PHOTO BY BOB COVENEY/FLORIDA TRAIL ASSOCIATION
August 7, 2014
Sandra Friend's books on Florida hikes are popular with hard-core and recreational trail walkers alike. The seven volumes -- an eighth is scheduled for June -- highlight trails all over the state, from the Keys to the Panhandle. Friend has trod them all, so it's little wonder she hesitates to pick a favorite.
"It's so hard!" says Friend, communications director for Florida Trail Association in Ocala. She finally singles out the section of the Florida National Scenic Trail that threads through the Little Big Econ State Forest near Oviedo. Imagine: An intimate path that hugs the limestone and sand bluffs -- yes, bluffs -- of the Econlockhatchee River among a forest of cabbage palms, magnolia and holly.
"It's an easy, comfortable, scenic section. Virtually any time of year, it's all green," she says. It's also shaded, something that's a big plus during the summer.
Though its landscape isn't as diverse as many trails in Florida, "the scenery makes up for it," Friend says. The trail traverses river bluff forest, hardwood hammock and uplands environments. Hikers may see deer, as well as otters and wild turkeys. And alligators. "There's an old 12-footer that hangs out by the bridge," Friend says. The footbridge spanning the river was built 1 1/2 years ago by Florida Trail Association members to replace a precarious swinging bridge. "I honestly miss the adventure of the old bridge. You had to hang on for dear life. It was fun!"
From Oviedo, the easiest way to join the Florida Trail at the Little Big Econ is via the forest's Barr Street entrance on State Road 426. A linear hike via the Florida Trail, then Flagler Trail to the Snow Hill Road trailhead is 4.8 miles. Or, loop back to the Barr Street entrance via the horse trail.
-- Lisa Roberts, Orlando Sentinel
For information on Little Big Econ State Forest, call 407-971-3500 or go to fl-dof.com/state-forests/little-big-econ.html. For information on the Florida Trail, call 1-877-445-3352 or go to floridatrail.org