Seminole State Forest
Seminole State Forest
Seminole State Forest is a 27,064-acre property in Lake County purchased through Florida's Conservation and Recreation Lands Program in 1990. The primary entrance to Seminole State Forest is located about 12 miles east of Eustis on State Route 44 in Cassia. This is where the main parking areas and primary trail heads are. There's a second entrance with parking about 14 miles west of Sanford on State Route 46.
The majority of Seminole State Forest is composed of blackwater streams, bottomland forests and flatwoods with about 1,725 acres of sand pine scrub, an invaluable natural community that once covered most of Florida but has been restricted to only a small portion of the state now by the growth of big agriculture and residential developments. Sand pine scrub is where you'll find endangered animal species like the Florida scrub jay, eastern indigo snake and Florida black bear.
The eastern boundary of Seminole State Forest is along the Wekiva River, a designated Outstanding Florida Water. There are streams and springs, among them Moccasin, Palm and Shark's Tooth Springs, that either originate on or meander across the forest. Among the more common wildlife you might find on the property are white-tailed deer, American alligator, wild turkey, sandhill crane, river otter, green turtle, coyote, gray fox and gopher tortoise. Seminole State Forest is also a designated location on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Virtually the entire property requires possession of a State Forest Use Permit in order to drive your vehicle beyond the entrance gates. You can get a permit by visiting or phoning the Lake Forest Station. Near the entrance gates is where you'll find the self-service pay stations you'll need to service before entering the property.
There are more than 21 miles of hiking trails on Seminole State Forest, including a 7.5-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail between SR 46 and SR 44. Some of these trails give access to another 20 miles of maintained trails in the adjacent Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. Hiking is also allowed on about 25 miles of open roads within Seminole State Forest. For campers there are five primitive campsites on the forest and they are available only to hikers on a first come, first served basis. There are three other primitive campsites that can be reserved by calling the Lake Forest Station. All campsites are closed during hunting seasons.
Horseback riders will find 23 miles of trail designated for horse riding in Seminole State Forest with connections to another 20 miles-or-so of multi-use trails in Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. Horses get access via step-over gates at the main entrances. The parking areas at the main entrances are large enough for horse trailers to maneuver. Equestrians need to present a current negative Coggins test for all their horses before unloading them. Riders under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet at all times when mounted on a horse on state property. Horseback riding is restricted to only those trails so-designated.
Mountain bikes are allowed on the 25 miles of designated open roads within Seminole State Forest. In some areas the roads are basic packed gravel and sand... The road system offers a 7-mile connection between the main entrances to the forest and connections to adjacent trails in Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park.
There is a canoe/kayak launch on Blackwater Creek. At the launch site is a picnic table but there are no camping facilities. North of the Sand Creek Bridge, Blackwater Creek is limited to non-motorized boats only. Blackwater Creek is an undisturbed blackwater stream reminiscent of Old Florida.
Portions of Seminole State Forest are managed jointly with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission as the Seminole State Forest Wildlife Management Area. Fishing and in-season hunting are allowed in those areas. Bear Pond, a 13-acre pond where boats are prohibited, is kept stocked with numerous game fish. The Seminole Forest WMA covers about 12,000 acres of Seminole State Forest. The Seminole Forest Lake Tracy Unit covers another 4,000 acres in Seminole State Forest. The Lake Tracy Unit is a mix of marsh, forested wetlands and pastures. The Division of Forestry is working to return the unit to the pine scrub and flatwoods that were there in the old days. There are no developed trails on the property and no camping is allowed. To hunt the area you'll need a quota hunt permit.
Seminole State Forest map
Map courtesy of Florida Division of Forestry
Upper photo courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License