Black Diamond Ranch “Where to Live if You Live for Adventures off the Golf Course”
Citrus County Bike, Hike, Bowl and Ride
This week’s article talks about sporting adventures on the land in Citrus County, Florida. Whether you hike, bike, bowl or ride horses, Citrus County has a lot to offer land lovers.
Biking and Hiking
Biking is great exercise and a wonderful way to see a variety of natural settings found in Citrus County. Many of the bike trails are suitable for walks and hikes. If this is your favorite way to go, you can choose from a cross-country excursion, a meandering scenic day ride or a more primitive off-road track.
A popular cycling route (and a good walking trail) is the “Rails to Trails” Withlacoochee State Trail. Formerly a railroad right-of-way, the 47-mile trail is paved its entire length through Citrus County. If you don’t have your own bicycle, rental bikes and roller blades are available in the downtown Inverness area: Suncoast Bicycles: 352-637-5757 and rental bikes in Dunnellon, Blue Run Bicycles 352-465-7538. “I have a tough time choosing a favorite trail…Barge Canal out to the Gulf…Hernando to Inverness…Inverness to Floral City…Floral City to Istachatta. We have seen deer on the Floral City to I-75 ride and beautiful wildflowers all summer. All kinds of bikers, horseback riders, walkers and joggers are utilizing this trail. We see a security patrol car almost every ride. It has got to be the best trail to ride in Florida.”
The rolling hills of the Central Ridge provide the most challenging bike ride for cross-country cyclists. Roads which lend themselves well to cyclists are S. Pleasant Grove Road (CR 581), Stagecoach Trail (CR 480) and the internal roadways of housing developments in Citrus Springs, Sugarmill Woods, Pine Ridge, Citrus Hills and Beverly Hills. Each offers something different; acres of undeveloped land with already paved roads, challenging hills, and panoramic miles-wide views. A real challenge is riding in Black Diamond Ranch…hilly!
Mountain bike trails include a 2.5 mile loop trail, part of the Citrus Tract that runs through Whispering Pines Park in Inverness… Longer rides are available including the seven mile tract at Crystal River Preserve State Park.
Crystal River Preserve State Park “A place of exceptional natural beauty, the undisturbed islands, inlets, backwaters and forests of this Crystal River Preserve are especially cherished by nature lovers and photographers. The park borders 20 miles of the northern Gulf Coast between the two cities of Yankeetown and Homosassa. Visitors can hike or bicycle along seven miles of trails or study the native wildlife and plants on the two mile interpretive trail.
More Trails on Foot
Eco-walk Trail is a 2 mile loop trail and has 11 Discovery Zones that offer Sensory Sensitivity tips to increase your outdoor skills. The trail begins in a wet prairie and travels along the swamp, edging a hammock. During the spring and fall, neo-tropical birds and hawks can be seen on their migration. Deer, turkey, and wading birds also frequent the area. The trailhead to the Eco-walk Trail is located at the intersection of North Tallahassee Road and Curtis Tool Road.
Dixie Shores Trails. Entrances to the Dixie Shores Trails are located in the Dixie Shores subdivision off Ft. Island Trail (mile marker 2.5).
Ft. Island Trail is off US Hwy. 19 in Crystal River. These trails are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Lake Loop Trail is located on the right hand side of Dixie Shores Drive. The trail is approximately a mile long and winds around three man-made lakes.
Hammock Island Trail is located on the left-hand side of Dixie Shores Drive and is approximately ¾ of a mile. This trail carries you from coastal scrub through a salt marsh and onto a hammock island.
Churchhouse Hammock Boardwalk and Path to the Past Trails. “The Boardwalk Trail is 1/3 mile in length and is fully ADA accessible. It begins in an old Pinewoods that is slowly becoming a Mesic Hammock. Habitat restoration is underway to encourage the return of species such as the Longleaf Pine, gopher tortoise, and fox squirrel. The Path to the Past Trail is 3/4 of a mile long, looping off the Boardwalk Trail and winding slowly out to a sawgrass marsh. Florida’s *karst limestone topography can be seen at the surface, demonstrating the unique geology feature that typifies where springs find their beginnings. Our newest elevated boardwalk extension takes visitors through a sawgrass marsh and out to a hammock island. The entrance to the Churchhouse Hammock Boardwalk and Path to the Past Trails is located across the street from the Crystal River Mall on US Hwy. 19.” *Karst – An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.”
From an Avid Citrus County Cyclist and Hiker:“When it’s time to lace up the boots, it doesn’t get any better than a trip on the Citrus Hiking Trail in Inverness. Some consider this spot a secret of Citrus County. Loaded with plenty of quad-burning ups and downs over steep sand hills, it’s a popular training ground for hikers prepping for the strenuous Appalachian Trail. With four loops stacked together, the complete hike is somewhere north of 40 miles in length, and generally takes about three days to complete. For day hikes, it’s easy to segment the loop by taking the blue-blazed cross trails.
When looking for a longer trek, load up your gear and hit the 16-mile hiking loop at Potts Preserve, an 8,500-acre paradise northeast of Inverness. From bobcats to ultra-rare native orchids, nature is thriving on this trail.—‘There are a couple of really nice backcountry campsites here, and an overnight stay is highly recommended at the Holly Tree site.’ The Churchhouse Hammock and Path to the Past Trails are some other local gems for hikes. They are part of Crystal River Preserve State Park and conveniently located right on U.S. 19. Here, a short boardwalk loops through an ancient palm and pine habitat, and the Path to the Past Trail spurs off the boardwalk and out to a coastal overlook.
Back in Inverness, the just-rugged-enough loops at Whispering Pines Park are perfect for trail running. Liberty Trail connects Liberty Park and Wallace Brooks Park and offers great views of Lake Henderson”.
Mother Nature made Citrus County “a natural” when it comes to equestrian activities. Whether you want a day’s ride or a full equestrian camping trip, the facilities you need are here. Also, you may trailer your own horse or rent one when you arrive. Whatever your choices, the fun of riding through some of the most beautiful public lands in Citrus County is available to you. At Tillis Hill, in the Citrus tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, there is a horse stable which accommodates 20 horses, as well as a 37-site camping area. From this campground, you can begin a 14-mile one day trail, or a 24-mile two-day trail. We recommend you make reservations with the Florida Department of Forestry (352) 796-5650 for use of the horse stables. Trails are available for use at any time. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) has established horse trails on both the Flying Eagle and Pott’s Preserve tracts. Flying Eagle has nine miles of designated equestrian trails (closed during hunting season). Equestrian camping is also allowed by permit. Call 1-800-423-1476.Potts Preserve has 12 miles of marked trails and even allows horse-drawn buggies by permit. A limited number of horse stalls and overnight camping (no charge) is allowed by permit. Call 1-800-423-1476.
The Withlacoochee State Trail is the newest addition to horseback riding trails in Citrus County. Plans include interconnection with Fort Cooper State Park for stable and camping opportunities. Horseback riding is presently confined to designated bridle paths. For more information, call 352-726-0315. Horse Back Riding: A-OK Ranch/Angel Oaks Korral, Inverness; Blueberry Hill Farm Lecanto; Clear view Farm Inverness; Rymar Ranch Lecanto.
And from an avid golfer and equestrian:” Black Diamond is so close to world class equestrian country.(OCALA, FL) The HITS (Horse Show in the Sun), located at Post Time Farm, a 450 acre venue that presents 10 consecutive USEF-rated shows in the winter. HITS Ocala ends each March with the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. Live Oak International in Ocala is the largest and most prestigious Combined Driving Event in the country. The current National Four In-Hand Champion is Chester Weber, whose family owns Live Oak Plantation, where the event is held. Ocala is home to the Florida Horse Park, where a great variety of events are held, including Eventing, Dressage, Show Jumping and Combined Driving at all levels from FEI, USEF rated to local events. The Horse Park is also the venue for Polo Matches. You can enjoy the Horse Park as a participant, a spectator or a volunteer. Ocala affords access to the Cross Florida Greenway, with trails from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River. A drive through the horse farms in the greater Ocala area is a wonderful way to spend a day.”
Interesting article on the benefits of horseback riding: