CLOSED DANGEROUS flooding from Hurricane Ian as of Oct 1.
One of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation in the Orlando metro area, Little Big Econ State Forest offers expansive natural landscapes to explore.
It protects more than 10,000 acres along the floodplain of the Econlockhatchee River as it flows through lush forests towards vast marshes where it meets the St. Johns River.
With extensive trail systems dedicated to specific uses and several multi-use trails, it provides easy access to nature and a buffer between suburbia and rural lands in Seminole County.
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Location: Geneva, Oviedo, & Chuluota
Headquarters: 1350 Snow Hill Rd, Geneva
Primary Trailhead: 28.683460, -81.117605
Fees: $2 per person day use fee at Barr St, Snow Hill, and Jones East trailheads
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Leashed dogs welcome. Insect repellent a must. Primitive campsites available.
Hunting is permitted only in the Kilbee and Culpepper Tracts. Check hunt season dates and wear bright orange during hunts.
The forest is laced with a network of rough forest roads that can be used to interconnect signposted/blazed trails.
Flooding can be an issue in this forest because of its proximity to river floodplains and the tributaries and swamps that feed the rivers. Check water levels in advance of your visit and never enter flowing water on foot.
See specific trail destinations for driving directions to trailheads.
About the Forest
Named in Muscogee, Econlockhatchee means “river of many mounds,” as evidenced by the middens found along the lower banks of this usually-placid river.
It is a floodplain river, which means heavy rainfall in the region will cause the waters to rise quickly, making all trails – land and water – unsafe.
The scouring nature of these floodplain events created significant bluffs, oxbow ponds, and dry side channels.
These provided a place to perch hiking and biking trails to optimize scenic views and surprisingly rugged terrain.
The linear hiking-only Florida Trail traverses more than 12 miles of the forest, stretching from Chuluota to Oviedo with one designated backcountry campsite along its length.
Thanks to its river views and varied scenic beauty as well as proximity to the Orlando metro, it is one of the most popular day hike destinations on the statewide Florida Trail.
Spanning from Geneva to Chuluota, the linear Flagler Trail largely follows a 1910 spur of the Florida East Coast Railway.
In addition to showcasing the remains of the railroad trestle at the Econlockhatchee River, it provides a tie-in between most of the trail systems west of Snow Hill Rd.
A multi-use path, it is a narrow right-of-way traversing haunting cypress swamps and deeply shaded palm hammocks as well as former ranchland.
Trailheads at both ends provide access: In Chuluota, the prominent Snow Hill trailhead along Snow Hill Rd, and in Geneva, Geneva Wilderness Preserve.
As it is physically separated from another piece of the same railroad right-of-way for several miles, we refer to it as the Flagler Trail South.
The Flagler Trail North spans from the village of Geneva north into Lake Harney Wilderness Area, ending at the former trestle location across the St. Johns River.
A white-blazed spur between the Florida Trail and the Flagler Trail, the Kolokee Trail offers a deeply forested landscape at a spot once occupied by a turn-of-the-prior century railroad town.
Using the three trails together, you can make a balloon hike of 4.7 miles from the Barr Street trailhead, with the trail bridge over the Econ the far pivot point of the hike.
River Trail & Culpepper Trail
Both of these lengthy trails, inside adjacent Bronson State Forest, can be accessed via the Brumley Rd trailhead of Little Big Econ State Forest.
Where they diverge, the River Trail follows the Econlockhatchee River upstream, a scenic round-trip hike with multiple deep scrambles along the river basin.
The Culpepper Trail follows the river downstream, leading into the vast floodplain where the Econlockhatchee flows into the St. Johns River.
A little-known trail in a remote corner of Little Big Econ State Forest, the River Trail offers outstanding views from the river bluffs and an archway of ancient oaks to get there.
In addition to the multi-use Flagler Trail, there is a dedicated set of off-road cycling trails built and maintained by SORBA Orlando.
Primary access is via the parking area at Jones East, along Snow Hill Rd. The trail system, color coded for difficulty, can also be reached from the Flagler Trail just south of the Econlockhatchee River.
Cyclists are also welcome on the forest roads of the Kilbee Tract along SR 46 just west of the St. Johns River.
Nineteen miles of the Econlockhatchee River winds through the forest, with take-out points at the eight mile mark and at C.S. Lee Park along SR 46 after the river melts into the St. Johns River floodplain.
Upriver access is from a small parking area off Chuluota Rd (CR 419) at Willingham Rd in Oviedo. Intermediate access is at the bridge at Snow Hill Rd.
Paddlers should keep watch for obstructions such as snags and sandbars. Alligators commonly sun along the banks of the river, which is tannic.
One primitive camping area with several reservable sites — West Camp — is only a quarter mile east of the Barr Street trailhead via the Florida Trail.
One of the sites is dedicated for group use. All sites must be reserved online in advance.
Shown in brown on the official State Forest map, the network of equestrian trails provides both loop and round-trip options.
Access to these trails, with ample parking for horse trailers, is located along Snow Hill Rd close to Forestry Headquarters.
Birders should focus on the open ranchland, hammocks, and expansive river floodplain reached via Brumley Rd access to the Culpepper Trail and the north end of the River Trail.
Watch for flocks or families of sandhill cranes in the broad prairies, and migratory birds across the river basin.
The Kilbee Tract provides palm-dotted prairies adjoining the confluence of the rivers, another good spot for migratory birds.
Hike the Florida Trail northbound from Snow Hill Rd to enter prime Florida scrub-jay habitat within the first quarter mile.
During the summer months, pink marshmallow and red swamp hibiscus blooms color the prairies along the rough roads of the Kilbee Tract.
Bogs in the easternmost reaches of the forest are known for their clusters of hooded pitcher plants and sundews.
In the ancient live oak hammocks, giant air plant and butterfly orchids can be spotted high up in oak limbs.
Southern magnolia and wild citrus scent the perimeter lands that the Florida Trail follows south of its junction with the Flagler Trail.
The humidity around the river encourages the riotous growth of air plants in the oaks and cedars along its bluffs.
A long tunnel of palm hammock is a highlight of the Flagler Trail south of the river.
Anglers with a Florida freshwater fishing license are welcome to either boat or paddle up the Econlockhatchee River or use the trail system to walk in and fish from the river beaches.
Seasonal hunting is permitted on two tracts of Little Big Econ State Forest in accordance with FWC regulations for fall deer season and spring turkey season, Kilbee and Culpepper.
Most of the remainder of the forest is crisscrossed by trails and remains entirely off-limits to hunting during those open seasons to protect other visitors.
Please consult the FWC Hunt Dates link below for a map of permitted hunting zones and exact dates of upcoming hunts.
Please see the link at the bottom of the page to download the full state forest trail map.
See our photos from Little Big Econ State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Showcasing prairie ponds amid scrub on the edge of a pine flatwoods, Geneva Wilderness Area offers two loops of gentle paths on which to explore the habitats.
As the Florida Trail follows the curve of the basin in which Mills Creek into a bowl of marshlands, enjoy old-growth trees and long boardwalks along this 2 mile hike
Despite more than 40 miles of hiking and multi-use trails, Charles H. Bronson State Forest is a lightly-visited destination hidden behind more popular public lands.