Protecting more than 14,000 acres along the Wekiva River basin, Rock Springs Run State Reserve is well known for its Florida black bear population.
The two loop trails that make up the Rock Springs Run Hiking Trail provide access to a vast landscape of pine flatwoods and scrub forest that Florida scrub-jays call home.
Length: 12.3 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.805196, -81.453799
Address: 30601 CR 433, Sorrento
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Restroom: At the riding stable
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted. Trails are multi-use, shared with equestrians and off-road cyclists.
Hunting is permitted in this state park, hence the “reserve” in its name. Check hunt dates before hiking here and always wear blaze orange during hunts. Hunts are generally held on weekends in late fall / early winter.
Hunters are allowed to drive the park roads during hunting season, and some of the roads are used for these trails. Be alert to vehicle activity during posted hunts.
Take Interstate 4 exit 101A, Sanford. Head west on SR 46 for 7.4 miles, passing Lower Wekiva River State Preserve and Seminole State Forest. Slow down when you see the chain-link fence on both sides of the road. Turn left into the preserve, and stop at the self-serve pay station to drop off your Florida State Parks entrance fee. Drive 0.6 mile down the entrance road to the hiker parking area on the left.
Start your counter-clockwise hike around the loop at the hiker kiosk, just before the parking lot. A bench at the top of the hill marks the trailhead.
The white-blazed trail starts out through a small stretch of sand pine and oak scrub, sharing the footpath with a blue-blazed biking trail.
Winding through an oak hammock, it emerges into open flatwoods, scattered longleaf pines with an understory of wiregrass and saw palmetto, straying into scrubby oak hammocks now and again.
At 0.9 mile, the trail makes a left onto a jeep road, then a right at the fork. You’ll be following this network of jeep roads for most of the trek.
Pay careful attention to the white blazes, as veer right off the jeep trail at 1.1 miles to lead the trail into a narrow corridor crowded by saw palmetto and gallberry, crossing several bog bridges.
Emerging from the dense forest, rejoin the jeep trail and turn right. The hum of highway traffic fades as you move further out into the vast expanse of flatwoods, with pond pines scattered amid the longleaf, the saw palmetto at eye-level in places.
After a right turn onto another jeep trail at 1.7 miles, you cross two intersections. At the second, the footpath leaves the jeep trail again, at a 45° angle to the left, until 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. This is not a trail you should expect a manicured hiking experience on—the footpath is no broader than those the Timucuan used to walk to the river.
At 2.8 miles, pass a seasonal waterhole on the right, a ditch that drains the flatwoods. After crossing a plank bridge, the trail turns left onto a jeep trail, then makes a 45° right into open flatwoods, an unbroken sea of saw palmetto and gallberry with scattered 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 the loop. To do only the North Loop, turn left (and resume the narrative with the North Loop below).
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 jeep 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, with cabbage palms and sweetgum, tall bald cypress and luxurious marsh ferns.
Skirt the swampy spots, and head down the cleared road as it enters a hydric hammock, yielding to an island of loblolly pine as you draw closer to the river.
At 5.7 miles, meet Back Tram Road. There is a clearing straight ahead; if you walk down to the end of it, you can slip through the tall riverside plants to the edge of Rock Springs Run, clear and beautiful, eelgrass waving in the current. Return to the road and make a right.
Back Tram Road parallels Rock Springs Run through an oak hammock, keeping you in deep shade as you walk along the causeway. Pine flatwoods stretch off to the left.
At 6.5 miles, look for a broad jeep trail to the right with a “No Horses” sign—the entrance to the riverside campsite at Indian Mound. Curving into the floodplain forest, the trail ends at the campsite on 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 campsite for paddlers on Rock Springs Run, a blissful wilderness paddle of about six miles from Kelly Park or Kings Landing down to a take-out along the Wekiva River.
Return to Back Tram Road and turn right. Notice the many ferns along the roadside, including the tall and showy southern woods fern. Pass several more cleared areas and parking areas for equestrians and hunters.
If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can drive back here when the back gate is open. The main challenge is getting through the deep soft sand on Spear Road.
Near the sign “Water for Horses Only,” a small sulfuric spring bubbles out of the earth, a beautiful picture of tiny boils in the pure white sand beneath the glassy surface. Continue walking along Back Tram Road to meet Spear Road at 7.8 miles. Turn left.
Spear Road provides a causeway through a hydric hammock, dense with ferns and bromeliads. 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.
At 9.2 miles, you 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 out into the scrub, to the left. Follow the yellow blazes along a corridor through the scrub.
At 10.3 miles, the yellow trail emerges onto Shell Mound Road. This is your bailout point. 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. Continue walking on the road, passing a canopied bench. Spear Road becomes pavement at 10.9 miles, at the equestrian trailhead. Walk past the biker trailhead before returning to the parking area after 12.3 miles, completing your circuit hike.
See our slides of Rock Springs Run Hiking Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Trot out your sense of adventure for an immersion into one of the wildest trails you’ll find near Orlando, the 7.1-mile loop in the Black Bear Wilderness Area in Sanford.
Tubing down Rock Springs Run is why most folks show up at Kelly Park, but the Kelly Loop Trail is a nice dry way to see the waterway and wildlife.