Adjoining Lake Frances Nature Preserve, Lake Dan Nature Preserve protects more than a thousand acres of cypress swamp and palmetto prairies.
Boardwalks provide scenic views and fishing opportunities on two lakes, while an expansive shared-use trail system traverses the property.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 6.4 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.158553, -82.637373
Address: 19116 Huckaville Rd, Odessa
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. The preserve includes picnic tables and a playground.
A separate equestrian entrance is at 11009 Tarpon Springs Rd. The multi-use trail is 5.6 miles long and closes when it floods.
From US 19 at Keystone Rd, head east on Keystone Rd for 6.4 miles, turning left onto Tyler Rd. In 0.7 mile, turn right onto Tyler Run Ave. Continue for 0.3 mile, then turn left onto Huckaville Rd. The entrance will be on the left in half a mile.
Starting at the parking area, head through the gate at the trailhead and continue westward down a crushed shell path.
The trail winds through shady lakeside vegetation for a tenth of a mile before reaching an impressive boardwalk.
Spanning a shallow lake for 500 feet, the sturdy boardwalk presents a particularly scenic entrance to the loop trails ahead.
A bench at the halfway point provides a resting spot to view the picturesque landscape while small alligators float in the water below.
Reaching the opposite shore, the trail weaves through a sandhill habitat with live oak branches arching overhead, draped with Spanish moss.
A red-topped post with an arrow indicates a right turn at the forest’s edge.
Skyblue lupine and passion vine border the sandy pathway as it leads through a large gate across the road.
To the left, a blue-blazed trail leads to Lake Dan. Continue straight, following red blazes towards the red and yellow loop trails.
The red trail cuts across a wide-open pasture carpeted with tall golden grasses for a quarter mile before reaching a wall of cypress.
One of several cypress strands on the property, these dense stands of majestic trees seemingly protect the wetlands within.
Continue following red blazes while the trail makes a sweeping left turn, then passes through a large gate.
A break in the trees forms a gateway to a vast sea of palmettos surrounded by cypress, with a small cypress dome in the middle.
Turn left to begin a clockwise loop around the cypress dome. Sporadic pines jut forth from the palmettos along the western side, resembling a pine flatwoods habitat.
The road may be very damp depending on recent rainfall, and patches of carnivorous sundew grow along the edges.
The road gradually becomes sandier as the path leaves the edge of the cypress swamp.
Passing a group of live oaks, the trail makes a right turn, continuing this dry trend as a few turkey oaks begin to dot the landscape.
Take a sharp right turn at 1.6 mile, towards the eastern edge of the prairie. The trail takes a short jog to the left, tracing the border of cypress swamp before completing the loop.
Turn left to exit through the gate, then turn left again in 0.2 mile, passing through a latched gate to begin the yellow trail.
Follow yellow-blazed posts for 0.1 mile, then turn right to begin the loop counter-clockwise. A patchwork of cypress swamps extends from the horizon amid panoramic views of seasonally wet pine savanna.
In a quarter mile, stands of pines from a passageway as the trail squeezes between two swamps.
Wiregrass and saw palmettos dominate the landscape, interrupted by an occasional cluster of wax myrtles.
An array of small flowers sprout from the grassy path below including yellow bladderworts, butterworts, and orange milkworts.
Turn right in a mile, having completed the loop, and then make a left in 0.1 mile to head back towards the trailhead.
The blue spur trail intersects in half a mile, providing access to the preserve’s namesake lake.
A 1.5-mile round trip along the blue trail leads to a fishing pier situated on the shore of Lake Dan.
Although the lake is scenic, this side trail crosses open pasture with no shade and may want to be avoided on a hot afternoon.
From the blue trail intersection, follow the red trail for half a mile back to the parking area.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The largest nature preserve in Pinellas County, Brooker Creek Preserve protects a mosaic of vanishing habitats while interpreting their value along more than 4 miles of trails.
A forested escape north of Tampa, Lake Conservation Park features a network of trails where you can loop nearly four miles around a series of small lakes.
Discover a new perspective on the Gulf of Mexico from the observation tower at Key Vista Nature Park, a coastal gem with a 1.5 mile loop to a natural shoreline