Hike through the Econ River Wilderness Area
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Added by Christian Murillo
A perfect wilderness escape lies just minutes away from the hectic city life in Orlando. Run, hike, or bike your way through this short but charming trail.
The Econ River Wilderness Trail is a largely unnoticed section of preserved land, although it is just 1.5 miles away from University of Central Florida and nestled between residential communities. This trail might not be the most interesting or dramatic trail in all of Central Florida, but what always intrigued me most was the variety of flora that you see in such a short hike. This trail has provided the perfect escape for me countless times, and has enough forks in the trail to take a different route every time.
Getting to the trailhead is easy, with the parking lot just hundreds of feet away from the Old Lockwood/McCulloch intersection. The trail begins on the north side of the parking lot. Be sure to take a picture of the trail map at the trailhead before you set out, because there are many ways to do this loop, and it can be easy to get disoriented and handheld trail maps are not available.
At first, you will follow the narrow trail through the low and dense Saw Palmetto forest. Once the trail opens up to the first fork, I recommend you take your first left, onto the wide section of trail. Here you will start to see more and more Longleaf Pine trees embedded in the Saw Palmetto undergrowth. If you are a bird lover, keep your eyes up in the trees to spot a possible Hawk, Owl, or even a Bald Eagle. At foot level, it is common to see Armadillo in this part of the trail.
Take your first right after you take the initial left and you should cross over a boardwalk the passes through a swampy section of land. After this section, you can decide how long you want your hike to be. The more left-hand forks you take after this will make your clockwise hike longer. The more right-hand turns you take the shorter your hike will be. However, if you keep going right and meet a barbed-wire fence, you have made one too many rights and need to go back to the previous fork so you can make it to the creek.
The creek is the real attraction on this hike. To get to it, you will pass through a charming mossy oak hammock. Once you get to the creek, you can explore its sandy banks for as long as you want. If you care to, you can extend your hike along the creek into the adjacent private property. I am NOT advertising trespassing, but there is a fallen palm tree that goes across a side section of the creek about 300 yards down the creek that is fun to test your balance on.
At the creek, you are at the deepest part of the Econ River Wilderness area and it is time to make the short hike back. Coming out of the trail leaving the creek, take your first left and follow that trail until you get to the barbed-wire fence and then follow the fence back towards the direction of the parking lot. This is the section of trail that you are most likely to see deer. This can also be a very pleasant part of the trail to walk on as the sun sets, beaming through the low hanging moss.
If you take the first right after this straight section along the fence, this will be your shortest option. Finally, you will make one last left onto the narrow trail that you started on. I know these are a lot of 'rights' and 'lefts' but be assured that you cannot make a wrong turn on this hike to enjoy it any less and because of its intimate size, you wont get lost.
I would definitely recommend doing this hike in the 'not so hot' months of the year, or simply go early or go late. Most importantly, do not forget to bring water! This trail is both dog and bike friendly.
- Bug Spray
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