Across this 14,000 acre preserve on the north shore of Rock Springs Run, a tributary of the Wekiva River, explore a stronghold of the Florida black bear and Florida scrub-jay.
Within a vast expanse of pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, scrub, and river floodplain, loops of 7 or 12.3 miles are possible on a collection of multi-use trails and forest roads.
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Length: loops of 7 or 12.3 miles
Trailhead: 28.804783, -81.453733
Address: 30601 CR 433, Sorrento
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Restroom: At the riding stable
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to 6 PM. Leashed dogs welcome. Trails shared with off-road cyclists and equestrians.
Hunting is permitted in this state park. Please check the FWC website for hunting season dates. Wear a bright orange vest or shirt if you choose to hike during hunts. Hunters are allowed to drive the park roads during hunting season, and some of the roads they use are also part of these loops. Be alert to vehicle activity during posted hunts.
take I-4 exit 101A, Sanford. Head west on SR 46 for 7.4 miles, passing Lower Wekiva River State Preserve and Seminole State Forest. Turn left into the preserve and stop at the self-serve pay station. Drive 0.6 mile straight down the entrance road to the hiker parking area on the left.
Start a counter-clockwise loop at the hiker kiosk along the entrance road just north of the parking area. A bench at the top of the hill marks the trailhead.
White blazed, the trail starts in a stretch of sand pine and oak scrub, sharing its route with a blue-blazed bike trail.
Winding through an oak hammock, emerge into open flatwoods with scattered longleaf pines with an understory of wiregrass and saw palmetto, straying through a few oak scrubs.
At 0.9 mile, the trail makes a left onto a two-track road, then a right at the fork. You’ll follow a network of two-tracks for most of the trek.
Pay careful attention to the white blazes. They veer right off the road at 1.1 miles into a narrow corridor crowded by saw palmetto and gallberry, crossing several bog bridges.
Beware of false leads through the underbrush by game trails created by deer and Florida black bears.
Emerging from the dense forest, rejoin the road and turn right. The hum of highway traffic fades as you move further into the vast expanse of flatwoods.
Pond pines are scattered amid the longleaf, the saw palmetto at eye-level in places. After a right turn onto another road at 1.7 miles, cross two intersections.
At the second, the footpath leaves the road again, at a 45° angle to the left, leading through an open sunny stretch past scrub live oaks.
It turns right into the shade of a dense stand of pines and tall oaks, then veers left past an old piece of fencing.
Dense, shoulder-high saw palmetto crowds the trail. At 2.8 miles, pass a seasonal waterhole on the right, a ditch that drains the flatwoods.
After a plank bridge, the trail turns left onto a jeep trail, then makes a sharp right into an unbroken sea of saw palmetto and gallberry with scattered pines.
Faint blazes stand out against the charred bark of the pines. The trail meets up with a white sand road – Scrub Road – and parallels it.
Reach the sign for the North-South Cross Trail it at 3.6 miles. This is your decision point for whether to tackle 7 miles on the North Loop or 12.3 miles by joining the South Loop.
Turn right at the fork to continue on the South Loop. At 4.4 miles, reach a fork. The trail goes slightly to the left, through the trees and across the broad meadow.
Follow the faint track through the meadow to rejoin the road you were on at 4.8 miles. After a “No Vehicles Allowed” sign, the road continues forward into a floodplain forest.
The trail is edged with cabbage palms and sweetgum, tall bald cypress and luxurious marsh ferns. If the run has been high recently, scattered puddles, too.
A damp, earthy smell rises from the rough ground. Skirt the swampy spots, and head down the cleared road as it enters a hydric hammock, yielding to an island of loblolly pine.
At 5.7 miles, meet Back Tram Road. There is a clearing straight ahead. Walk to the end of it and slip through the tall riverside plants for a first glimpse of Rock Springs Run.
Back Tram Road parallels Rock Springs Run downstream through an oak hammock which provides deep shade to the causeway. Pine flatwoods stretch off to the left.
At 6.5 miles, look for a broad trail to the right. Curving into the floodplain forest, the trail ends at a peaceful bend in the river.
A live oak dips into the crystal-clear water. Sit on the bench and watch the sun sparkle on the water.
This is a popular stop for paddlers following Rock Springs Run, a wilderness journey of about six miles from Kings Landing to Wekiwa Springs.
Return to Back Tram Road and turn right. There are many ferns roadside, including the tall, showy southern woods fern.
Pass several more cleared areas and parking areas for equestrians and hunters. At the sign “Water for Horses Only” take a peek on the right.
A small sulfuric spring bubbles out of the earth, a beautiful picture of tiny boils in the pure white sand beneath the glassy surface. Mosquitofish dart through the shallows.
Continue walking along Back Tram Road to its junction with Spear Road at 7.8 miles. Turn left.
Spear Road provides a causeway through a hydric hammock, dense with ferns and bromeliads.
Tall cattails rise from a marsh on the right, where moorhens paddle through the placid water. Century plants and needle palms grow in the shade on the left.
As the road gains elevation, the habitat changes, returning to a drier mix of pines and cabbage palms.
Watch for a gracefully curved pond pine on the right, twisted in a languid arc like a giant bonsai. Worthless to loggers, but attractive to those who measure the beauty in nature’s art.
At 9.2 miles, pass through a gate and reach a kiosk at a parking area, an opportunity to sit on a bench and look out into the pine flatwoods, across the wiregrass prairie.
Reaching the intersection of Spear Road and Scrub Road at 9.6 miles, you’ve completed the South Loop and are now on the North Loop.
Turn right, walking along Spear Road until you see a yellow-blazed trail into the scrub to the left. Follow the yellow blazes along a tight corridor.
Patches of rosemary scrub seek to spread, and myrtle oaks and Chapman oaks vie to replace the cut sand pines.
At 10.3 miles, the yellow trail emerges onto Shell Mound Road. This is a bailout point from what once was a more extensive marked trail system.
To return to the parking area, continue straight across the road, meeting up with a blue-blazed hiking trail that joins in from the right.
Continue straight through the scrubby flatwoods. The trail empties out onto Spear Road. Walk along Spear Road, passing a canopied bench. Spear Road becomes pavement at 10.9 miles at the equestrian trailhead.
Walk past the cyclist trailhead as well before returning to the parking area after 12.3 miles, completing the big loop.
Learn more about Rock Springs Run State Reserve
See our photos of Rock Springs Run State Reserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.