The city of Gainesville has a lot of preserves with short nature trails that uncover the urban beauty found in the city. Gainesville's first nature preserve, 21-acre Alfred A. Ring Park, has a short trail with views of the pretty Hogtown Creek ravine that is uncommon in central Florida's flat landscape. Throughout this short hike, you will travel across hills and boardwalks exploring the creek valley. Go in the spring, and you may even spot some wildflower such as Solomon's seal. This hike occurred on Sunday, November 29th, 2015. My plan was to hike the trail along Hogtown Creek out and back, returning via the playground and garden.
R/T Length of Trail: 1.4 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:40
Type of Hike: Lasso with Spur Trail
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Boardwalks provide great views of Hogtown Creek
Points of Interest: Numerous views of the Hogtown Creek valley
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Spring
Beginning Point: Elks Lodge
Directions: This hike is located inside the city limits of Gainesville, FL. From the intersection of SW 13th Street (US Route 441) and FL State Route 24 near the University of Florida, drive north on SW 13th Street for 2.2 miles. Then, turn left onto NW 23rd Avenue. Continue on NW 23rd Avenue for 0.5 miles until you see the sign "Ring Park Entrance". Turn left here and park either by Elks Lodge or on the parking area at the trailhead.
A map and some other information regarding this hike can be viewed here.
Gainesville is the city of nature preserves. There's a place to hike at all throughout the city, from the huge Paynes Prairie State Park to the trails on the campus of University of Florida. It was a hard time picking where to hike in Gaiensville for my first hike there, but I decided on Alfred A. Ring Park, where a short trail takes you into an unusual (for Florida) valley where Hogtown Creek's waters are crystal clear and rare wildflowers grow on the slopes of the ravine.
The hike starts at a small lodge called the Elks Lodge, located right at the edge of the park on NW 23rd Avenue. The trail begins as a concrete walkway down to Hogtown Creek. Here, you cross a side stream of Hogtown Creek on a large footbridge. The bridge seems to be oversized, as the stream is nothing but a trickle. You will ascend slightly onto a hill after this. Reach the start of the loop at 0.1 miles. The playground is straight ahead, and a garden lies beyond that. However, turn left to hike the loop clockwise. The trail descends swiftly into the valley of Hogtown Creek. At 0.25 miles, bottom out at another intersection. Turn left to reach an observation platform of Hogtown Creek at 0.3 miles. There is a good view of the creek in both directions. Retrace your steps to the intersection and continue following the trail along Hogtown Creek. This trail is very popular with local joggers and bicyclists. The trail is very easy to follow - boardwalks take you across ravines, and many of the boardwalks provide good views of Hogtown Creek. Also, I have read that on the slopes of this steep-sided valley, you may find some uncommon wildflowers such as Solomon's seal, provided you hike here in spring. At 0.4 miles, the loop turns right. However, continue straight to hike the full trail. The territory of the preserve soon narrows as a neighborhood comes into view to your right. The trail continues to follow Hogtown Creek closely until reaching NW 16th Avenue at 0.7 miles. This is the southern end of the trail and the second entrance to the park.
Retrace your steps along Hogtown Creek to the loop junction. At 1.1 miles, turn left to continue the loop. You will ascend out of the valley and onto the hill where the garden is. At 1.25 miles, reach the wildflower garden, and shortly afterwards, reach the end of the loop at the playground at 1.3 miles. Bear left and descend back to the oversized footbridge, finishing the hike at the trailhead at 1.4 miles.
Hike just the loop - 0.6 Miles
There is a lot of nature preserves throughout the city of Gainesville. Some of the more notable ones are Devil's Millhopper State Park and Paynes Prairie State Park. Any of the preserves can work for a bonus stop. For a full list of the other, smaller conservation areas found in Gainesville, click here.
Sorry for the blurriness of some pictures. This hike was done around twilight due to traffic delays and I didn't have the opportunity to take pictures in full daylight.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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