A showcase for the colorful pine lily (Lilium catesbaei Walter), a threatened species that thrives in wet flatwoods, Pine Lily Preserve protects wetlands and uplands in the Econlockhatchee River basin.
Connecting directly to adjoining Hal Scott Preserve and Long Branch Preserve, it’s part of a much larger corridor for wildlife to roam north from the prairies of Osceola County.
While the pine lilies bloom in late summer, there are always colorful wildflowers to be found in this preserve, particularly around the marshes and wet prairies.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 4.3 miles in two round trips
Trailhead: 28.5287, -81.0964
Address: 1401 S CR 13
Land manager: Orange County
Open sunrise to sunset. No pets permitted. No bicycles permitted. There is a garbage can and a recycling bin at the trailhead, as well as a kiosk with a map.
Equestrians welcome. A large parking area is provided for horse trailers; however, parts of it can be muddy and/or soft sand. Choose your parking space carefully.
From Orlando, follow SR 50 east into Bithlo. Pass the traffic light for Chuluota Rd and keep going for another 1.5 miles. Along this stretch, the highway is paralleled by a service road with a number of businesses. Stay in the right lane and make a right onto CR 13 at the light. Follow this narrowing road south for 1.8 miles, passing a paintball park and the entrance to Long Branch Preserve on the right. Just past a road on the right is the large dirt lot for Pine Lily Preserve on the left before CR 13 ends.
Walk to the far end of the parking lot to the trailhead kiosk. Follow the fence around to the pass-thru adjoining the yellow gate and start east along a broad forest road.
Red trail markers and orange blazes lead the way. The markers are discs with arrows and not entirely consistent in color along the trails. Keep alert.
It’s not hard to follow this trail, however, as it’s broad and pleasant, flanked by scattered saw palmettos and prairie grasses in a healthy sandhill habitat. Longleaf pine towers overhead.
You can hear the hum of SR 520 not far away, especially during the early morning rush hour. On weekends, the noise from nearby Speed World racetrack is downright distracting.
The habitat transitions into pine flatwoods. Tawny grasses flanking the trail cup small spiderwebs filled with morning dew.
Dahoon holly shows off its deep red berries around Christmastime. Behind it, the landscape slopes off into a swampy bayhead.
At a quarter mile, the trail indents slightly into the woods on the left. Loblolly pine and loblolly bay are mixed into this forest as well.
Laden with dew, spiderwebs sparkle in the early rays of the sun.
The forest crowds close on the left, but is expansive where it sweeps south to meet Hal Scott Preserve.
As the trail loses elevation, saw palmetto crowds closely on both sides of the broad forest road as it enters a floodplain with cabbage palms and cypresses.
Gravel is laid across the trail in this area to enable the flow of water, a stream washing from north to south through this palm-heavy habitat.
Live oaks, their limbs laden with resurrection fern and topped with bromeliads, knit a canopy above the trail as it gains elevation again.
The path curves to the right, still a broad forest road. After a half mile, you reach the junction with the north half of the central loop in the trail.
This trail is marked with blue arrows. Turn left to start along it.
The Blue Trail is a footpath in the woods, a wilder place than the trail you’ve been walking so far, a corridor defined by saw palmetto. The trills of songbirds echo across the forest.
The treadway is a little rough underfoot, with gatorbacks and vegetation creeping into the footpath.
Floodplain trees and shrubs such as wax myrtle and loblolly bay, red maple and sweetgum, line the path.
Pass a yellow marker as the trail curves right to face east again, still tightly confined by saw palmetto and gallberry in scrubby flatwoods.
The palmetto are just the right height to see over. They go on to the horizon, a classic palmetto prairie that Florida pioneers hated but are so lovely to walk through on a hike.
After 0.8 mile, the Blue Trail meets the east-west Red Trail. Turn left. Birds fuss in the line of trees ahead.
Traffic noise increases as the trail leads you towards SR 520, a major highway between Orlando and Cocoa.
The slight dampness of the soil encourages plants you’ll find around pine lilies, including candyroot and St. John’s wort, to peep out of prairie grasses along with grass stage longleaf pines.
Shade returns as the forest canopy closes in overhead, dense with sand live oak and water oak. Tall saw palmetto, rising up on their roots, fill the gaps beneath.
Meet an unmarked junction with a cross trail going to the left. Continue straight ahead. Rising up again, the trail re-enters sandhill habitat with incursions of scrub.
Lovegrass blooms in large mounds along this forest road, the delicate blossoms clinging to the morning drops of dew. There is a gradient of pines: fluffy longleaf, tall loblolly.
At 1.2 miles, there is a fork in the trail. Take it to the left, following the markers into sandhills and scrub, heading into a hardwood hammock.
The trail joins a berm along a creek trapped in a canal from the old cattle ranch. A few cypresses outline the floodplain. Cinnamon fern is scattered across the pine duff.
Given how overgrown we found it in hiking season, this part of the trail may not be the easiest to follow. Keep watching for the next marker.
The trail pulls away from the creek, curving to the right in an open space overhung with dog fennel and shortspike bluestem.
Look for another marker, under a pine tree, guiding you towards a stand of young pines.
At 1.4 miles, we found an “End of Trail” sign. The trail didn’t actually end, but curved back on itself.
Turn right and you’re back on the broad main path again. You complete this far loop at 1.5 miles.
Returning westbound along the broad path, it doesn’t take long to be immersed in a grassy, open scrubby flatwoods with prairie grasses, including the grayish-green hues of chalky bluestem.
Passing the north trail again, continue a little ways forward to find the south loop starting on the left.
Turn left to follow the tight corridor of shoulder-height saw palmetto with tall longleaf pines above.
A panorama stretches to the south until the oaks crowd in and form a canopy overhead at 2 miles.
Here the trail loses elevation, dark earth making up the footpath, a little mucky on the shoes.
While we found this corridor overgrown, it’s not difficult to work your way down it, pushing past palm fronds as the trail twists and turns through the forest.
In this density of undergrowth, the distant traffic noise can’t be heard over your footfalls in the crunchy leaves. Emerging on the main trail, turn left.
Walk in the open sun, slender flat-topped goldenrod lending splashes of yellow in the foreground, the blazing red leaves of winged sumac in fall splendor.
Crossing the gravel wash, you rise up into a corridor of oaks, and reach the gate at the trailhead after 2.7 miles, completing the first round-trip hike.
To start the second one, follow the path along the south side of the trailhead fence. It’s marked with orange blazes indicative of a potential future route for the Florida Trail.
Follow markers and blazes down the power line for almost a quarter mile. There, a cypress dome blocks southerly progress.
A post with a marker points you into a sharp left to cross a marshy drainage area.
It’s here you’ll find some of the nicest wildflowers in the preserve, the main reason for taking this trail.
In this drainage that flows out of the cypresses and into the prairie, look closely into the prairie grasses for the lilac-tinged blooms of lobelia.
Delicate yellow bladderworts and the sticky crimson arms of carnivorous sundews are also among them.
Reaching a T intersection with a closed trail, turn right for a walk through scrubby flatwoods, a potentially soggy habitat with high potential for pine lilies.
By 3 miles, you reach the next T intersection, where red trail markers point right, back towards the powerline.
This time, however, you continue under the powerline and summit the roadbed of old CR 13, which we think is part of the original Cheney Highway.
No matter when the roadbed was built, it stands up tall around the surrounding landscape, which means expansive views for you as you walk down it – and an easy walk it is.
Red diamond markers lead you down the nicely shaded corridor. At 3.3 miles, a panorama of palmetto prairie and wiregrass stretches off to the horizon on the right.
As the canopy of oaks closes in again, the old roadbed bisects a cypress dome, the interplay of light and shadow most delicate through the feathery cypress needles.
A jarring contrast happens at 3.5 miles, when the trail reaches a vast swath of cleared land with a canal running perpendicular to the trail. You are now in Hal Scott Preserve.
To connect to the trail network of Hal Scott Preserve — and to loop around to the southwest corner of the trail system at Long Branch Preserve – turn right after crossing the canal.
We walked south out of curiosity, discovering that old CR 13 continues to a dead-end at a gate leading to the back side of a large subdivision, Wedgefield, off SR 520.
The canal is the turn-around point for our hike mileage. It’s an easy and straight walk back up to the south end of CR 13, visible just through the trees.
Follow the worn path around the cypress dome through the wildflower wetland, and the trail returns to its straight line up the powerline.
After following the fence to the gap, emerge at the trailhead parking area after 4.3 miles.
Learn more about adjacent Hal Scott Preserve
In a long-term effort to nudge the Orlando corridor of the Florida Trail closer to suburbia, discontinuous federally-designated fragments of trail east of the airport offer enjoyable day hikes.
Orange County’s Pine Lily Preserve in Bithlo is a great wildflower walk in any season, since carnivorous plants are common in its bogs.
See our photos of Pine Lily Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Putting together several loops providing perspectives on pine flatwoods, prairie, swamp, and a showy pond, Hidden Pond Preserve offers a very enjoyable 1.9 mile hike.
Protecting more than a thousand acres, Savage Christmas Creek Preserve east of Orlando has more than 8 miles of trails through panoramic prairie and pine flatwoods landscapes
At Seminole Ranch Conservation Area in Christmas, the Florida Trail follows a linear 4.9 mile route through a string of hydric hammocks in the St. Johns River floodplain