Like a jigsaw puzzle piece, Chuluota Wilderness Area is locked into the western edge of the Charles Bronson State Forest — both the same forest, except by man-made borders. Fortunately for hikers and nature lovers alike, the Florida National Scenic Trail runs right through this diverse forest, and both trailheads are easily accessible from anywhere in east-central Florida.
This hike is about 5 miles one way — I logged 10.96 miles hiking out and back, including a minor side hike on Chuluota’s West Loop. Of course, the Florida Trail goes on in both directions for hundreds of miles…with some significant gaps remaining to this day. However, this is a beautiful stretch of trail running all the way south through Orlando Wetlands Park, Seminole Ranch Wildlife Management Area, and Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, and to the north through the Little Big Econ State Forest and beyond, with minor road walks.
I’ve hiked this stretch several times and each time it’s different. The high and dry uplands are still high and dry, but the swampy wetlands haven’t been wet in months now. Still, the foliage was lush, except where a fire swept through. If it was a controlled burn, it looks like it got a bit out of control. This stretch was kind of eerie…walking through the aftermath.
The pine forests with a thick floor of pine needles and little undergrowth are one of my favorite sections, but the flowers and tunnels of palmettos in the lowlands are beautiful, too. It’s a sight to behold when bright sunlight radiates off all the greenery and dapples the trail ahead, particularly with early morning or late afternoon light casting long shadows.
Take a look at the video slideshow, maps and links. This long stretch of wilderness offers several choices for section or day hikes on the Florida National Scenic Trail. There are only 11 National Scenic Trails in the entire country and this one is exclusively in Florida. That’s a pretty big deal. I highly recommend that you hike at least one section — for bragging rights, if nothing else. 😉
Looking for other places to hike, bike, paddle and more in Florida’s great outdoors? Where-to-Go has listings by category of outdoor activity and by county, while the Bucket List shows the places I’ve personally experienced and documented. So find whatever sparks your interest and get out there!
Chuluota Wilderness Area Trailhead:
PS – Thank you to the Florida Trail Association and all you trail volunteers. Want to get involved? Click the link!