Across 1,423 acres of former timberland and ranch, Wiregrass Prairie Preserve cradles a basin of strand swamps, soggy bogs, cypress domes, and wet prairies.
These habitats are wet. Sometimes excessively so. They all drain towards the St. Johns River, and in summer and fall, the flow can be downright deep.
That’s why we zeroed in on the Yellow Trail off Rudman Rd for Five Star Trails Orlando. It was only a wade in a handful of places.
We’ve encountered flooded trails both north and south of the trailhead off Rudman Rd, but the deepest wades were to the north.
Soon after the trails were first established, the county didn’t recommend trying to get to the Lopez Rd trailhead without 4WD.
That’s still true today, as the pavement ends at Rudman Rd which is not paved to the trailhead.
The water and the access challenges mean this isn’t a busy preserve by any means.
Local equestrians get the most use out of it since it’s nearby and an easy ride from their homes.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 8.4 miles in three loops
Trailhead: 28.920557, -81.065761
Address: 1751 Lopez Rd, Osteen
Land manager: Volusia County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. Insect repellent is a must. The mosquitoes get very large and persistent here.
Hikers, off-road cyclists, and equestrians share the trails.
To camp at the primitive campsite, obtain a permit by calling ahead in advance of your hike.
From SR 415 in Osteen, turn on New Smyrna Blvd. Make an immediate left onto Florida Ave, which becomes Osteen-Maytown Road. The East Central Regional Railroad Trail parallels this road. After 5.7 miles, turn left at the sign onto Pell Rd in Farmton. Continue due north 4.1 miles. The pavement ends.
This is where you need to make the call as to whether your vehicle can get to either trailhead. If the roads are deeply rutted or muddy, don’t try. The southern trailhead is 1 mile east along Rudman Rd, a narrow one-lane dirt road, on the right. The main trailhead is 1 mile north along Pell Rd and then 0.2 mile east along Lopez Rd on the left.
The most likely hike you can access on the preserve is a loop off Rudman Rd. In Five Star Trails Orlando we call it the Yellow Loop.
Since our visit for that book, the acquisition of an adjoining property has allowed the county to change the configuration of the trail.
They’ve split into into two loops, blazed Yellow and Green. We’re relabeling our original route the South Loop until we try this new configuration.
The new leg of the trail is drawn in blue on our map at the bottom of the page.
The South Loop showcases classic longleaf pine and wiregrass savanna in a pocket of uplands along the edge of a massive basin swamp, Harris Bay.
Our route covered 3.3 miles, but with the new leg added to the loop to avoid backtracking, a quarter mile has been trimmed off the loop.
At its south end is the one primitive campsite within the preserve, which you can reserve in advance by calling the county before your hike.
Central to the preserve, the Orange Trail can be accessed from either the Rudman Rd or Lopez Rd trailheads.
Heading north from Rudman Rd, we made it as far as the T intersection at the bottom of the loop, which is in a cypress strand.
With knee-deep water at that point and likely deeper water ahead, we turned around. Hiking just the loop portion north of Rudman Rd makes for a 1.3 mile hike.
Hiking the full balloon configuration from Lopez Rd provides a 1.6 mile hike.
The Blue and Red Trails are two loops within the Lake Ashby floodplain north of the Lopez Rd trailhead.
They don’t quite connect, but you can use Pell Rd, which was a mucky mess when we tried to drive it, to get from one loop to the other.
The Blue Trail is 1.1 miles. Add on the Red Trail to make it a 2.3 mile North Loop combining both trails.
See our photos from Wiregrass Prairie Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Explore the cypress-lined shore of Lake Ashby on a gentle trail system consisting of a boardwalk and easy pathways beneath deep shade along the lakeshore.
For a quick dip into the beauty of the St. Johns River floodplain, the 1.6 mile Kratzert Trail offers a walk beneath ancient oaks and cabbage palms of enormous size
Discover a parade of habitats in the uplands of the Deep Creek basin on the 2.2 mile White Trail, the shortest loop at this massive conservation area