A man-made landform but nonetheless largely forested, Inglis Island lies between the natural channel of the Withlacoochee River and the Inglis Dam on Lake Rousseau.
Popular with anglers, Lake Rousseau is a freshwater expanse held back by the dam. A system of locks is on the far side of the island leading to the brackish part of the river.
Inglis Dam is your entryway to this extensive trail system on the Cross Florida Greenway. Generally broad trails marked in yellow, red, and blue interconnect in a 7.6 mile network.
Those original loops we scouted two decades ago for Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State are now joined by a 2 mile paved trail to the western tip of the island.
Our route described below follows the inner Yellow Loop of the trail network, a largely shaded 1.7 mile hike.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Crystal River
Length: 7.6 mile trail network
Trailhead: 29.00824, -82.61663
Address: 10905 W Riverwood Dr, Crystal River
Restroom: Portable toilet at Dessie Smith Prescott Memorial Park
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sundown. Leashed pets welcome.
Trails are shared with cyclists and equestrians. The bike path is accessible and nicely shaded for half its length, with benches along it.
From the intersection of US 19 and SR 44 in Crystal River, follow US 19 north for 6.4 miles to N Basswood Ave, which veers off to the right soon after a traffic light for Dunnellon Rd. Meet Riverwood Dr at a T and turn right to continue 1.6 miles to the Inglis Dam complex on the left. The primary parking area at Dessie Smith Prescott Memorial Park, where the only restroom is located, tends to be packed with boaters. Hikers and cyclists can continue to parking near the dam itself. The lower parking area provides a launch point for boaters and paddlers below the dam.
No matter which parking area or trail you choose, all trail users must cross the Inglis Dam on the paved access road that continues beyond the closest parking spots.
Walk around the vehicle gate and cross the bridge over the spillway. Buffered by large rocks beyond it, the near shore is lapped by the expanse of Lake Rousseau.
The first dam built at this site in 1909 held back the Withlacoochee River to generate hydroelectric power for the phosphate mining boom in Dunnellon.
Doing so created Lake Rousseau. The digging of the Cross Florida Barge Canal in the 1960s created Inglis Island. The canal and its locks are on its north side.
Despite the cancellation of the ill-conceived canal project, this dam built for it and the locks remain because they form a barrier between saltwater and freshwater.
At the north end of the dam is a trail kiosk with a map. Although the routes were unlabeled, the solid line is the bike path and the outer loop blazed blue.
With no approximation of scale and only a vague recollection of how long the full loop took to hike, we concentrated on the inner Yellow Loop.
Turn right at the kiosk and walk along the lakeshore past interpretive signs. Lake views are largely screened by wax myrtle and palms. There is no clearly defined path.
There is, however, a large open area with a picnic shelter. It serves as an equestrian parking and disembarkation point for riding the trail system.
Continue past it and stay close to the shoreline along the grassy expanse, which narrows but provides a few views from the marshy edge.
A cleared area between the cedars with a tall post marks the location of the first of several primitive group camping areas.
Each has picnic tables and a fire ring. By their signage, they appear to have been constructed by Boy Scout troops.
A worn two-track road leads forward under the pines. Follow this obvious path, edged by a dense forest on the left.
The understory beneath the pines is very open and covered in pine duff, with glimpses of the lake beyond each of the campsites.
The road ends in a large clearing facing a wall of trees, with a campsite with a food-hanging hook and a peek to the lake beyond.
It makes a sharp left. However, you shouldn’t, unless you’re tackling the longest loop around the island. We discovered that after reaching the first blue marker along it near a bench.
The shape of this junction didn’t match the kiosk map, so we backtracked from the food-hanging hook along the road in the pines.
Scan carefully on the right for an unmarked earthen ramp dropping off into a hardwood forest. This is the unmarked start of the Yellow Trail, 0.7 mile from the dam spillway.
Jogging around a cluster of palms and a few towering pines, it becomes a nicely shaded causeway in the forest.
Curving left within a tenth of a mile, the two-track road enters a long, showy tunnel of straightaway under the arcing limbs of large oaks.
A series of green posts installed by a variety of troops spell out the points of the Boy Scout law along this slightly elevated path.
Soon after the “Brave” marker is a yellow blaze on a white diamond on an oak trunk, confirming you’re on the Yellow Trail.
A floodplain forest fills a low-lying area of the forest to the left, but the landscape on the right gains elevation.
Eventually the forest canopy on that side opens to reveal statuesque pines over a dense understory of saw palmetto.
The straightaway yields to a curve, where a massive live oak is obvious well before the trail passes under its thick fern-laden limbs.
Beyond it, cabbage palms crowd both sides of the trail as it straightens. Reaching a T intersection in a clearing at 1 mile, make a left.
The path remains broad and cushioned by pine needles. Leaving the imprint of the floodplain forest behind, it gains elevation.
Cabbage palms yield to more pines and oaks, some of notable size. Saw palmetto takes over the understory.
Loblolly pines tower above sun-kissed palmetto in a patch of flatwoods largely devoid of an oak canopy.
The oaks soon provide shade again, and at 1.3 miles, the Yellow Trail ends at the paved bike path within sight of a bench.
To the right, the paved path leads to the other end of the Blue Loop, as well as overlooks of the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the tip of the island.
A round-trip to the canal overlook via the bike path adds 1.3 miles to this hike; to the end of the island, 3.3 miles.
Turn left to continue along the Yellow Loop. In a little less than two tenths of a mile, the path emerges from the forest at the base of the dam.
Climb the ramp to the kiosk where this loop hike began. Turn right and cross the dam, reaching the first parking space beyond it at 1.7 miles.
Learn more about the Cross Florida Greenway
Hiking the Yellow Loop
See our photos from Inglis Island
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The eastern terminus of the Withlacoochee Bay Trail is home to a surprisingly hilly trail above a freshwater marsh along the saltwater Cross Florida Barge Canal.
Paralleling a completed segment of the ill-conceived Cross Florida Barge Canal, this 5.1 mile paved bike path surprises with hills, overlooks, and a panorama stretching to the Gulf of Mexico.
Immerse in the beauty of an expansive coastal estuary at Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve in Yankeetown to take in the panoramic views.