Contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior
As the weather gets cooler, hiking and backpacking season gets into full swing in Florida. A fantastic trail is the Citrus Loop Trail. The entire trail’s just over 40 miles long, but there’s also four separate, shorter loops that you can do. The longest of these is Loop C.Loop C checks in at a total of 20 miles, a great overnight backpacking trip on a cool weekend. The parking is free and the sights are what you’d typically expect of Florida. Lots of sand pine forest makes for little overgrowth and little bushwhacking.
Dogs are welcome on the trail, but they do need to be on a 6-foot leash. Don’t forget to read up on your Leave No Trace ethics and pack enough bags to pack out your dog’s waste. No one wants to accidentally step in that mess.Before you head out, grab a map from the trailhead. You end up crossing a lot of service and forest roads while hiking. There’s an indication as to which road you’re crossing on the back of each trail marker right before you cross the road. It’s a great indicator of how fast you’re hiking, how far you’ve gone, and how much further until you get to your designated camping area.
Depending on which way you go, the designated camping area’s either 13.5 miles or 6.5 miles from the trailhead. Start out heading south and you’ll hike 13.5 miles before you hit the campsite; hike north and you will get you there in 6.5 miles. I’d suggest heading south on the first day and knocking out the 13.5 mile section first.
When you come across your humble abode for the night, stay between the white markers painted on the trees. There are a couple makeshift benches there to sit on while you’re huddled around the designated fire ring.The trail’s also filled with trail markers indicating which way to go depending on what loop you’re doing. It can certainly get a little confusing, so use your map to make sure you don’t get turned around and headed in the wrong direction.
I mentioned earlier that it’s primarily sand pine, but there’s one section that resembles an enchanted forest. Within a few steps, the landscape and scenery changes from tall pine trees and wide open views to massive oak trees that have lived through more historical events than we can begin to fathom. These oak trees stand tall and provide lots of shade with their large arching branches. This area makes for a perfect place to take a quick break and grab a snack.
One love/hate relationship with any backpacker is water. We love it, but we hate carrying it, and you have to carry a lot of it because the Citrus Loop Trail is dry. The only place to refill your water bottles on the trail is at one of the few trailheads that are about a mile or two off the trail.
Get your supplies together, be prepared and have a great weekend out on Loop C of the Citrus Loop Trail.
Trailhead: 4399 E. Trail 10, Inverness, FL 34452
Length: 20 miles
Additional notes: Bring plenty of water and always practice Leave No Trace methods