On the eastern edge of Salt Lake WMA in North Titusville, the South Lake Trail shows off a panorama of marshy South Lake at the end of a moss-draped corridor.
While it is shown on the preserve map as a round-trip hike, we discovered connecting forest roads enable you to make a 1.3-mile loop.
It’s a gentle walk, and delightfully immersive, from the open scrub in the uplands to the winding walk through thick draperies of Spanish moss close to the shoreline.
At the hike’s end, enjoy both the view and a picnic table placed in a prime spot for relaxing at the lakeshore.
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Length: 1.3 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.6384, -80.8749
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 one block to Carpenter Rd. Turn left. Continue 2.2 miles south to the four-way stop at Dairy Rd. Turn left. Drive 0.9 mile to the fenced trailhead on the left, just before the curve in the road.
When a new trailhead appeared along Dairy Road more than a year after a trail kiosk went up, it was time to find out why.
The trailhead kiosk has maps posted and information about hunting seasons. Behind it is a pass-through to access the South Lake Trail.
Follow the yellow blazes into the scrub forest. While we did not see Florida scrub-jays, we heard them. A family of them lives nearby.
The trail winds through the open scrub between diminutive oaks and clusters of scrub hickory.
Narrow and sandy underfoot, the trail has a definitely downhill trend. It doesn’t take long to get to its obvious destination, the treeline.
Once it enters the oak scrub, the trail becomes a tunnel beneath the sand live oaks.
The humidity of nearby South Lake – just a little beyond the trees – encourages Spanish moss and bromeliads to grow.
Thick blankets of lichens cover tree trunks. The oaks and rusty lyonia intertwine above the cabbage palms.
There is a sameness to the terrain, but it is a delightful sameness, moss-strewn and intimate.
After a quarter mile, the trail comes to a bench. Just after the bench it pops out into an open mowed area with a pine uphill. Turn left to stay with the trail.
Entering the next tunnel of oak hammock, the trail edges closer to the lake. You can hear the splash of water on the shoreline.
The trees are taller here and open up to reveal the sky above. A few spots are close enough to the lake to get damp at times.
While scrub appears on the uphill side of the trail, the downhill slope has loblolly bay, willow, and buttonbush.
These eventually yield back to the tunnel of oaks, with a riot of ferns across the forest floor.
Where the trail reaches a group of towering magnolias, it turns to the left and you can see a clearing up ahead.
When it emerges into the clearing, you’ve reached the destination of the South Lake Trail.
The clearing has a kiosk, bench, and picnic table. But most importantly, it has a boardwalk and observation deck.
Looking north, you can see the marshy edge of South Lake. Looking east and south, the vast sweep of the largest lake in Titusville.
For paddlers to reach this point, they must put in at Fox Lake Park and follow the marked trail.
The clearing is at 0.8 mile. You can return the way you came, or follow our loop route around for a different perspective on the preserve.
Walk into the woods behind the picnic table along a forest road shaded by a tall canopy of live oaks.
This road meanders a bit, leading you past massive magnolia trees before reaching a T intersection with another forest road.
Salt Lake WMA has many miles of forest roads and you don’t want to get lost on them. To loop back to the trailhead, turn right.
Walking under the oak canopy, you can see the “light at the end of the tunnel” up ahead.
Once you reach it, the rest of the hike is in the open scrub with no shade. The panoramas, however, are outstanding. Listen for birds.
Soon after passing a forest road at the edge of a prairie, you see the tall pine you saw earlier along the hike, along the cleared corridor.
Pass that side trail and keep going straight ahead, towards the pines in the distance. The road becomes soft sand in spots.
More side trails come in from the left before the trail reaches the pines. These interconnect to the larger forest road network in Salt Lake WMA.
Keep on the main trail. After you reach the pines, it’s not long before you see the trailhead fence and kiosk up ahead.
Finish up by walking through the pass-through to complete this 1.3 mile hike.
While we’re asked to keep our distance, the outdoors is still there for us. You can hike, bike, and paddle with your family, but do so safely. Keep your mental and physical health good by enjoying nature.
Learn more about Salt Lake WMA
See our photos of the South Lake Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On this 1.5-mile loop atop a scrub ridge in the southeast corner of Buck Lake Conservation Area, watch for a flash of blue- Florida scrub-jays are found here.
The eastern terminus of the state-spanning Coast to Coast Trail is in the trail town of Titusville, where a ride on the Brevard Coast to Coast Trail provides cyclists the best ride in the county