Myakka State Forest straddles the Myakka River where it significantly broadens after Myakkahatchee Creek adds to its flow.
A vast landscape of open prairies and pine flatwoods edged by encroaching suburbia, the forest protects more than 8,500 acres of wetlands and uplands where Sarasota and Charlotte counties meet.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: North Port and Englewood
Trailhead: 26.990576, -82.302249
Address: 2000 South River Rd, Englewood
Fees: $2 per person day use fee. Annual pass available.
Restrooms: Portable toilets at the picnic area off River Rd
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome.
Day use fees payable at a self-pay station. There is no drinking water in this forest. Bring your own.
Seasonal small game hunting occurs. If you plan to hit the trails here, check ahead regards hunt dates.
From Interstate 75 exit 191 just north of the Myakka River and south of Venice, follow S River Rd (CR 777) south for 5.7 miles to US 41. From US 41, continue 1.6 miles to the forest entrance on the left. Pay your entrance fee at the iron ranger. Follow Shell Rd for 0.9 mile, passing the picnic area and park office, to reach the trailhead.
Walk-through entrances with trailhead parking are also along East River Rd, Foresman Blvd, and Jennings Blvd.
About the Forest
Myakka State Forest provides wide open spaces to roam on what was largely former ranch land. East of the Myakka River, there is no recreation access to the forest.
But there is plenty west of the river. At its north end, oak and palm hammocks dominate along with pine flatwoods. In these woods, turpentine camps set up along the river once extracted sap from the pines for naval stores.
The southern portion of the forest is more open and soggy, with prairies with scattered pines, wet prairies, and depression marshes.
Rock Creek rises from the wet prairies in the southern portion of the forest to flow towards Lemon Bay.
Along the main entrance road, Shell Road, there is a picnic area adjacent to Rock Creek before you get to the park office and trailhead.
The main trailhead on Shell Road connects you with the 5.8-mile North Loop and the 7.7-mile South Loop. Both trails are part of the Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program.
Follow the North Loop to reach an orange-blazed nature trail, the 1.5-mile Gordon Smith Memorial Trail. It bisects the tail of the North Loop twice.
Our details on the North Loop include a hike out and back on the River Trail, a must for the beauty spot found at the Myakka River Campsite. That expands the hike to 8.2 miles.
Winding across open prairies of palmettos, the North Loop Trail at Myakka State Forest offers views of pine flatwoods and glimpses of the Myakka River.
Circling vast prairies amid pine flatwoods and depression marshes, the South Loop in Myakka State Forest provides a sense of perspective along the Myakka River basin.
Slash Pine Trail
From the East River Road trailhead, the linear Slash Pine Trail extends 2.3 miles southeast, ending at the North Loop.
It starts from the same trailhead as the Palmetto Trail and crosses it once. A spur of the trail, the 0.7-mile linear River Campsite Trail, ends at the Myakka River at the River Campsite.
A round-trip from the East River Road trailhead to the Myakka River and back totals 5.2 miles.
Stretching north from the Foresman Blvd parking area for 1.3 miles, the 3.7 mile linear Foresman Trail joins a 0.4-mile piece of South Loop to cross a massive wetland.
North of the wetland, it leaves to South Loop to continue northwest another 2 miles, where it ends just east of the loop junction for the South Loop.
Near the north end of the Foresman Trail is the Watering Hole campsite, which has a boardwalk overlooking a small pond amid the wet prairies.
The East River Road trailhead provides access to the Palmetto Trail, a twisting, winding 10-mile singletrack that extends to a loop along the Myakka River.
Cyclists can also ride all established trails and forest roads throughout Myakka River State Forest.
Two loops comprises the core trail for the Florida State Forest Trailtrotter Program, the North Loop and the South Loop. Together they tally 13 miles.
Riders are welcome to tackle more than 40 miles of forest roads throughout the forest. The Shell Road, Foresman Blvd, and Jennings Blvd trailheads all have room for horse trailers.
The forest offers four primitive camping areas along its trail system, including one that paddlers can also stop at along the Myakka River.
The Flying A campground along Shell Road is vehicle-accessible but is definitely primitive, with no water or power. Picnic tables and grills are provided at the five campsites on the loop, as well as a shared vault toilet.
For backpackers, River Campsite is the most picturesque place to camp in the forest, set in a clearing under the pines on the Myakka River at the end of the Slash Pine Trail.
The Flatwoods Campsite is at the south end of a 0.3-mile side trail off the North Loop, or 1.9 miles north of the Shell Road trailhead.
The Pine Straw and Watering Hole Campsites are off the South Loop in an area of the forest that tends towards wet prairies.
Watering Hole is along the north end of the Foresman Trail, about 0.6 mile south of the South Loop, or 1.6 miles south of the Shell Road trailhead.
Along the southwest portion of the South Loop, Pine Straw is at the end of a 0.7 mile linear connector, a total of 2.5 miles south of the Shell Road trailhead.
No water is provided at any campsite, so bring your water filter. Good sources to filter adjoin both River Campsite and Watering Hole Campsite. Otherwise water is in prairie ponds and marshes.
All campsites must be reserved in advance through Reserve America. Fee is $10 per site, up to 5 people, plus booking fee.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Offering scenic views of wild shores along the Myakka River, this hike at Jelks Preserve makes a big loop along the trail system to immerse you in a variety of habitats
Stretched long and thin to follow the convoluted shoreline of Charlotte Harbor, Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park protects more than 100 miles of coastline along the Gulf Coast
One of the largest natural mineral water springs in the world, Warm Mineral Springs near Venice is Florida’s only hot spring open to the public
Reserve a Campsite Official Website