Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hiking the Lake Eaton Loop and Sinkhole Trail

The Lake Eaton Loop and Sinkhole Trail are right next to each other, and not too long, so we hiked them both in one afternoon.  Getting to the trail will require some dirt-road driving, but the roads are good – just about any car can drive them without any problems.

Stairs to sinkhole-1
Shelter at the top of the Sinkhole

We started this trip with the sinkhole trail, which heads off to the east from a shared trailhead.  This loop trail starts by heading north for about three hundred feet before turning to the southeast.Almost to the bottom

Along the way, there are a couple of interpretive signs describing the flora and fauna, as well as a couple of benches.  The real jewel of this trail is the sink hole though, and that is only about a half mile down the trail.

At the top of the sinkhole is a small shelter with several informational signs posted.  One of the signs said that there are 188 steps down to the bottom.  I’m not sure what changed, but we counted them – there were only 117.  The sinkhole itself is about 5 stories deep, and it is also pretty big in diameter (probably over 200 feet in across).

TrailviewBeyond the sinkhole, the trail continues to the southeast for a little over a quarter mile before wrapping back to the west and then to the north. The whole way, the trail looks similar to the picture to the left.  It is very well maintained, with no muddy/swampy spots along the way. This is a nice little trail, and a very easy hike.  The whole trip is less than 2.5 miles long and the walk down the sinkhole is really nice.

Lake Eaton Pano
Lake Eaton Panorama

Our second hike on this trip was around the Lake Eaton Loop.  This trail is very different from the Sinkhole trail – that trail was surrounded by mostly tall scrub plants, while the Lake Eaton Loop passes through a pine forest.  All along the way, the trail is very well shaded and cushioned by pine needles.First observation deck

We took the northern path as we started this loop, and after about a quarter of a mile we arrived at the first of three platforms that overlook the lake.  Each of the platforms are marked with a small but prominent sign on the side of the trail, so they won’t be missed.

View from third observation deckThe first two observation decks offer a similar view of Lake Eaton, but the third one is a little different.  It is set back a little further in the woods and overlooks a portion of the lake that receives less direct sunlight.  The water below looks like an ideal nesting area for alligators, though we didn’t see any on this trip.Tina on Bench-d

As with the Sinkhole Trail, this loop also has several interpretive signs and at least five benches along the way.  During the last quarter of a mile, the ecosystem makes a distinct change from pine hammock back to scrub like the Sinkhole Trail; this is where we started seeing some of the fall flowers starting to come into bloom.

Together these trails make a great spot for a day hike, but it is also nice that the trailhead in between them also makes it easy for someone to simply pick one short hike or the other.  If I had to pick one or the other, I would probably suggest the Sinkhole Trail as my favorite of the two.  For two trails that are right next to each other, they are two very different trips.

Photo Gallery
More photos available on our Shutterfly page

WIldflowers
Purple Wildflowers
Andy on overlook
Andy on 3rd Overlook
Midway along loop
Midpoint on Lake Eaton Loop
Dirt road to trail
Dirt Road to Trailhead
More stairs down
Long Set of Stairs
Bench-3
One of many benches

Map of Sinkhole Trail

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Map of Lake Eaton Loop

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