Seminole State Forest protects over 25,800 acres of natural land in Central Florida. In combination with the Florida Trail, the blue-blazed Sulphur Island Loop Trail offers a 9-mile loop hike through several distinctly different landscapes.
A tiny, protected spring along the path provides an oasis of cool, clear water near the beginning and end of the loop.
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Length: 9 mile Loop
Trailhead: 28.890069, -81.461369
Address: Brantley Branch Rd
Fees: $2 per person
Restrooms: Available at the trailhead
Land manager: Florida Forest Service
Open sunrise to sunset for day use. Leashed pets welcome.
A primitive campsite is available. Sites must be reserved in advance.
Bears are frequently encountered in this forest. Backpackers must protect their food. Bear bag or bring a bear canister.
This hike starts at the northern trailhead shown above. From Interstate 4 in Sanford, take exit 101C and head west on SR 46 for 8 miles before turning right onto 46A. Continue straight for 5 miles, then turn right onto SR 44. In 5.1 miles, turn right onto Brantley Branch Rd. The trailhead parking is a tenth of a mile down the road, on the right.
To start the hike, look for a large kiosk with maps and brochures near the restrooms at the southwest corner of the parking area.
The beginning of the trail crosses a small field with a white-blazed post in the center.
Follow a mowed pathway through the middle of this open space towards a shady forest tunnel on the opposite edge.
A surprising variety of short plants inhabit this small plot of land, including prickly pear cacti, thistles, and showy native sandhill milkweed.
Entering the forest under a thick canopy, follow white blazes down a well-worn route that was a former section of the Florida Trail.
In a half mile, the trail skirts the edge of Dead Horse Sink, a sizable depression often filled with water.
The trail weaves through a thicket of palmettos, turkey oaks, and Spanish moss-covered live oaks before emerging at the shore of a wide prairie lake.
Continue along the water’s edge through this relatively open area dotted with pines and cabbage palms.
When the trail returns to the woods, the habitat is noticeably different, taking on scrub characteristics.
Fetterbush lyonia and scrub pine border a sandy pathway that widens before passing a bench overlooking Boggy Creek Lake.
In 0.2 mile, the white blazes mark a left turn onto a forest road. Follow the crushed shell avenue east for a quarter mile to an intersection with the Florida Trail.
Turn right, following orange blazes as the road dips through a thick swamp enveloped in cabbage palms and sweetgum trees.
Follow this road for 0.3 mile before taking a sharp turn to the left into a dense subtropical jungle.
A distinct pathway cuts through seas of ferns and palmettos along a slope lined with stands of tall loblolly pines.
Orange blazes guide the way through a maze of green foliage for the next 0.4 miles to Sulphur Camp.
Shortly before reaching the campsite, a side trail leads down a slope to Shark Tooth Spring. Stopping at this little oasis is more convenient on the trip back however, especially on a warm day.
As the trail passes the campsite, it opens to another forest road. Look to the right for blue blazes on the opposite side of the road marking the Sulphur Island Loop trail.
Shade disappears completely as the habitat quickly transitions to oak scrub.
Short, shrubby oak trees blanket this preferred home to the state’s only endemic bird, the Florida scrub-jays .
Seminole State Forest is actively managed to preserve this ecosystem as Florida scrub-jays are a threatened species. Blue-blazed posts indicate the trail as it crosses a desert-like landscape.
After crossing a forest road, the trail delves under a thin canopy over dry soils. Sand pines grow in number, interspersed with large gnarled rusty lyonia trees.
On warmer days, snakes such as black racers may bask in patches of sunlight.
With an abundance of flowering trees and shrubs, bees and butterflies dart back and forth across the trail.
For the next mile, the path is generally wide with limited shade, carpeted with pine needles and clusters of lichen.
At the southwest corner of the loop, a yellow-blazed spur trail leads westward. Turn left to head east through scrubby flatwoods and small patches of young oak hammocks.
This pattern continues for a mile, passing a pine-ringed depression marsh before reaching one of the main forest roads.
Finding the next blaze here is tricky, as the blue trail finishes here and rejoins the Florida Trail to complete the loop.
Head directly across the intersection of roads and look to the left for an orange blaze. The trail then traverses a constructed berm in an area of mixed pine flatwoods and floodplain forest.
Heading northward along Sulphur Run, the trail becomes progressively wetter, resembling a hydric hammock.
A few small wooden walkways bridge muddier sections through a primeval forest shrouded in large palm fronds.
Shortly after passing through Sulphur Camp again, turn right onto a side trail to take a quick detour to Shark Tooth Spring.
The trail descends through a thick stand of bamboo, emerging at a small crystalline spring run. A bridge over the creek provides access to fill a water bottle if using a filter.
Back at the orange-blazed Florida Trail, turn right to parallel Sulphur Run on sloping terrain to the forest road, then make another right.
In 0.3 mile, turn left and follow the white blazes for two miles back to the parking area.
Learn more about Seminole State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
You have a better-than-average chance of spotting a Florida black bear at Rock Springs Run State Reserve, a vast wilderness area in the Wekiva River basin. This is the one park where we’ve seen the most evidence of our native Florida black bear.
A shaded loop trail winding through mesic hammocks borders a marsh that was once known as Lake Lucie.
North of Orlando, Black Bear Wilderness Area in Sanford offers some of the best wildlife watching in the region on its loop along the St. Johns River.