Known locally as the “Cotee,” the Pithlachascotee River originates at nearby Crews Lake.
Upper Pithlachascotee River Preserve offers a unique perspective of this waterway nearly 20 miles upstream from the mouth, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Spring Hill
Length: 2 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 28.33878, -82.53255
Address: 17135 Minneola Drive, Spring Hill, FL 34610
Restrooms: Available when staff are present
Land manager: Pasco County Parks and Recreation
Open sunrise to sunset.
Kids will enjoy the playground on site, and picnic tables provide an outdoor gathering spot for families.
From Interstate 75, turn onto SR 52 heading west. Continue for 11.8 miles, then turn right at Kent Grove Dr. In 1 mile, turn left onto Orange Dr. After a sharp left turn at 0.5 mile, turn right onto Minneola Dr. The preserve entrance is at the end of this road.
Starting at the parking area, take note of the kiosk displaying a large map of the property.
An arrow directs hikers to head west, past the administrative building to the main trailhead.
At the trail entrance, a larger kiosk stands complete with a map, bulletin board and water station. Head northward into the woods.
Initially, the trail is surrounded by scrubby vegetation on a sliver of sandhill habitat bordered by floodplain forests.
In a tenth of a mile, an arrow-shaped sign with the word marsh indicates a side trail to the right.
This little path quickly descends to the edge of a swampy area bordered by tall bronze grasses. Returning to the main trail, continue past a similar sign towards Ryals Branch.
Turn right at the next side trail for a short jaunt to the water, passing a large, downed oak covered in resurrection ferns.
Remnants of a bridge stand at the edges of Ryals Branch. The structure was damaged by storms some time ago.
A loop trail remains to the north of the creek, inaccessible without getting your feet wet.
Head back to the loop, following a sandy pathway past a shaded bench before opening to a field blanketed in grasses and palmettos.
A windy route crosses this open area, entering woods again for a moment before completing the loop.
Back at the kiosk, continue straight across the yard behind the house to find the second trail entrance.
A little stairway leads down to a short bridge. Across the bridge, an inviting boardwalk disappears into a dense cypress swamp.
Ascending the ramp onto the boardwalk, continue as the forest transitions into wetlands. This impressive structure elevates hikers high above the floodplain of the Pithlachascotee River.
Large cypress sprout from seas of ferns, increasing in number around an intersection flanked by these majestic trees.
Turn right to head down a short section of boardwalk towards a massive cypress tree, noted on the maps as “Grand Cypress Tree.”
Benches are available at the end of the walkway to rest in this quiet swamp next to this ancient wonder.
Heading back to the main boardwalk, make a right to continue south. Trees tower overhead.
The beginning of the Pithlachascotee River can be seen weaving through the jungle below. The boardwalk continues for a few hundred feet, then ends at another ramp.
At the end of the ramp, a sign with an arrow points down the remaining trail. Diverse landscapes are presented as the mossy trail ventures through thick palmettos.
While adding to the scenery, tangles of roots underfoot make parts of this section a little difficult.
The trail ends somewhat suddenly at a forest road. At this point, head back to the trailhead, enjoying an encore of panoramic sights along the boardwalk.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park
Explore an expansive landscape of pine flatwoods, prairies, scrubby flatwoods, and open scrub along nearly 50 miles of trails just east of New Port Richey
Crews Lake Wilderness Park
Crews Lake Wilderness Park in northern Pasco County offers a hiking loop with a nice immersion into the sandhills, where you’ll see lots of spring and fall wildflowers
Nature Coast Botanical Gardens
An oasis of serenity in Spring Hill, several acres of compact garden rooms make up the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens. Each delights the senses with an ever-changing array of blooms and colors.
Named for the river defining its northern boundary, the 11,000-acre Weekiwachee Preserve is a mining restoration area fringed with natural habitats