To get a feel for Hernando County's natural beauty, spend some time on the following five paths. Because, when it comes to outdoor recreation Hernando County doesn't disappoint.
Chinsegut Nature Center Tract
Start your exploration at the Chinsegut Conservation Center Tract, located seven miles north of Brooksville. The Conservation Center is open Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. On other days of the week, park at the U.S. 41/C.R. 481 trailhead. Along the start of the trail, near the conservation center, you’ll pass by the remains of the 1850s Bishop Homestead, with two cisterns and a chimney still intact. The path connects to the main 1.7-mile loop trail around May’s Prairie, where herons, ibis and massive flocks of sandhill cranes can often be seen. The Chinsegut Conservation Center offers a variety of conservation education programs and festivals throughout the year. Visit MyFWC.com/Chinsegut for more information.
Chinsegut Big Pine Tract
Just a few miles away, the Chinsegut Big Pine Tract features a 1.25-mile loop weaving through towering old-growth longleaf pines, aptly named the Longleaf Loop, with several short side trails to explore. Keep a lookout for Red-headed or Pileated woodpeckers tapping away high in the pines and the white flag of a deer’s tail as it bounds away into the brush. A 2-mile Prairie to Pines connector trail joins the Nature Center and Big Pine Tracts. Park in the middle at the U.S. 41./C.R. 481 trailhead and hike both trails on the same day. Alternate parking is available for Big Pine Tract is located on Old Crystal River Road approximately one mile north of US 41. Scheduled guided walks and programs are provided through the Chinsegut Conservation Center.
Croom Hiking Trails
For a challenge, head to the Croom Hiking Trails in the Withlacoochee State Forest, also located near Brooksville. Start your hike at the popular multi-use Tucker Hill Trailhead and set out on a potential 22.69-mile hike among the trails' three loops over just-rugged-enough terrain. Turkey oaks and longleaf pines dominate sections of the trail that pass over steep sandhills, making this a favorite of hikers and trail runners in the area. The loop can be broken up into three shorter hikes (referred to as A, B and C loop) using connector trails.
Perry Oldenburg Mitigation Park
The Perry Oldenburg Mitigation Park was set aside to protect gopher tortoise habitat, and you’ll encounter many along – and in – the trail. A 1.5-mile loop trail and a short half-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail can be found on this small but important tract of protected land. Besides looking for gopher tortoises, watch for wild turkeys, indigo snakes and Sherman’s fox squirrels. The park is approximately five miles north of Brooksville. Take US 41 to Deer Run Road and continue east and follow the signs to the park.
If you are lucky, you may catch a peek at a Florida black bear at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area. This property is said to be the home of the smallest population of bears in the state. Follow Indigo Lane to the hiking trailhead, where two trails are located. Along the 1.5-mile Cypress Circle Trail, swallow-tailed kites soar overhead in the summer months as you trek around a cypress dome. As the name suggests, the Wild Turkey Trace Trail is a good place to spot wild turkeys and deer, as well as gray foxes.
If You Go
Chinsegut WEA (Nature Center Trail and Big Pine Trail), Ph: 352-754-6722
Withlacoochee State Forest – Croom Trails, Ph: 352-754-6896
Perry Oldenburg Mitigation Park, Ph: 850-488-4676
Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area – Daily use permit required ($3 per person), Ph: 850-488-4676
This article was brought to you by the Hernando County Convention & Visitors Bureau. To plan your trip to Hernando County, visit www.naturallyhernando.org or call 800-601-4580.