Central to the vast landscape protected by Salt Lake WMA in Mims, the uplands of pine flatwoods and scrub make for important bird habitat.
On our visits here, we’ve seen four different species of woodpeckers, along with flickers, gnatcatchers, and sparrows.
Box turtles and gopher tortoises appreciate these dry uplands too, since much of the acreage of Salt Lake WMA is under water.
A marked loop using forest roads that can be hiked or biked, this 4.1-mile loop makes for a satisfying day hike.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 4.1 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.6397, -80.8900
Restroom: Vault toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Florida FWC
Open from 90 minutes before sunrise to 90 minutes after sunset. Leashed dogs welcome.
Check on hunting seasons before you visit. You need to wear bright orange if hiking here during scheduled hunts.
From Interstate 95 exit 223, Mims, drive west on SR 46 for 0.7 mile to Turpentine Rd. Turn left. Follow it north 1.5 miles. It turns right and becomes Panther Lane. After a half mile, Panther Lane turns left and becomes Arch Road, leading right up to the entrance gate and parking area.
From the trailhead kiosk, head straight down Powerline Road. It’s a hard-packed limestone road that starts out nicely shaded.
The road parallels power lines on both sides. Pass a marsh that drains beneath the road. Clumps of needlerush frame pines on the far horizon.
At 0.4 mile, a sign says “Bone Yard to right.” Continue past it to meet the loop portion of this trail, which starts at 0.7 mile.
Turn left onto a forest road into the pine flatwoods. Marshes are visible to the left beyond the pines.
As the habitat transitions to a slash pine forest, keep alert for a curve to the right at a junction of trails.
White violets and yellow bladderwort cluster in a low spot on the trail. A soft haze fills the flatwoods.
Turn left at a double blaze, passing a floodplain forest. At 1.4 miles, pass a broad forest road to the left.
The white blazes lead you along the edge of the pine flatwoods, with a floodplain swamp beyond.
Reaching a property boundary with private property, the trail makes a sharp right at a 4-way intersection. An ephemeral wetland is busy with birds.
A bird box sits in the middle of the scrubby flatwoods as the trail points towards open scrub.
Tall loblolly bay trees and cypress dominate a bayhead swamp at 1.7 miles. The trail reaches another four-way intersection.
The trail makes a right, the footpath becoming soft sand in the scrub. The white blazes lead towards a copse of slash pines.
At the next junction, the trail goes straight ahead, entering an open palmetto prairie.
Passing a forest road sweeping in from the left, the trail continues straight towards a stand of pines in the distance.
Amid the prairie are patches of scrub, with short sand live oaks and Chapman oaks of a perfect height for Florida scrub-jays.
While we didn’t see any along our hike, we thought we heard them in the distance.
Emerging from the pines, you see an orange tipped post off to the left. Farther down the forest road, the trail comes within view of the power lines.
At 2.4 miles, this is the top of the loop. A forest road goes off to the left. A bat box sits off in the distance in the open scrub.
The trail curves past ancient saw palmettos rising up on their trunks out of the pine savanna.
Gravel covers the footpath at a place where a bayhead swamp drains seasonally into the pine flatwoods.
By 2.6 miles the trail reaches the power line. A double blaze points out the right turn, northbound along Powerline Road.
A bayhead swamp on the left has a large stocky, loblolly bay tree. The trail curves along the powerline and heads into the pine flatwoods.
Passing a small depression marsh with needlerush, the trail returns to the edge of the powerline and begins to parallel it.
Walk past another depression marsh on the left in between the trail and the power line, surrounded by cabbage palms, like a little oasis.
Wetlands are on both sides of the trail, just little marshes in depressions. The trail ends up back under the power lines again.
At 3.1 miles, pass a road coming in from the right. The trail continues winding its way back towards the entrance.
A small slough was covered with a mat of pine pollen during our visit. A wetland stretches off to the right towards a floodplain forest.
We startled an alligator along the next wetland, where the footpath becomes gravel to allow it to drain across the road.
Winding to the right under the power lines and back into the edge of the pine forest, the trail comes up to the junction of Powerline Road and Bear Bluff Road.
Continue straight ahead. The trail stays to the west side of the power line.
By 3.8 miles you complete the loop portion of the hike. Continue straight ahead, following Powerline Road.
Past the Boneyard sign again before you spot the trailhead up ahead, which you reach after 4.1 miles.
Learn more about Salt Lake WMA
See our photos of the Salt Lake Hiking Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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