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Exploring The Nature Coast State Trail In Florida

Word has spread about this diverse, unspoiled region known as "Florida's Natural Paradise" where the human population is dwarfed by the multitude of birds and wildlife that call the area home.

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The Nature Coast State Trail offers the perfect combination of history and nature for local walkers, bikers, skaters, and horseback riders. With almost 32 miles of paved trail connecting five small towns, the trail offers active residents a great way to explore and experience “Old Florida” in a way that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else.  

History of the Nature Coast State Trail 

The railroads were a huge part of rural Florida back in the early 1900s. In addition to providing a cost-effective method for transporting their crops, local residents also used the railroads to travel back and forth between towns. 

As transportation evolved over the years, many of the railroad tracks throughout Florida were abandoned. In recent years, the state has taken ownership of many of these abandoned rail lines and converted them into wonderful paved trails that are becoming more and more popular among active residents, particularly bicyclists.  

About the Nature Coast State Trail 

The Nature Coast State Trail is one of those trails that was built around the intersection that was known as Wilcox Junction. It is a T-shaped trail that connects the towns of Fanning Springs and Old Town with the towns of Cross City to the west, Trenton to the east, and Chiefland to the south. 

Trailheads are located at each of the five towns that the trail connects. Each of these trailheads provide parking, and have restrooms and picnic areas at the Chiefland, Trenton, and Cross City trailheads. There are also equestrian trails that border a portion of the trail, and equestrian parking at the Fanning Springs and Old Town trailheads.  

Nature lovers will appreciate that the Nature Coast State Trail will take them right past Fanning Springs State Park and Andrews Wildlife Management Area, which will make observing different types of birds and other wildlife easily accessible. There is also plenty of wildlife that can be seen right from the trail, such as white-tailed deer, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls. 

Getting There from the Villages of Citrus Hills

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If you are heading towards the Nature Coast State Trail from the Villages of Citrus Hills, the closest trailhead is in Chiefland, which is just over an hour north. From the Chiefland Trailhead, it is a 9-mile ride up to the hub of the trail in Fanning Springs. 

If you would rather park at Fanning Springs, you can start your walk or ride there and head east seven miles to Trenton or west 12 miles through Old Town on your way out to Cross City. The section of the trail between Fanning Springs and Old Town is where you cross the Suwannee River via an old railroad bridge, which is one of the best parts of the entire trail.  

If you are looking for a great way to actively experience the nature coast region of Florida, the Nature Coast State Trail is a perfect option. In addition to walking or riding each leg of the trail, you will also have the benefit of stopping to explore each of the small towns that the trail connects. 

Each of these towns offers a unique experience for shopping and dining, and together they combine to make the Nature Coast State Trail an interesting and unique experience that can be visited over and over again!