth trees on deeply shaded trails along the narrow creek provide no clue to the land’s long agricultural use, but a structure from the dairy is still standing, awaiting renovation. Ample parking provided.
29th Road Nature Park
Address: 1502 NW 29th Rd, Gainesville
Trailhead: 29.679711, -82.340330
Only five acres in size, this tiny patch of beautiful slope and bottomland forest has a lush understory of ferns. No parking, walk-in only.
Alfred A. Ring Park
Featuring a dense slope forest along Hogtown Creek with old-growth trees and rare wildflowers along Appalachian-style ravines, this is a scenic hike in the heart of Gainesville
Loblolly Woods Nature Park
Protecting 159 acres of lush forests along the confluence of Possum Creek and Hogtown Creek, Loblolly Woods Nature Park is a beauty spot in urban Gainesville.
Green Acres Park
Address: 643 SW 40th St, Gainesville
Trailhead: 29.64559, -82.38494
Centered on a open area with a playground in an oak hammock, Green Acres Park has meandering singletrack winding beneath pines of incredible size to the edge of braided waters in the forests along the Hogtown Creek basin. Ample parking.
Clear Lake Nature Park
Address: 5480 SW 1st Ave, Gainesville
Trailhead: 29.651883, -82.397826
While only 14 acres, Clear Lake adjoins vast Sugarfoot Prairie, a conservation area spanning to Green Acres Park. Trees of notable size are a part of this forest.
The trails include uplands wanders and a levee along the wetlands. No parking provided. Walk in at the west end of SW 1st Ave.
Split Rock Conservation Area
Address: SW 20th Ave, Gainesville
Trailhead: 29.639295, -82.410380
At 241 acres, Split Rock is the largest of the preserves and the terminus of Hogtown Creek, where it vanishes into the Floridan Aquifer in a sinkhole in Hogtown Prairie.
The prairie often floods, so it may not be possible to follow the full loop trail, which is roughly 1.5 miles long. No parking is nearby. Use RTS Route 75 to access by bus, or bike to the entrance.
Additional parks in the vicinity of the Hogtown Creek Greenway
John Mahon Nature Park
Ten acres isn’t a lot for a natural area, but at John Mahon Nature Park in Gainesville, it’s plenty for a quick, refreshing walk in the woods off Newberry Road.
Cofrin Nature Park
One of Gainesville’s urban nature parks, Cofrin Nature Park is right near the Oaks Mall on Newberry Rd and features a half-mile trail in a shady forest
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
One of the most beautiful and complex gardens in Florida, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens sits beneath grand live oaks with more than a dozen themed gardens on 62 acres. Bamboo is their specialty, with Florida’s best collection of these tall grasses.
Devils Millhopper Geological State Park
It’s the trickle of water that catches your attention, the steady drip and splash down the rocky rim and into the depths of one of Florida’s largest sinkholes at Devils Millhopper Geological State Park