Hiking the Yearling Trail in the Ocala National Forest

A quick dayhike for central Florida residents, The Yearling Trail is a glimpse into the past. The trailhead, located directly across US 19 from Silver Glen Springs in the Juniper Prairie, is a quick six-mile loop through oak and pine to an area known as Pat’s Island. It’s called an Island not because it’s surrounded by water, but by Pine Scrub.

The Yearling Trail is named after Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Rawlings was inspired to write the book after staying with the last settlers of the area in the Long homestead. A movie based on the book was later filmed on location.

The hike

Starting from the trialhead, be sure to stop at the info kiosk to take in the points of interest on the trail. The first mile or so will having you hiking through semi-compact sugar sand. Check for tracks of turkeys, racoons and bears.

Taking the right at the first fork in the road meanders through rolling long leaf pine and guides you by the first item of interest: A cattle dip. Cattle dips were used from the 1800s to the early 1900s as a tick bath for woods cattle. Continuing down the trail there are markers denoting former cattle lands, homesteads and a cemetery. As the fields starting turning into thicker scrub, keep your eyes peeled for the sinkhole (though it’s hard to miss at the crossroads). It’s fairly impressive.

Continuing on another half mile, the trail meets with the Florida National Scenic Trail and forms a loop.

Traffic on the trail is minimal, so it certainly feels like you’re getting away from it all. During the summer, be sure to bring plenty of water and pack insect repellent. And don’t forget your camera to capture wildlife like wild turkeys.

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