Sited six miles north of Brooksville in central-west Florida, the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area is split into two different sections; the Chinsegut Conservation Center, which encompasses 408 of the park's 850-acres and offers guided hikes as well as programs that teach outdoor skills that include archery and wildlife sign; and the Big Pine Tract, the second largest tract of old-growth longleaf pine in Florida, with several trails that loop and crisscross the property. Keep a lookout for red-headed woodpeckers in this area.
There are different ways to access the property. You can park at the center when they are open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.on Fridays and Saturdays, or park at the Prairie-to-Pines Trailhead and hike up the Prairie-to-Pines trail up to the loop around May's Prairie. If you don't want to hike over, there's a parking area at the Big Pine Tract. I usually park at the Prairie-to-Pines Trailhead and hike the loop around May's Prairie, stopping at the wildlife blind to check out sandhill cranes, deer or whatever else might happen to be hanging around. This is an excellent birding location, so make sure to bring those long lenses with you.
There are a few spur trails along the loop that will give you a different vantage point on May's Prairie, so take time to explore them all. Make sure to check out the spur trail that leads up to the conservation center and around the 1800s Bishop Homestead site, too. All told, you can have a really nice four-mile loop hike at the Chinsegut Conservation Center.
To stretch things out, you can hike the Prairie-to-Pines Trail to the Big Pine Tract, which is the other part of the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area. If you don't want to hike over, there's a parking area at the Big Pine Tract. This is the second largest tract of old-growth longleaf pine in Florida, with several trails that loop and crisscross the property. Keep a lookout for red-headed woodpeckers in this area.
The Chinsegut WEA also hosts a number of guided outings and events throughout the year, so take a peek at the calendar to see what's coming up. For more information, directions and maps, take a look at the Chinsegut WEA web page.
For more great places to explore check out www.visitflorida.com/trails