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Latest update: January 2021

Goethe State Forest... Florida

5 Trail Systems, 120 Miles of Trail

Located near Florida's Gulf coast, west of Dunnellon and north of Crystal River, the State Forest covers 53,500+ acres. The forest includes 5 trail systems with 7 trailheads for activities including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, camping, and wildlife viewing. Day use fee applies (annual passes also available). (Map link and photos below.)

Goethe State Forest

Map Link...
Goethe State Forest

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Location: Levy and Alachua Counties
Mileage: Varies
Trailheads: Along CR337 (see map)
Surface: Crushed limestone and clay, grass, sand
Nearby Points of interest: Cedar Key, Rainbow Springs State Park

Bike Shops/Rentals: N/A

Support and Advocacy:
Friends of Florida State Forests

 Page Summary:

  1. Eco-biking and Hiking at Goethe State Forest
    - Black Prong Trailhead
    - Big Cypress Trail and Boardwalk
    - Apex Trailhead
    - Buck Island Pond and Trail
    - Tidewater Trailhead and Trails
  2. About Goethe State Forest
  3. More Information and Resources


Eco-biking and Hiking at Goethe State Forest... Comments and Photos

The trails are very sandy and can be muddy - best suited to equestrian use, then hiking, rather than biking, though avid mountain bikers (not us) will enjoy some challenges. Mountain biking is allowed on most but not all trails. The stone park roads, while bikeable, are old logging roads, rutted and bumpy - and may sometimes be shared with logging trucks. Other roads are packed dirt and gravel, also bikeable though rough. Especially in summer, the bugs can be brutal. Few amenities, bring sunscreen, food and water. Note: Areas may be closed due to weather or other factors.

We visited trailheads and hiked sections - shown below from North to South.

Black Prong Trailhead

Three trails for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian riding run from the trailhead, Green (8.5 miles), Blue (6 miles) and Orange (3.5 miles) - portions overlap. The trailhead has parking, restrooms, and picnicking. Camp Road is shared with bicycles, both the blue and orange trails cross along the road. We visited portions of both on foot, very sandy.

Big Cypress Trail and Boardwalk

From CR121, it's about 3.5 miles along Cow Creek Road to the boardwalk trailhead (parking, picnic). Starting from the trailhead, a 4/10 mile hike with interpretative signs runs along a dirt trail through pine flatwoods to floodplain swamp. Then, the Big Cypress Boardwalk runs above the floodplain to the Goethe Giant, a 900-year-old ancient cypress 9 feet in diameter - Florida's 7th largest cypress tree. Cow Creek Road totals about 8 miles, bikeable but a bumpy old logging road - we rode a short distance just to see how it felt and found that riding on the grassy shoulder was preferable.

Apex Trailhead

The Apex Trailhead is next to the state forest office along CR337. The trailhead has parking, restroom, picnic pavilion and grills. The Orange and Green trails branch out from the trailhead, totaling over 25 miles (or create your own shorter loops) with links to both Buck Island Pond and Tidewater trails. The trails, as others we visited in the forest, are better suited to equestrian and hiking rather than biking due to sand. An unpaved road runs from the trailhead south, we didn't bike there but saw a biker coming off it riding a recumbent. He rode across CR377 to the Goethe Trailhead Campground and Horse Facility - a full-service campground (no tents).

Reserve the pavilion from Reserve America. . (Note: We've seen references online to people camping at the trailhead, but only the pavilion is for rent - the official forest campground is at Tidewater [see below].)

Buck Island Pond and Trail

From CR337 (north of Dunnellon) a half mile road leads to the trailhead. A 2-mile trail loops around the pond - although short, it includes a wide variety of natural Florida habitat including oak hammock, pineland, and sandhill restoration. Day use fee.

Trailhead and Boardwalk

The trailhead includes parking, picnic table, and an informational kiosk (other amenities are available nearby at the Apex trailhead). A Boardwalk near the parking area leads to the pond, with observation deck for good birdwatching.

Hiking Trail

At the trailhead, pick up the map from the kiosk for locations of the interpretative stations. The trail (green blaze) begins at the start of the boardwalk, a sign to the left marks the trail but there's no sign to the right. It took us a bit to figure out where the trail was, but then we spotted it from the boardwalk - it doesn't go straight but rather runs alongside the boardwalk, then turns to the right to continue around the pond. We hiked about half the loop, each way from the boardwalk - in dry weather, other than some roots it was an easy hike. We're told the lower sections on the floodplain include cypress knees and can be flooded or muddy. A notable feature is a large patch of pitcher plants at another small boardwalk, but we missed that. Near the trailhead is also the connector to the Apex Orange Trail.

Trail Leaving Boardwalk

Returning to Boardwalk

Tidewater Trailhead

Tidewater Trailhead is located near the junction of CR336 and CR337. Off CR337, take Saddlepen Road (shared by cars and bikes) about 1/2 mile to the trailhead.

Trailhead and Campground

The trailhead has parking, restrooms, picnic pavilion and tables, grill. The primitive campground, adjacent to the trailhead, is well defined with the 5 sites clearly marked - no water or electricity, use the facilities at the trailhead. Reserve a campsite at Reserve America.

Tidewater Trails

The trail system at Tidewater includes the Yellow trail (15 miles). Purple trail (7.5 miles), Blue trail (5.5 miles), plus a connector to the Apex trails (1 mile). We hiked a portion of trail from the trailhead - sandy, best for equestrian.

About Goethe State Forest

The forest is named after J.T. Goethe (J.T. Goethe Lumber Company), from whom the land was purchased in 1992. The Watermelon Pond Unit (4,200 acres) to the north was added later (2007). Hunting is allowed in the Goethe Wildlife Management Area (45,000 acres), and in the Watermelon Pond Wildlife and Environmental Area. The Florida Forest Service manages the forest for wildlife management, recreation, timber production, and habitat restoration. 19 habitat communities includes sandhill, cypress swamp, scrub pine and a large tract of old-growth longleaf pines which support a population of endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Other wildlife include gopher tortoise, eagles, black bear, deer, fox, squirrel and more. Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, more than 100 species of bird have been identified. Hunting is allowed, check for season dates.

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