Monday, January 9, 2017

Little Manatee River Trail, Wimauma, Florida, January 8, 2017

Little Manatee River Trail, Florida, 1/8/2017

Distance: 6.9 miles (RT)

Trailhead: This trailhead is not in the park proper. There is a fee to park and you can handle this one of two ways:  Drive to Little Manatee River State Park, 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma, FL and stop at the ranger station to pay the $5, receive the trail map and get directions to the hiking trailhead. Or, continue on US 301 past Lightfoot Road, cross over Little Manatee River and park in the dirt lot directly across from Saffold Road (address is 17837 US 301).  There is a kiosk there to pay the fee and get a tag for your car.  Maps are located next to the kiosk (I've included the map at the end of this report).

Hiked with Rich today in temps that began at a balmy 37° and rose to just barely 50°. It felt great to get out in the cold, walking briskly to stay warm.  Not a bird was singing when we started, though we heard a few later in the day. No creatures, no spiders, no bugs - too cold!

We drove to the ranger station in the park, paid our $5, got the map and headed back out toward the trailhead.  

Trailhead parking. 

If you want to bypass the ranger station, pay at the trailhead.

Walk down this path to get to the hiking trail loop.

We turned right, heading counter-clockwise.

The trail is marked with numbers every half mile, corresponding with the park map.  I would say that it's nearly impossible to get lost; blazes are frequent (most white, some orange) though we did spend an extra 10 seconds or so looking for the trail in the wet area just beyond the campsite turnoff.

Trail is nicely groomed.
The majority of the trail is in the shade.
Except for this part!

It started to warm up. We met a several others on the trail as we stopped to layer down. There is the option of a 2.9 mile hike, which cuts out the outer loop.  (You'll miss the best parts of this hike if you cut short your trek.)

Here's the option to go back.

The trail drops down toward Cypress Creek.  It's a little hill so Rich took a break and I went up and down it several times in a feeble attempt to keep my mountain hiking legs in shape (sure beats the stairmill at the gym!).

The creek was still and soupy today.

Cypress Creek

The trail to the campsite comes in at about 2.3 miles and today the site was occupied. We continued past the campsite but it's rough and the path peters out into more woods and the boundary of the park - not much to see so we headed back to the main trail.

$5 per night. Site has a fire ring.

Soon we hit the wet - not bad, just some mud and slippery roots. (At the trailhead there is a notice indicating this part of the trail may be closed but there was no evidence of a closure so we continued.)

The trail is narrower and rougher from this point, which we enjoyed.  In short time we reached the Little Manatee River.  

Hazy sun.

River on the right.  The trail offers many water views as you continue.

There are boardwalks on this stretch.  Eventually we crossed a bridge. At the end of the bridge is a sign (shown below).  To continue on this hike take a right at the end of the bridge (left if you are facing the sign).

Looking back at the bridge we just came over.
We went right and continued to follow the contour of the river, over bluffs and across a meadow. This area has a few ups and downs before you hit the clearing.

Head right at #4.
View from the bluff.

The clearing is the last open area before the completion of the loop.

After hiking the Croom River trail last month (see previous report), I decided to load the free app "Map My Hike" onto my phone for short, nearby hikes (easier than our gps).  It was fun to get the data as it happens.

After the hike we went to Sun City cafe for a delicious lunch.  Nice area, nice hike!

Our route.

Map of the route.