Myakka State Forest offers an extensive system of loop trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use.
While the South Loop is notorious for being a soggy hike, the North Loop is typically dry.
A highlight on this loop is a short trail to the Myakka River Campsite, complete with a dock and panoramic views of the river.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 8.2 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.990750, -82.303635
Address: 2000 South River Rd, Englewood FL 34223
Fees: $2 per person day use fee. Annual pass available.
Restroom: Vault toilet at trailhead
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 hunting occurs. If you plan to hit the trails here, check ahead regards hunt dates.
Primitive campsites must be reserved in advance through Reserve America.
From Interstate 75, head south on CR 777 for 9.4 miles. Turn left at the forest entrance. Pay your entrance fee at the iron ranger. Follow Shell Rd for a mile. The trailhead parking area is on the left.
From the parking area, head east on the main forest road for about 200 feet to the North Loop Trailhead on the left.
Passing through the gate, follow the wide grassy path north for 0.2 mile, then turn left.
In a short distance, the North Loop intersects with the Gordon Smith Memorial Trail.
Continue straight on this road, passing a sign designating this smaller loop trail.
Turn right after another 0.2 mile onto an avenue that cuts through a sea of palmettos and pines. It is paralleled by a wide firebreak.
Trail markers are few and far between, typically a white diamond affixed to a post.
The trail sticks to a wide service road for the most part, and it is easy to stay on track, especially when using a map.
Follow this straight section for 0.4 mile to a right turn, then a quick left turn, reaching the beginning of the loop in another 500 feet.
A sign for the North Loop indicates the trail going east and west. Turn left to begin trekking clockwise around the loop.
Depending on the time of year, several species of goldenrod may be in bloom, including pineland rayless goldenrod.
These native plants are easily spotted, contrasting the gold and green grasses with vibrant yellow flowers.
Stay straight on the main trail for 0.7 mile to reach a shelter at the northwest corner of the loop.
Saw palmettos are the predominant feature, covering the savanna dotted with longleaf pines to create an outstanding example of pine flatwoods habitat.
Turn right at the shelter, following a grass-carpeted road to the east for 0.8 mile to the beginning of the Slash Pine Trail.
A shelter and sign indicate the start of this trail which heads north toward the Myakka River Campsite.
At this junction, staying straight follows the North Loop Trail for another 3.7 mile back to the trailhead.
Turn left for a detour to the scenic riverside campsite, a two-mile round trip well worth the effort.
Follow the red blazed Slash Pine Trail for a little over a quarter mile, then turn right at a sign for the River Trail, blazed with green.
The River Trail is narrower, zigzagging through the woods for the next 0.7 mile before opening to a clearing on the bank of the Myakka River.
A scenic spot, the Myakka River Campsite features two picnic tables, a grill, and a large rock-bordered firepit.
An impressive dock juts out into the tidally influenced river.
This structure provides scenic views of the mangrove-lined Myakka River and allows access to the campsite by boat.
This is the north end of the hike. Head back south, then west to the red-blazed Slash Pine Trail, retracing the path back to the North Loop Trail.
At the North Loop Trail, turn left to continue the loop.
Marsh-adapted rose gentian and coreopsis sprout from the wetter areas alongside the road, covered in vivid pink and yellow blooms.
The trail continues as a long arc for the next 1.2 mile through the pine flatwoods, reaching the southeastern corner of the loop.
An orange-blazed sign at the edge of a thick pine stand indicates the Jennings Trail, but no information about this trail is available on the State Forest maps.
From its location, we surmise it reaches a pass-through gate at Jennings Blvd, where there is a trailhead used by equestrians.
After another 0.8 mile and a few twists and turns in the road, the trail passes a marked side trail to the Flatwoods Campsite.
A covered bench provides shelter in another quarter mile before the trail turns right for the final stretch of the loop.
These pine flatwoods are an ideal habitat for the stunning pine lily, also known as a Catesby’s lily. Watch for them on the left side of the trail past the shelter.
Typically seen between July and September, the bright coral blooms help these flowers stand out from the surrounding vegetation.
In half a mile, the loop ends with a left turn onto the road leading back to the trailhead.
Continue for a mile back to the parking area, passing a couple of intersections with the Gordon Smith Memorial trail along the way.
Learn more about Myakka State Forest
A short and scenic loop trail on easy terrain, the Gordon Smith Memorial Trail showcases mesic flatwoods, a predominant ecosystem in Myakka State Forest.
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
T. Mabry Carlton Reserve is less than a dozen miles from downtown Venice but wild enough that the Florida panther roams these woodlands along the Myakka River floodplain.
Follow the natural curves of the creek on a loop through Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port