A strip of dense slope forest along Hogtown Creek with old-growth trees and rare wildflowers along Appalachian-style ravines, Gainesville’s first linear park was a gift from a college professor, Alfred A. Ring, and opened in 1990.
Length: 1.5 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 29.674283, -82.347019
Address: 1801 NW 23rd Blvd, Gainesville
Restroom: adjoining the picnic pavilion and playground
Land manager: City of Gainesville
Open 8 AM to 6 PM Nov-Apr, 8 AM -- 8 PM May-Oct. Leashed pets are welcome. Please be aware although you may see visitors wade in the creek, it is against park rules, and more importantly, could be a risk to your health since Hogtown Creek is contaminated with a lot of runoff from nearby neighborhoods.
From the corner of University Avenue and US 441, drive north on US 441 to Glen Springs Rd (NW 23rd Blvd). Follow it to the entrance for Alfred A. Ring Park on the left, entered through the Elks Lodge parking lot. Be aware that GPS may try to steer you to the walk-in entrance to the park off NW 16th St, where there is no parking.
0.0 > Leaving the parking area, you descend towards a broad iron bridge that stretches across Hogtown Creek. It’s a climb into the upland forest on a nice, broad natural footpath. Skinny loblolly pines tower overhead.
0.1 > Near a trail coming in from the left, you pass an interpretive sign, “Discover the Habitats of Ring Park,” that gives a nice introduction to what you’re about to see. Look for these detailed signs throughout the park.
0.2 > The trail reaches a clearing with restrooms, a playground, and a picnic shelter. The trail to the right heads for a back gate into a neighborhood. Continue straight ahead to walk through the Emily S. Ring wildflower garden, with native plants -- including silver-tinged saw palmetto -- accompanied by colorful azalea and camellia.
0.3 > The trail descends out of the cultivated wildflower garden into the upland forest. In spring, the hillside is carpeted with smooth Solomon’s seal, a wildflower identified with the southern Appalachians. Passing a trail junction, continue straight ahead and downhill into the slope forest, where ancient Southern magnolias cast broad pools of shade.
0.5 > At a half mile, the trail reaches a T intersection with a trail paralleling the creek. Turn right to follow this route downstream. A bench overlooks a pretty horseshoe curve in Hogtown Creek, just before you start walking down a broad boardwalk.
0.7 > The creek basin is a deeply folded landscape, with terrain and views reminiscent of a mountain ravine in North Carolina. The trail traverses numerous boardwalks and there are several off-trail overlooks for a good perspective of the creek.
0.8 > Passing an interpretive marker on “Seepage Streams,” which describes how Hogtown Creek is naturally fed by shallow groundwater percolating through the sand, you reach the turnaround point for this walk at the pedestrian entrance off NW 16th Avenue. Return back along the same route to the bench you encountered above the horseshoe bend.
1.2 > Past the bench, continue straight, with a sign alerting you this is the direction to the observation deck and parking area. As the trail works its way through a flatter floodplain, you can see a water-filled sink to the right.
1.3 > The interpretive sign at the observation deck explains how Hogtown Creek is now fed by Gainesville’s runoff, which means that although it is pretty, it’s not very clean. Leaving the deck, turn right to follow the trail uphill.
1.4 > Meet the next trail junction and turn right, walk between a row of towering Southern magnolias as the trail climbs uphill. When you reach the T intersection, turn right to head to the parking area.
1.5 > Reach the parking area at the trailhead.
Nearby destinations within an easy drive of Alfred Ring Park