Nestled in the heart of the sunshine state is General James A. Van Fleet State Trail. The trail runs for nearly thirty miles with endpoints in Polk City and Mabel, and it is composed of well-maintained asphalt. The grounds of the trail were formerly occupied by a railroad that was later converted to a public use trail — and what a gift to the community! This beautiful trail is known throughout Florida for its abundant wildlife as it runs through Florida’s Green Swamp area, which is over 300,000 acres. The trail is also known for its pleasant weather and easy grade, both of which lend themselves to a fantastic hiking experience, especially if you bring a canine companion along.
If you begin your visit at Mabel Trailhead and head south, you will first pass by Withlacoochee State Forest and Richloam Wildlife Management Area. You are sure to encounter a wealth of interesting flora and fauna as you cross from Sumter County into Lake County. About a third of the way into the trail, you will find Bay Lake Trailhead, a waypoint with parking, so you can also begin your hike here. South of Bay Lake Trailhead, you will find Green Swamp Conservation Area, and further on, you’ll arrive at Green Pond Road Trailhead, which has a picnic area and restrooms. The trail’s southern endpoint, Polk City Trailhead, is just over ten more miles south.
When visiting any trail, always make sure to follow the rules and regulations. You will have to bring bags to clean up after your furry friend, and also make sure that your dog remains on-leash at all times. Also note that there is a long stretch without restroom access between Mabel and Green Pond Road Trailheads.
Whether you’re looking to experience the amazing wildlife in central Florida or just take a quick stroll with your dog, you will absolutely enjoy your time exploring General James A. Van Fleet State Trail!