Acquired in 2011 by the Alachua Conservation Trust, Santa Fe River Preserve conserves over a thousand acres of riverfront between Worthington Springs and Alachua.
Near the confluence of the Santa Fe and New Rivers, the North Tract has two distinct trailheads along SR 121.
Accessed at the North Gate, the 1.3-mile Blue Trail loops through a gradient of habitats, including the banks of the Santa Fe where showy pinxter azaleas bloom in springtime.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 1.3 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.916056, -82.426185
Address: North SR 121, Worthington Springs
Land manager: Alachua Conservation Trust
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are welcome.
From Interstate 75 in Alachua, head south on SR 441 for 1.2 miles before turning left onto NW 140th St. Stay on the main road in a half mile, where it becomes SR 235. In 1.5 miles, turn left onto NW CR 239 and continue for 5.4 miles before making a right onto NW CR 236. Continue for 1.7 miles, then turn left at SR 121 north. In 2.3 miles, the trailhead will be on right side of the road.
Passing through the entrance gate, continue down a straight access road for 0.1 mile before turning right at a trail sign marked with a blue arrow.
A variety of pines and oaks border the wide pathway, alongside saw palmettos, sparkleberry, and dogwood trees.
The canopy provides ample shade, allowing dappled sunlight to reach clusters of fuzzy moss on the forest floor.
Yellow jessamine climbs through the tangled underbrush, covered with buttery-yellow flowers that often fall to the ground before wilting, contrasting with piles of brown leaves.
Reaching 0.2 mile, a short post with a diamond-shaped blue sign indicates the start of the loop.
Turn to the right, where the trail takes an eastward bend into towards stands of taller trees.
Shade becomes more prominent as robust oaks with heavy gnarled branches arch over the trail.
The distinctive whistle-like call of great crested flycatchers emanates from the treetops, where they deftly pluck insects out of the air.
Sandhill habitat is evident as the path slowly turns back towards the river, with clusters of wiregrass emerging alongside paw-paws and Florida paintbrush.
Trailside beautyberry bushes sport large velvety leaves and tiny white flowers that become clusters of shiny purple berries, and important food source for many birds.
Approaching the river bluff near the one mile mark, dark waters become visible through gaps in vegetation.
The trail passes a sort of overlook at a confluence of the New River and the Santa Fe.
River birch lines the bank as alligators glide across the water with all but their heads and backs submerged in the slow-moving current.
A blue marker leads the way as the trail ascends from the river and completes the loop at 1.2 miles.
Retrace your steps along the forested pathway towards the road, reaching the trailhead in 0.2 mile.
Hiking the Blue Trail at Santa Fe River Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Discover the beauty of the Santa Fe River and its floodplain habitats at Worthington Springs from the boardwalks of the Riverwalk Nature Trail at Chastain-Seay Park.
Peaceful pathways wind alongside a tranquil creek through shady woodlands, offering a quiet hike among the timid wildlife that call the Santa Fe River Basin home.
The largest live oak tree in Florida, the Cellon Oak north of Gainesville is more than 30 feet in diameter and shades a space that puts most other oaks to shame.