Withlacoochee State Forest (Citrus Tract): Dames Cave and Lizzie Hart Sink via Citrus Loop D from Road 18, Brooksville, Florida
The Citrus Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest is home to some of Central Florida's most rugged terrain. Several major sinkholes and numerous caves are spread throughout the hilly Citrus Tract. The Citrus Trail, one of Florida's longest and most popular backpacking trails, is a 42-mile loop trail that passes near the perimeter of the Citrus Tract. Numerous forest roads crisscross the tract with many different starting points possible. For the convenience of day hikers, three cross-trails intersect the loop, providing shorter hiking opportunities. The southernmost loop of the Citrus Trail - Loop D - accesses one of the area's most unique sights: Dames Cave, a limestone cave with two chambers, a large open one and a smaller closed one. In addition to traversing dozens of rolling sandhills, Loop D of the Citrus Trail also passes through a bizarre rocky landscape in the vicinity of a broad sink known as Lizzie Hart Sink. This hike occurred on Saturday, July 29th, 2017. My plan was to hike Loop D of the Citrus Trail counter-clockwise from the Road 18 crossing. I would take the side trail to Dames Cave along the way.
Florida hiking is unlike any hiking in the mountains. Instead of mountain vistas, most of the time you're looking for prairies; instead of waterfalls, with a few notable exceptions, you are looking for lakes and springs. This was my first Florida hike ever, and I was impressed. The bright blue lakes of Weeki Wachee Preserve provide excellent scenery on this hike. In addition, you can extend your hike into a bear habitat with the chance to see some wildlife or their traces. This hike occurred on Sunday, June 28th, 2015. My plan was to at least hike the main loop in the preserve (all on old jeep roads). I would first take Burnt Road, and then turn onto Loop Road and follow the western shorelines of the lakes. After crossing between two lakes, I would take South Lake Road to the second entrance to the preserve. From here, I would follow the paved road (which is open to vehicles only on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month) to the trailhead for Burnt Road, and I would follow Burnt Road back to the parking area. Depending on the conditions by the end of the hike, I also had the option of doing an out-and-back hike along Bear Claw Road.
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