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Latest update: January 2021

Seminole State Forest... North of Orlando, FL

Tranquil Biking and Hiking, Gate Code Required for Drive In

Seminole State Forest is an eco-biking favorite, due to hard-packed named roads, good signage, and ecological diversity. Only minutes from the bustling Sanford-Orlando metro area, the Forest remains a tranquil place, perhaps because (1) there's a per person day-use fee - online pay only (link below), and (2) a Use Permit with gate code is required for motor vehicle access. There are two entrances; south is Bear Pond Trailhead off SR 46, and north is Cassia Trailhead off SR 44. It's a mostly pleasant 6.25 mile ride between trailheads, with 2 loop road networks intersecting, each with additional named road rides of 3 to 7 miles each. Also, many more miles of sandy, multi-use trails for avid mountain bikers. (Map link, photos below.)

Florida eco-biking, Seminole State Forest

Map link...
Seminole State Forest Biking

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Location: Lake County (Sorrento, Eustis)
Trailheads: Bear Pond Trailhead (SR 46); Cassia Trailhead (SR 44)
Mileage: Varies
Surface: Crushed stone, packed dirt, sand
Nearby points of interest: Wekiva Springs State Park, Lake Norris Conservation Area, Rock Springs Run State Reserve

Bike Shops/Rentals: N/A

State Forest Day Use Pass (per person)
FSF ReserveAmerica

Call for Permit and Gate Code: (352) 360-6675

Camping Information/Reservations:
FSF Reserve America Camping

Support and Advocacy:
Friends of Florida State Forests
Operation Outdoor Freedom - providing recreation and rehab to wounded veterans

Seminole State Forest... Comments and Photos

The best biking is on the named roads, hard-packed, a few rough spots and some patches of sand, but overall a pleasant recreational ride, especially when compared to the soft sand, multi-use trails. Aside from some short spur roads (dead-ends, used mostly by hunters), the best biking roads can be divided into 3 sections:

  1. Series of named roads connecting the two trailheads (red on map)
  2. Grade Road and Loop Road leading to group camps to the west (purple on map)
  3. Palatka Road continuing as a series of roads leading to group camps to the east (purple on map)

Important Note: on Google maps, the road names displayed are not correct. The Forest Service map (at most kiosks) gives the correct road names, which are also found in the descriptions below.

(1) Biking from Trailhead to Trailhead... 6.25 Miles (one-way)

Daylight access to Seminole State Forest is at two trailheads - Bear Pond (south entrance, off SR46) and Cassia (north entrance, off SR44). On successive trips, we biked from the Bear Pond to Cassia (about 6.25 miles one way) and explored the two loop road networks. We stayed on the named roads. The road signs at intersections were reassuring. Expect to encounter few if any motor vehicles.

Bear Pond Trailhead

Bear Pond Trailhead (south entrance) is off SR 46, about 5 miles west of I-4. Amenities are parking, restroom, picnic tables, fishing pier, and equestrian staging area. Bear Pond is a former borrow pit, now stocked for fishing (no boats allowed). Coming in from the south, Florida National Scenic Trail enters the State Forest here, with a nice section winding its way off-road again from the Trailhead.

From Bear Pond Trailhead to Blackwater Creek - 2.75 miles

To enter on the Forest road (here named Sand Road), bikers, hikers, and equestrians go around the gate. Motor vehicles need a permit and gate code. Leaving the trailhead, the first mile of road surface is less than ideal, somewhat jagged with a few sandy spots, but then it's a relatively pleasant ride beyond. No shade until approaching Blackwater Creek. Some hiking and equestrian trails cross the road, we hiked in a couple of areas (see below), and two primitive camp sites are just off the road. The Blackwater Creek Day-use Area is the scenic highlight. Here are a picnic table, hand-launch, and limited parking (2 vehicles max, more parking at intersection about 300 yards north.) Check out the scenic kayaking here at PaddleFlorida.net .

Blackwater Creek to Cassia - 3.50 miles

From Blackwater Creek, the named roads to Cassia proceed as follows: about a quarter mile to the end of Sand Road, then Pine, Palatka, and left (west) on Atula. There are two main intersections where the two other road networks connect. These roads in this section are an easy ride, hard packed with only a few sandy patches. It's mostly on dry flatland with limited shade, except along Palatka Road where it runs through a well shaded wetland area crossing Sulphur Creek.

Cassia Trailhead

Cassia Trailhead is located on Brantley Branch Road just off SR 44 in Cassia. Amenities are parking, restroom, and equestrian staging. Experienced bikers seem to prefer this Trailhead, perhaps because the roads are generally smoother and there's more shade compared to riding from the Bear Pond Trailhead. It also places you closer to the 2 intersecting loop road networks.

(2) Biking to Group Camps to the West... Grade Road and Loop Road

We biked two loops on other named roads, visiting several campgrounds. Similar to the main park road, bikeable on mostly hard surface with a few rough spots, mixed sun and shade. Many hiking and equestrian trails cross the roads. Our preferred ride included the sections along Grade Road - the roads are smoother, plus more scenic with shaded canopy.

Grade Road

We biked two routes here, both starting from the Blackwater Creek overflow parking area at the intersection of Sand, Pine and Grade Roads. First, Grade Road to its end leading to Corral Camp. Second, onto Loop Road for a 3 mile loop passing Moccasin Springs Camp and Oaks Group Camp.

Grade Rd. to Corral Camp - 6.5 miles round-trip

Grade Rd. to End of Loop Road

From the parking area, Grade Road to the beginning of Loop Road is an easy, mostly-shady 1/2 mile ride including a scenic pond view. Continuing on Grade Road is another nice, shaded section of about 6/10 mile to another intersection - Loop Road (left to Oaks Group Camp) and Sulphur Road (right) - this is a sandy spot.

Loop Road to Corral Camp Trail

Continuing straight on Grade Road is one of the prettiest sections, through shaded hammock with several trail crossings. The trails also run on the road in sections. After about 2 miles, the road comes to an unshaded open area and parking. Continuing as a service road, signs prohibit vehicles or bikes from proceeding. The Yellow Trail from here is a 4/10 mile hike to Corral Camp (Site #2).

Loop Road - 3 mile loop

Loop Road begins and ends along Grade Road. Starting from the Blackwater Creek overflow parking area, we biked along Grade Road then turned onto Loop Road. Along Loop Road are Moccasin Springs Camp and Oaks Group Camp. From the end of Loop Road, we then returned via Grade Road..

Grade Road to Moccasin Springs Camp

From the intersection, proceed as above to Loop Road. At Loop Road, turn left and continue about 1/4 mile to Moccasin Springs Camp (Site #6). Moccasin Springs Camp has parking, a picnic table and fire pit. A short trail leads to Blackwater Creek with a landing on the creek allowing paddlers to stop to picnic or camp.

Loop Road to Oaks Group Camp

From Moccasin Springs, it's about a mile along Loop Road to Oaks Group Camp. Along the way, a large sign lists Oaks Pond Fishing Regulations - a trail leads to the pond, then an option is to take a short hike around the pond on a loop that returns to Loop Road. Continue on Loop Road and watch for the sign pointing to Oaks Group Camp (Site #7), go left. This large campground has parking, restroom, picnic tables, fire pit, grill and access to several trails.

Closing the Loop

From the Oaks Group Camp, Loop Road continues as hard packed with mixed sun and shade, about 3/4 mile back to Grade Road. We turned right on Grade Road to return, this was a nice shaded section.

(3) Biking to Group Camps to the East... Palatka Road and Other Roads

This ride starts from the intersection where Palatka Road and Atula Road (to Cassia) meet.

Bunk Group Camp

From the intersection, continue straight on Palatka Road to Oka Road, and then to Bunk Camp Road to the camp - about 1.5 miles. Bunk Group Camp (Site #4) has an enclosed bunkhouse, picnic area, parking and restrooms. Several trails branch from here.

Lako Loop Road, Jumper Group Camp

Along Oka Road, watch for the intersection with Lako Road and follow the signs to Jumper Group Camp (Site #1). Jumper Group Camp has parking, picnic, restroom; access to hiking and equestrian trails. Lako Loop Road is a 3-mile loop around a Forest restoration area.

Hiking on the Florida National Scenic Trail

A popular section of the Florida National Scenic Trail (some hiking only, some multi-use) runs through the State Forest for 7.5 miles, partially on the roadway, overlapping with other trails in some parts. Other hiking trails include the Wekiva Loop Trail (white blaze) which runs 10 miles from the Bear Pond Trailhead, and the North Sulphur Island Loop (blue blaze), 8.5 miles from Cassia. We hiked on sections of the Florida Trail and some linking trails (shown on State Forest map )

From Bear Pond Trailhead...
Florida National Scenic Trail and Wekiva Loop Trail

At the Bear Pond Trailhead is an entry point to the Florida National Scenic Trail, we hiked portions from the trailhead to East Spur Road. This section includes part of the Wekiva Loop Trail, which branches off at about 3/4 mile from the trailhead and runs parallel to the Wekiva River. The Shelter Camp (Site #8) is near this point. Note: Off the main Forest road, East and West Spur Roads, about 1 mile each, lead to some trail crossings, but mostly used by hunters.

Just Off Sand Road...
Florida National Scenic Trail and Blackwater Camp

After crossing East Spur Rd., the Florida Trail continues off the road, but as it approaches Blackwater Creek exits onto Sand Road. Just before crossing the creek, the entrance to Blackwater Camp (Site #5) is to the right. A short grassy path leads to the camping area and a scenic view along Blackwater Creek.

Off Pine Road, at Sulphur Camp...
Florida National Scenic Trail and North Sulphur Island Loop

Sulphur Camp (Site #3) is just off Pine Road between the Blackwater Creek bridge and the Palatka Road intersection. There's no sign, look for an open area with some trail markers to the right. The campground has parking, picnic, and fire pit. Here the Florida National Scenic Trail and North Sulphur Island Loop meet. Starting from Sulphur Camp, we hiked portions of both. The Florida Trail is nicely forested here, a better hike in our opinion.

More on the Seminole State Forest

Most of the 28,301 acre Seminole State Forest was purchased as part of the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway Project and is managed primarily for wildlife conservation, protection of water resources, and for outdoor recreation. Starting in the late 1800's, logging activities and cattle grazing had claimed the natural ecology of the forest - today, restoration efforts and active forest management are ongoing. Much of the State Forest is managed as a Wildlife Management Area. Activities include camping, hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. In addition to biking, there also are 21 miles of hiking and 23 miles of equestrian trails, plus a 7.5 mile segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Parts of the Wekiva River along with the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park form the Forest's eastern boundary. Blackwater Creek flows through both the State Forest and State Park. There are 15 named springs. The Forest includes many natural plant and animal communities, and endangered species such as the scrub jay and Florida black bear and is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, Birdwatching is also popular.

Florida law requires bikers under 16 wear a helmet, but always a good idea when eco-biking. The trails remain open during hunting season, when wearing hunter orange is suggested. Camping is available at 8 campsites by reservation (link below), 3 include group facilities (i.e. has restroom), and 3 walk-up primitive sites along the Florida National Scenic Trail.


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