Tracing 46 miles of railroad history down forested corridors, past big lakes and city parks, and through quaint communities with restaurants, bicycle shops, and restrooms: the Withlacoochee State Trail is one sweet ride.
Location: Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties
Length: 46 miles, paved
Main office: 315 N Apopka Ave, Inverness FL 34450-4201 [28.840533,-82.330433] Land Manager: Office of Greenways and Trails
Following the discovery of phosphate down Florida’s West Coast – first found in the boomtown of Dunnellon, followed by Inverness and points south – railroad magnate Henry Plant (not to be confused with Henry Flagler of the Overseas Railway) pushed the new Plant System Railroad down to Tampa, connecting these mining communities. By 1902, the route became known as the Atlantic Coast Line.
One of Florida’s first and largest rails-to-trails projects, the original ACL segment between Citrus Springs (just south of Dunnellon) and Lacoochee (just north of Dade City) became the Withlacoochee State Trail, developed in the 1990s as a recreation and transportation corridor.
The uniqueness of this trail lies in its setting: once-bustling boomtowns are now sleepy communities in rural lakeside settings, enabling riders to stop and explore along the way. A portion of the corridor is also part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, providing hikers with a route around more urban areas in Central Florida.
- Fort Cooper State Park - Protecting woodlands and marshes around Lake Holathlikaha , Fort Cooper State Park preserves an important chapter of the Second Seminole War. An annual re-enactment relives the battle.
- Grand opening of the Dunnellon Trail - On May 16, 2014, DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails opened a new bridge and trail along the Cross Florida Greenway, the Dunnellon Trail, providing a crucial connector for the Florida Trail.
- Lake Townsen Preserve - Offering access to the Withlacoochee River and the Withlacoochee State Trail while protecting a swath of environmentally sensitive lands west of Nobleton, Lake Townsen Preserve is the gateway to miles of trails.
- Withlacoochee State Forest - With more than 155,000 acres spread over several counties, Withlacoochee State Forest is Florida’s second largest state forest, and arguably the most popular for outdoor recreation