In less than a mile, the Timucuan Trail covers all of the major habitats of the Ocala National Forest. From spring-side hydric hammocks and floodplain forest to sand pine scrub, this short hike has it all. It’s an integral part of the Alexander Springs Recreation Area, which offers swimming, camping, canoe and kayak rentals and shuttles, and access to the Florida Trail as well.
Location: Alexander Springs, south of Astor
Length: 0.9 mile
Fees / Permits: recreation area entrance fee
Difficulty: low to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
Dogs are NOT permitted in the Alexander Springs day use area, which means you cannot take your dog on this trail. They are permitted in the campground.
A $5/person entrance fee applies. This hike is short enough hike to enjoy in the summer, since you can cool down in the spring afterwards. Watch for poison ivy (and ticks in the warmer months).
From SR 40 east of Astor, turn south on CR 445A and follow the signs. After 0.4 mile, turn left on CR 445 and continue south into the Ocala National Forest for 5.7 miles to the recreation area entrance on the right, just after the bridge over Alexander Run.
From the large Timucuan Trail sign, a boardwalk leads into a lush hydric hammock, deeply shaded by cabbage palms. Clusters of cinnamon ferns rise from patches of land between clear, sand-bottomed rivulets. You feel as if you’ve walked into a lush jungle, and so it was for the Timucua who once lived along the banks of this spring. Interpretive signs relate information about the habitat and its inhabitants.
At the junction with a rough sand footpath, follow the footpath, which climbs into an upland forest. Dogwood, oaks, and magnolia grow on a high bluff along a flowing creek. The trail drops and turns to boardwalk to cross the creek. At the end of the boardwalk, roots invade the footpath and the soil may be squishy.
Up you go, through an upland forest and into the Big Scrub, where gnarled sand live oaks provide shade beneath the tall sand pines. Can you smell the the sweet aroma of silk bay? The trail soon enters another cabbage-palm grove, where dark-green needle palms fill the understory. At 0.4 mile is another boardwalk and a stand of ancient cypress. A side trail leads off to the right to a small sinkhole-like depression.
Dropping into a forest of magnolia trees, the Timucuan Trail curves left. At 0.6 mile, turn right onto the boardwalk to an observation platform, and take in the view of the waterway as it comes around the curve. Turn around and follow the boardwalk as it keeps close to the shore of the run.
Another side trail leads to an observation deck. Continue through the younger hammock, crossing a sand-bottomed stream as you reach the end of the loop. Turn right to exit.