For those who love spending time outside, the rails-to-trails movement is one of the most positive developments of the last quarter century. And fortunately for us, our region is home to one of that movement’s crowning achievements.
The Withlacoochee State Trail starts in
The beginning is in Trilby, a Faulkneresque dot on the map (population 419) where the trail passes beside this quaint post office:
After about five miles the
Withlacoochee utilizes the bridge pictured below to cross over State Road 50. On the opposite side sits the extremely popular Ridge Manor Trailhead.
Three miles further north, the trail passes the entrance to Silver Lake Recreation Area and proceeds to enter the Croom Tract of
Many users consider Croom to be the prettiest and most tranquil section of
the entire trail. Here are a couple pictures I took while walking there last
Wildlife viewing can be very productive on the
Withlacoochee. In the
morning, late afternoon, and evening it is common to see deer munching on
trailside grass, and in spring and summer it is almost impossible to spend any
time here without seeing swallow-tailed kites soaring overhead. Back in 2003, I
incorporated Withlacoochee walks into my
recovery from surgery, and on almost every visit during that time, I saw the
same barred owl perched in one tree or another just north of the Ridge Manor
I have not walked the trail’s farthest miles north of Hernando, i.e., the ones that extend beyond what most people would consider the
area. Those miles are
surely worth experiencing, but from what I understand, some of them run fairly
close to U.S. 41 and therefore might not seem as wild as the Tampa
Bay Pasco and Hernando sections. It is also worth
noting that the northernmost miles pass through the towns of Istachatta, Floral City,
Inverness, and Citrus Springs. An alluring
sign in the woods just south of states: “Shamrock
Inn – Good Food – Cold Beer – Next Left.” Floral
To reach the
southernmost access points, take exit 293 from I-75 and drive east for 2.6
miles. Then, turn left onto Pasco County Road 575 and continue six miles to
Trilby. This route is so winding and hilly you might find yourself wondering if
you got transported to Northern Georgia or Western
Maryland or some other non-Florida locale.
In Trilby, there is parking for a few vehicles at the spot where the trail crosses the road next to the post office pictured above, about a mile north of the trail’s actual beginning. If you want to start from the actual beginning, keep driving past the post office, turn right at the flashing light, and continue until you see the trailhead on your right.
To reach the Ridge Manor Trailhead, take exit 301 from I-75, drive east for a mile on State Road 50, and turn left onto
Croom Rital Road.
The trailhead will be on your right and is very obvious because of its ample parking lot. FYI, its facilities are considerably more immaculate than those at
the first two trailheads.
For what it’s worth, however, my personal favorite place to hop on the
is at a spot on Croom Rital Road
several miles north of the Ridge Manor Trailhead. If you just keep driving, you
will enter the borders of the state forest and come to my preferred trailhead
at a spot where the road turns left and is crossed by the trail. There is
parking for a few cars both before and after the crossing.
Update, 11/19/12: Less than two weeks ago the "facilities" at the trailhead by the Trilby post office consisted of a port-a-let. But yesterday, when I walked from there to the Ridge Manor Trailhead, the port-a-let was gone...so while Ridge Manor continues to be kind of a lap of luxury with flush toilets, hot water sinks, and multiple picnic tables, the Trilby post office trailhead has gone from being one of modest facilities to one of no facilities. I will let you know if that ever changes.