Like many of us, I found myself in desperate need of a break from work and a break from the stress of day-to-day life. Luckily, I knew exactly what I needed to get recharged and refreshed.
After a bit of research, I planned a hiking trip for me and my best friend in Hernando County, also known as Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville – Weeki Wachee. It was the perfect way for us to get outside, spend time in nature, breathe in some fresh air, and simply clear our heads.
Tackle a Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest
One of the first places we found while researching the best hikes on Florida’s Adventure Coast was Withlacoochee State Forest. As the third largest state forest in Florida, we knew there would be a lot to see and do, so we made that our first stop.
Given the size of Withlacoochee State Forest, there were dozens of hikes to choose from. The Dames Cave and Lizzie Heart Sink Loop Trail, the Citrus Tract Loop A, and the Johnson Pond Trail are all popular unpaved options.
In the end, we opted for the difficult Croom Trail, and it was a fantastic choice. This path was the perfect way to calm my mind and get my blood pumping, since this 7.8-mile trail is actually one of the few hikes in Florida with elevation gain.
As we made our way along the Croom Trail, our eyes kept darting from place to place, because there was simply so much to see. With the towering trees, scurrying armadillos, and beautiful blue wildflowers, the Withlacoochee State Forest was an incredible place to start our nature-filled getaway.
Explore Cypress Lakes Preserve
We noticed there was another lesser-known hiking area right next door to Withlacoochee State Forest: Cypress Lakes Preserve. According to Mike Singer, Conservation Lands Specialist for Hernando County’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) Program, Cypress Lakes Preserve “features eight different natural plant communities, five of which are designated as imperiled.”
In other words, as we followed Cypress Lakes Preserve’s Florida Trail, we were able to see loads of different plants, many of which need a little bit of extra help from the county’s ESL Program to survive. Towering trees and blooming wildflowers were just the start of the natural beauty in the area.
Singer mentioned that “walking through the ecotones – the region of transition between two biological communities – and into the next habitat type is the most interesting part [of Cypress Lakes Preserve],” and I have to agree. It was always a surprise to watch the path change from a marsh-like habitat with soaring trees to a drier one with short shrubs.
Hike Through Fickett Hammock Preserve
Part of what makes hiking such an amazing experience are the memories people make along the way. Singer has his own lovely memory from hiking through Fickett Hammock Preserve a few years back:
“[I explored] Fickett Hammock Preserve with my family right after I had made some significant improvements to the trails. My son (who was two-and-a-half years old at the time) shouted, ‘Hiking!’ every time we saw the newly installed trail markers. That memory will always be in my mind when I hike.”
After hearing Singer’s story about his adorable little boy, my best friend and I knew we had to take to the trails in Fickett Hammock Preserve ourselves. While we didn’t have a toddler by our sides pointing out our hard work, we did get to see quite a lot on this trail. Between the bright orange trail markers, gorgeous purple beautyberries, and the blooming white Southern magnolias, there were so many bursts of color dotting the path. It’s safe to say that we took a few dozen photos on this hike alone.
Make an Appointment to Visit Peck Sink Preserve
Our last hiking stop on Florida’s Adventure Coast was Peck Sink Preserve, which was another recommendation from Singer: “Peck Sink Preserve is a gem in Hernando County’s ESL Program. It features a sensitive karst landscape found only in certain areas of Florida and an associated sink hole complex.”
Singer also mentioned that while Peck Sink Preserve is relatively well-known, most people don’t get to visit, simply because they don’t know that they need to make an appointment in advance.
A few days later, we were able to snag an appointment for ourselves, and I was glad we did. Peck Sink Preserve is unlike any other spot in the county. This sinkhole complex feeds directly into the Floridian aquifer, which means it is vital to the local water supply. As if that weren’t enough to pique our interest, Peck Sink Preserve also boasts thriving native plants and breathtaking birds. Simply put, it was the perfect way to wrap up our hiking trip on Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville – Weeki Wachee.