This is a 4.3-mile loop hike through a remote area of Pinellas County. The environments change throughout the hike as it heads through swamps, pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and forest wetlands.
Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida so having a 4.3-mile loop trail in a wilderness area is quite a treasure. The trail starts at the parking lot and takes you on a boardwalk where you can swing by the visitor center. There is also a gift shop run by volunteers to help support the preserve. The only restrooms are nearby as well.
Along the Ed Center Trail
, you'll see a lot of wildlife as the boardwalk elevates you over Brooker Creek. Woodpeckers, armadillos, and a few reptiles are a few examples. The trail has signs in front of various trees letting you know their names like the live oak and dogwood trees.
After the boardwalk, you'll leave the swamp behind and look for the orange-blazed Wilderness Trail
to your right. Here will be some pinewood flats and then forest wetlands with rabbits and deer that are common in this area. Stay on this orange-marked trail for two miles as you move through a cypress swamp area. The trail continues but the markings changes color to indicate the Pine Needle Path
, a short 0.4-mile pink-marked trail with lots of pine trees, and then the color will change again to purple as you are now on Blackwater Cutoff Trail
This is a very swampy area but still with a good dirt trail tread, at least in the dry season. Soon though, the environment will change as you hit the Flatwoods Trail
, a green-marked trail, and my favorite section as the pine flatwoods make for wide open spaces of the hike where there is good bird viewing. Finally, you'll connect to another section of the Ed Center Trail
and more opportunities for swamp viewing on the boardwalk before ending back at the parking lot.
Fauna: Bald eagle, deer, armadillo, rabbits, woodpeckers, gopher tortoise, red cardinals, spiders, frogs, turkey, dragonflies, owls
Flora: oak, palmetto, dogwood, ferns, cyprus, slash pine