Manatee Springs State Park is known for its cool, clear spring run and its proximity to the Suwannee River.
Along with ample camping opportunities, the park offers an extensive network of trails for hiking and biking.
The Scenic Trail is a 2.5-mile loop within the North End Trail System, which allows for a lengthened hike with the addition of a few loop trails to the north.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 2.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.493683, -82.973122
Address: 11650 NW 115 St, Chiefland
Fees: $4-6 per vehicle
Restrooms: At the springside recreation area
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome except in vicinity of spring basin.
From the intersection of US 19/98 and US 129 in Chiefland, head north on US 98 for 0.8 mile, then turn left onto SR 320. Continue for 5.8 miles to the entrance of Manatee Springs State Park. Past the ranger station, follow the main park road for 0.6 mile, and the trailhead parking will be on the right.
A kiosk at the trailhead provides paper maps, along with information about the park and trails.
Heading northwest from the kiosk, the trail begins on a wide, sandy pathway flanked by a small cypress swamp.
As the trail climbs slightly in elevation, the habitat rapidly transitions to a mixed hardwood forest. Majestic southern magnolia trees stand alongside laurel oaks and loblolly pines.
Dappled sunlight covers the forest floor in patches, providing enough light for a dense shrubby understory.
Numbered posts along the path correspond with information listed on maps provided at the trailhead kiosk.
Many of these stations are accompanied by a bench, offering quiet resting spots for hikers.
Numerous fall-blooming wildflowers border the trail, including St. Andrew’s Cross, goldenrod, and spotted horsemint.
In the spring, coral bean bushes attract pollinators with clusters of vibrant scarlet flowers, and paw paws display blooms of creamy white petals.
Near the halfway point, a short side trail leads to a Seminole Chickee Hut replica, providing an example of a homestead used by previous inhabitants of the forest.
The unique geography of the area has supported humans for thousands of years, due to the clear spring waters and easy access to the Suwannee River.
Shortly before the trail reaches the eastern side of the loop, a stand of pines surrounds a small pond often visited by wading birds.
These woodland ponds are an important resource for amphibians and aquatic insects.
Grasses become more common, covering the forest floor alongside saw palmettos and beautyberry bushes.
Pines increase in number. The soil takes on a clay-like color, suggesting an increase in elevation.
The trail narrows as it follows alongside a cypress swamp for the final tenth of a mile of the hike to the parking area.
From the this parking area, the Springs Trail leads south, connecting the North End Trails to Catfish Hole and the park’s namesake spring.
Learn more about Manatee Springs State Park and its trails
Showcasing the lower Suwannee River, Manatee Springs State Park centers around a clear blue spring, one of Florida’s largest and most picturesque
A walk through the Scenic Trail at Manatee Springs
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
One of Florida’s more remote National Wildlife Refuges, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge spans two counties, protecting a sweep of more than 53,000 acres and 30 miles of coastline along the Big Bend
One of the Suwannee River’s largest swimming holes is the clear, cool reflecting pool of Fanning Springs, located along the edge of its namesake town
A beauty spot along the Suwannee River north of Fanning Springs, Hart Springs offers swimming, hiking, camping, and cave diving in a rural setting near Trenton.