Most people don’t think of hiking when they think of this state park, but there is a nice paved nature trail that is about a half mile loop, and off of that trail are two short trails into the woods, and one longer one. The longer trail is balloon trail (about 4 miles long) called the Wild Persimmon Trail.
Starting at the spring, we took a quick look around – this visit was on a Thursday, and there were a lot more people swimming than I expected.
The trail starts on the east side of the park, just off the parking area. Following the trail for about a tenth of a mile brought us to the first spur trail – a long boardwalk that leads to “Old Methuselah”. This spur is only about 200 feet long, and it’s worth going out to see the tree at the end. While not the biggest cypress in Florida, it’s pretty large. At more than 500 years old, it is something to think about; it’s been here longer than our country. It’s pretty amazing that this tree survived the logging industry that was a huge industry in this part of Florida.
After a couple of quick photos, we returned to the main trail for about another 800 feet where we arrive at the “Monkey Island” trail. This is spur trail is about 1/4 of a mile long, and passes by an area that used to house several monkeys before this was a state park. We pass this trail by for now, so we can get to the main trail that we came for.
The Wild Persimmon Trail is only about 75 feet further along, and this one starts off on a north / northwest heading. The trail is very well marked with blue blazes along the full path. The walking area is also well worn, so it is very easy to stay on the path. Since I’m talking about the path, I should note that this is a natural trail area, so there are roots and such. There was more than one stubbed toe along the way.
The trail heads to the north / northwest for about 500 feet before turning to the west for another 1,000 feet. This portion of the trail is within a well-shaded hydric hammock which is a mixed blessing when the weather is warm. The shade is nice, but very little breeze penetrates the surrounding foliage.
On today’s trip, there were flashes of color all along the trail from different fungi. Purple mushrooms growing in the soil and Jack O’ Lanterns growing on tree roots, white “clam” mushrooms, and “tree barnacles” growing on tree trunks were a few of the ones that we saw along the way.
As the trail turns toward the north, it parallels the shore line of Spring Garden Lake, which is about a quarter of a mile to the south through some very wet swamp land, for about 3/4 of a mile before coming to the branch in the trail.
The branch in the trail is the beginning of the balloon loop. Here, the foliage opens up a bit, letting the breeze come through. Here, the resurrection ferns are in full bloom from the recent rains.
The balloon loop is about 1.5 miles long, and reaches just shy of the road to the north. This portion of the park is also crossed by several forest road type paths, so one could easily spend more time exploring the area up here.
At the end of the loop, we returned along the same path that we took coming out and then went to look at the Monkey Island trail. We know that, back when this was a tourist attraction, monkeys used to live on this island. It seems odd that such a small island with almost no barrier to the main land was adequate for keeping monkeys.
Most people don’t come to the De Leon Springs for hiking, but they’re missing out if they don’t spend a few hours exploring these trails. There is also a boat launch that is a perfect spot to drop in for a kayak trip down to Lake Woodruff, but that will have to be another day.
(More photos available on my Panoramio Page)
Shaded Area by the Spring
Swimming at De Leon Springs
Showers & Restrooms by the Spring