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Reported: January 2021

Lake Norris Conservation Area... Florida

Bike, Hike, and Paddling Access to Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris

The 2,229 acre Conservation Area provides protection for the Lake Norris hardwood swamp and Blackwater Creek, a major tributary of the Wekiva River. Activities include hiking, biking, birdwatching, fishing, paddling, and camping. Wildlife include black bear, deer, otter, gopher tortoises, burrowing owls and a large osprey population. Lake Norris Trail is designated "multi-use" for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Formerly site of the Eustis Sand Mine, a large portion of the property is closed for mitigation/restoration. (Map link and photos below.)

Lake Norris Conservation Area

Map link...
Lake Norris Conservation Area
Eco-biking


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Location: Lake County (Eustis)
Trailheads: East Trailhead (Blackwater Creek Rd.), South Trailhead (Hart Ranch Rd.)
Mileage: 5.5 miles one-way (in 3 continuous blazed trails)
Surface: Packed dirt, grass, sand
Nearby Points of interest: Blackwater Creek, Lake Norris

Bike Shops/Rentals:
N/A

Lake Norris Conservation Area... Comments and Photos

The agency map shows trails totaling 5.5 miles. However, much of this distance is best suited for horseback riding or (hardcore) mountain biking, due to long stretches of deep sand. Best for eco-biking is the first 2.3 miles of the 2.8 mile White blaze trail, beginning from the East Trailhead (by Lake Norris, grass parking, no amenities). The first 1.3 miles to the group camping area is excellent, mostly hard packed, passing through hardwood hammock, and across a small creek. Past the camping area, the trail opens up along a field and fenceline, the surface being just grassy enough for us to continue for another mile, to a scenic lake by a former sand mine (4.6 miles roundtrip). Another popular activity from this trailhead is paddling; there's a hand-launch onto Blackwater Creek to Lake Norris (see more of Lake Norris at PaddleFlorida.net ). Winter is best - more birds, fewer bugs, drier weather. Tranquil, typically few if any people. Admittedly not a lot of hard trail here, but visitors to nearby Seminole State Forest (one of the best for eco-biking!) might consider a side trip to Lake Norris Conservation Area to add one more real Florida experience.


East Trailhead and Blackwater Creek

We parked at the East Trailhead near Blackwater Creek. From Lake Norris Road, the trailhead is off Blackwater Creek Road - parking, picnic table, and paddling launch, no other amenities. Leaving the parking area, go through the gate (by the information kiosk) onto the trail through a pasture area. Proceed about 4/10 mile to a second, latched gate to continue to the camping area.

White Blaze Trail to Camping Area

At the second latched gate, a sign warns of cows in the pasture. (We encountered one small bull that escaped and showed up on the trail for a photo.) We continued along the White Blaze trail alternating on dirt and grass, to the camping area. Starting out through a pasture, the trail then enters the nicest section - through wetlands with some shade and scenery, and including a scenic view from a bridge over a creek. Approaching the camping area, the trail emerges back onto pasture.


Group Camping Area and Lake Norris Access

At the camping area are a picnic pavilion, canoe rentals and launch - no other amenities. Nice view of Lake Norris, with dwarf cypress dominating the shoreline on both sides of the launch point.

Camping Area to Mitigation Area (White Blaze)

Leaving the camping area, the trail changes to grass and skirts a fence along a pasture (mitigation area). We walked a short portion here along the fenceline looking for "Hidden Mickeys" among the many small cactuses in the field.


At Start of Red Blaze Trail

After passing through a former gate, the trail becomes far more sandy shortly before merging with the Red Blaze trail. The deep sand here is best for equestrian activities. Turning left at the point where the sand starts, we walked our bikes uphill to a bluff and were rewarded with a scenic lake view, most likely a remnant from the sand mine operation. The lake was full of birds and one of the prettier sights on the trail. A locked gate here blocks access to the mitigation area. From here, we decided that we had enough of the sand, turned around and returned to the east trailhead - about 4.6 miles roundtrip.


South Trailhead, Yellow Blaze Trail

From the South Trailhead on Hart Ranch Road, the gate to the park road is locked due to ongoing maintenance/mitigation. We hiked a portion of the Yellow Blaze trail from the trailhead. Due to sand, this is better for hiking, though we did see some bike tracks in the sandy trail.


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