Monday, January 30, 2012


The 6,533-acre Serenova Tract is located in western Pasco County, with a single roadside entrance granting access to its 18 miles of trails. It borders Starkey Park to the south, which in turn borders the Anclote River Ranch Tract to its south, and together they form what is known as Starkey Wilderness Preserve.

Serenova’s entrance is on the south side of State Road 52 across from the end of Hayes Road, two traffic lights west of the Suncoast Parkway. From the parking area, hikers and mountain bikers enter through a walk-through opening in the fence while horseback riders enter through a cattle gate. The separate openings result in separate paths at the beginning, but they merge very soon and every mile of trail is open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians alike.

About 1½ miles south of the entrance, the merged trail forks and proceeds to branch out into a series of far-reaching, interconnected loops. A power line travels the length of the preserve on a tight northeast-to-southwest angle, and the break beneath, which is crossed by several of the loops, can be used as an alternate hiking route. The trail map shows the power line and is quite reliable as long as you remain on paths that are signed.

Something I like is that Serenova contains numerous bodies of water despite not seeming all that watery. The Pithlachascotee River bisects it from east to west and several lakes are visible from the trails. Given the length of the trail network, you can walk past the same lake at different times of day and see what it looks like in different light:

Some 150 species of birds have been documented here, coming in all shapes and sizes. On a recent hike I watched a wood stork fly overhead and land in a tree, chasing away a white ibis that had been perched there. A minute later, when I held up my cell phone to snap a picture, the stork took flight and I was lucky to capture him in a full nose dive. It is hard to believe digital photography has come so far that I was able to capture this shot from a phone:

Other creatures in Serenova include scrub jays, gopher tortoises, and rattlesnakes. It may excite you to know that black bears have been documented here, though it is not known whether they are residents or simply pass through on occasion.

And if you are a history buff, it may excite you to know that a decaying chimney deep in the woods has long been rumored to be the remains of a hideout used by Al Capone.

Less than a half-mile into the preserve is a camping area that offers a good option for experiencing it. You can pitch your tent after work on a Friday, then arise before dawn and have time to explore the entire trail network by nightfall, then bed down again on Saturday and be home well before lunch on Sunday.

The camping area is comprised of an equestrian site on the east side of the trail and a non-equestrian site on the west, with a latrine in between. Each site is shaded by live oaks and is so spacious that it looks like it could accommodate a dozen tents with plenty of room to spare. Picnic tables and fire rings (which double as grills) are spread throughout. Serenova is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and as is the case with practically every campsite on district property, these are immaculate despite not having electricity or running water.

You will be cheating yourself if you fail to check this place out. Happy Trails!


  1. Hi there - that really does look like a good place to explore. But I think I'd get up really early on Monday and drive to work - rather than go home on Sunday!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

  2. That second photo reminds me of a trail Bob & I rode a couple years ago when we were traveling through FL for a wedding. It was so flat, but I got tired from all the pedaling. Here in CO, we have to climb mountain passes, but at least then we get the downhills to rest! I'm amazed that you took these photos on your phone. I've heard the new iPhone has a good camera and also you can buy an app which allows fish eye and macro shots. The stork photo is an awesome action shot. I rode the lift yesterday wit 2 guys from West Palm beach. (They looked cold.)

  3. Looks like a gorgeous area - we love finding new hiking spots!

  4. This looks like a gorgeous place to hike. The abundance of trees is great - we miss that here. And I'd love to bird watch near all the water sources.

  5. those trees are really beautiful! looks like a wonderful place.

    thanks for stopping by my blog this week and leaving a comment! really appreciate it! :)