641 views • posted 09/06/2022 • updated 09/15/2023
This 7.25-mile-long trail offers hikers and cyclists access to some of Florida’s unique habitats – salt marsh, tidal creeks, coastal estuary, oak hammock, and pine flatwoods – as they follow two-track limestone paths left from historic uses of this land.
Designated in 2022
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The Seven Mile Loop Trail in the Crystal River Preserve State Park offers hikers and cyclists the opportunity to explore the “Real Florida” as they travel through diverse coastal habitats. The trail is primarily on limestone two-tracks remaining from historic uses of the land, including logging, limestone mining, turpentine production, and ranching which occurred before the land became a Florida State Park in 2004. It is suitable for hiking, running, mountain biking, and gravel grinding. It crosses several freshwater tidal creeks that offer opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography, or quiet appreciation of the extraordinary beauty of this unique place.
The scenery on the loop is extremely varied, from wide-open views across miles of sawgrass and needle rush salt marsh to shady tree tunnels formed by the spreading limbs of Live Oak trees. It’s never boring, and always scenic.
Elevation changes on this trail are measured in inches, not feet, but those subtle rises and dips bring about noticeable differences in vegetation. The trail passes through a variety of Florida habitats, including pine flatwoods, oak hammock, salt marsh, creeks, and freshwater swamps. This variety allows for a vast array of wildlife to flourish. Hikers and cyclists regularly see deer, otters, alligators, squirrels, rabbits, crabs, tortoises, turtles, and armadillos.
This trail is a designated stop on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and is a birding hotspot year-round, but especially during spring and fall migrations. Even those who are not “birders” can enjoy many kinds of large wading birds such as herons, egrets, and ibises, and upland species such as turkeys and Sandhill Cranes. Bald Eagles nest in the preserve, and are often seen soaring above the trail or perching in pines. The startlingly pink Roseate Spoonbill is a favorite of hikers.
With its location on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, this trail is tidally influenced and can be wet, muddy, or flooded at times, especially during the summer (May through September). It remains open every day (except when under hurricane warning) for those who want an adventure.
There are several benches along the trail to stop for a rest or to take in the vast scenery. There are no restrooms, and there is no potable water on the trail; the closest facilities are at the State Park Office on Sailboat Avenue. It is recommended that hikers and cyclists bring or wear insect repellent and sunscreen, carry a cell phone, and bring plenty of water. Although the trail is basically level, hikers should wear sturdy shoes. This trail is a popular destination during the dry, cooler, winter months, but in all seasons, hikers need to be prepared for hot, humid afternoons, and possible afternoon thunderstorms. Most hikers take 3 to 5 hours to complete the loop, and gravel bikers take 1 to 2 hours.