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This was the Lake Eaton Loop Trail.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Lake Eaton Trails

From Silver Springs drive 9 miles north on CR 314, then right onto FR 50 (dirt road)
Open dawn to dusk
352-625-2520 2 hours
January 2012 All year
$0-9 Silver Springs Florida
Website Recreation Hiking
First review
 
The Lake Eaton Loop Trail and the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail are in the Ocala National Forest and about 15 miles northeast of the town of Silver Springs. Each loop trail is about 2 miles long. The trails are flat and clearly marked. Local habitat types include scrub vegetation, pine trees, hardwoods and wetlands. The earth here is a mix of sand and soil, but footing was good. Trailhead facilities were limited to pit toilets and signage with trail maps and nature information. A dirt roads leads to the trailhead from Highway 314.

Ocala National Forest is the second largest national forest in Florida and has approximately 380,000 acres. It was established in 1908. The forest has the largest remaining sand pine scrub forest in the United States. This dry habitat is marked by long sand ridges, scrub oaks, saw palmetto bushes and longleaf pines. Scrub habitat is favored by the threatened Florida scrub jay, which is a beautiful native jay and popular with birders. The national forest has the largest remaining population of these birds. Ocala National Forest also has a range of lakes, rivers and freshwater springs. The springs are fed by the Florida aquifer, and some of the larger ones are very popular for swimming and diving.

One of the benefits of an obscure trail is a better chance for privacy and that was the case for these hikes. There were only a few other hikers around. After checking out the trail map and nature signs, it was off to the sinkhole trail. This trail had both a 1.8 mile loop and a .9 mile loop, but who can bother with a small loop when a big loop is available? It's either go big loop or go home when on a BlitzQuest. The trail was somewhat narrow in places, a bit circuitous and periodically overgrown. Also, the scrub habitat was thick, so visibility was limited. Spiders excelled at placing their web strands directly at face level; sometimes they could be avoided and sometimes not. The main attraction on the trail was the sinkhole itself. A viewing platform at the sinkhole had a few interpretive signs, and steps led to the bottom. The sinkhole is 460 feet across and about 80 feet deep. It was moderately interesting to see and walk into, but also was overgrown with vegetation which diminished the view.

As for the Lake Eaton Trail, it had more varied habitats and was more open than the sinkhole trail. A long section of the trail bordering Lake Eaton was the most enjoyable part. There were good views of the water and plenty of tall shady trees which provided cooler trail conditions as well. Some wading birds such as herons and egrets could be seen from boardwalk sections. Unfortunately, a very noisy airboat was on the lake, and it cut down significantly on the peace and quiet. As hikes go, these trails were about average. While privacy was great, there was not much of interest to see, and the location was not very convenient - meaning it's more of a destination hike. To justify a longer drive to a more remote destination, an attraction or activity should provide a greater payoff than was the case with the Lake Eaton Trails.
Author:
guyonthego
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