Hiking the Land Bridge Trailhead is always fun and exciting. This is such a beautiful area and a great part of the Florida Trail System. The trailhead is located on CR 475A, about 2 miles north of SR 484 in Marion County.
The trailhead has plenty of parking, restrooms, picnic tables and water. It also provides a starting point for hikers, bikes and horses.
There are two trails. One is approximately 1.1 miles. This is the Orange Trail. The other is the Blue Trail and is approximately 2.2 miles. Taking one trail out and the other back is a nice easy hike of just over 3 miles.
I call the Land Bridge Trailhead the land of the giants. Now I have been to California and walked among the redwood trees. The trees here in Florida are not nearly that size. However, everything is relative.
The live oaks at the trailhead are magnificent. They tower above the water oaks and other scrub trees. More importantly, these live oaks have spread out as live oaks often do. Their branches are like the outstretched arms of giants.
The branches of the live oaks twist and turn among the other trees. Some reach and stretch to the sky. Others almost crawl along the ground. That is what makes the live oak such an interesting and majestic tree. The live oak does not act like a normal tree. It acts like a vine at times, literally crawling along the ground, then shooting back up among the other trees reaching for the sky.
Of all the trees, I believe the live oak has the most personality. Each one is different. No two are alike. It is as if they look at one another and decide, “I am going to be different. I am going to be unique.”
At one point the trail goes through a live oak that has been split. It was probably split by lightening. However, knowing live oaks, it may have split just to be different.
Someone has carved a seat out of the trunk of the tree. You can sit iIn the middle of the split tree. It is a great photo opportunity. My grandsons love to pose in the tree, sitting or standing on the bench carved out of the living wood.
Taking the Orange trail, most of it is woodsy and shady. It is a nice place to walk even in the heat of the day. The ground cover is generations of leaves and the trail winds gently through the woods. It is wide enough to accommodate two abreast at most times.
We typically take this trail on our trip up to the Land Bridge. The Land Bridge itself is quite an engineering feat. It is a bridge over the interstate. The bridge is covered with packed earth and wide enough for a small Boy Scout troop to cross abreast.
Keep in mind when hiking, the trail accommodates, hikers, bikes and horses. The presence of horses is apparent, especially on the land bridge where all three trails merge. Horses are not potty trained.
On the land bridge there are large stone walls on each side, high enough to block your view of the cars that are whizzing by underneath. In the middle of the bridge is an observation area. Iron bars in the stone walls provide a safe viewing area to watch traffic.
It is fun to watch the traffic go by, especially a large tractor trailer truck. Remember you are standing above it as it passes under the bridge.
The blue trail is longer than the orange trail and has a different feel and terrain. On the return trip the blue trail slopes slightly down hill. It is passes through woods in some areas, but also has areas where the brush grows close in on each side. There are places on the blue trail where no matter how thin you are, you will brush against both sides of the trail.
The blue trail also passes though parts of the old Barge Canal or Greenway Land. It is cleared of tall shade trees and planted with medium sized pines. They offer little to no shade and this stretch can be hot especially in the heat of summer.
One benefit of the cleared land is wild blackberries. There are a number of places near the end of the trail where wild blackberries fill the field. Depending on the time of year and the level of rain fall, the blackberries may be ripe for the picking. My grand children, of course, have to linger in that area and pick as many as they can eat and/or carry.
The 3 plus mile trail is an easy walk of between an hour to two hours depending on how fast you pace yourself. The trip is worth it for a number of different reasons. The live oaks on the orange trail are excellent and the land bridge is worth the trip by itself.
May you hike in peace.