This is a mostly singletrack loop through diverse terrain—from open areas to woods to dense-river basin vegetation. There are foot bridges along the way to get you through the low spots, but the loop still can have some flooded areas in the rainy season.
The hike starts at the Bear Pond Trailhead and enters the woods through a gap in the fence across the entrance road from the parking lot. The singletrack trail goes through the thick woods and starts to gradually descend. You'll come to a foot bridge to help you across the low area, and then you'll go up a gradual incline. The trail is winding here and has some rooty areas.
You'll come out into the open and see Shelter Camp, a primitive campsite, about 0.9 miles from the trailhead. Stay to the left of Shelter Camp and cross a service road. You'll see the trail split here, and there is a sign-in box to let the Florida Trail
folks know you've used the trail. Please sign in to show that the trail does get used and deserves to be maintained! Take the split to the left to do the loop counter-clockwise. This stretch of trail is about two miles long, and is nice singletrack trail that is mostly out in the open, through recently timbered lands. You'll have some sweeping views into the distance.
You'll cross one more small footbridge and then come to the main entry road, Sand Road. Cross the road to continue onto a short segment of the trail that quickly loops back to cross Sand Road again. Then the trail heads east off into the woods following the horse trail for a few miles.You'll be along the edge of the woods for this portion, but still out in the open. Since it's shared with horses, there can be some sections of deep sugar sand here.
Keep heading east, and you'll notice a gradual slope down as you enter the Wekiva River Basin. The horse trail branches off, and the trail returns to singletrack and enters the thick woods along the river, though you are never able to view the river from the trail. You'll pass through beautiful tall pines and oaks, and some cypress trees along the way.
Portions of the trail can be wet, but you'll have several foot bridges to help you by those spots. You'll pass by a primitive group camp and enter a particularly winding, rooty section of trail, but it doesn't last long. There will be a gradual uphill, and all of a sudden you'll be back out of the thick woods and in the open. As you head back to the splitting point for the main loop, you'll be along the edge of the thick woods, sometimes going down through a few low areas, with several more footbridges. You'll connect back to the Florida National Scenic Trail (Cassia to Bear Pond)
near Shelter Camp, about 0.9 miles north of the Bear Pond Trailhead.