ORLANDO, Fla. — Seminole County’s Spring Hammock Preserve isn’t far from urban Winter Springs and Lake Mary, but it’s possible for visitors to feel far removed from civilization when traversing the land’s flood plain forests and hydric hammock.
The 1,500-acre preserve is home to some of Florida’s oldest and largest cypress trees, as well as rare species such as the bipinnate culpet fern and the gopher tortoise.
At the trailhead, visitors can find several covered pavilions with picnic tables and an Environmental Studies Center designed for Seminole County elementary schoolers and outdoor education. After parking, it’s easy to hop onto the paved Cross Seminole Trail on foot or bike from the preserve.
The most common route for hikers is the 2.2-mile Osprey Trail, where it’s possible to spot great blue herons, pileated woodpeckers, cardinals, squirrels, ibis and other wildlife. Alligators, bobcats and wild hogs may also be present in the area. Look out for spider webs along the way, as arachnids often stretch their sticky silk across the trail.
A number of boardwalks used to take hikers to different sections of trail, many of which are now boarded up or in need of repair. Still, it’s possible to see some ancient cypress trees while wandering next to flood plains near Soldiers Creek, which leads into Lake Jesup.
When heading back toward the trailhead, a detour on the Robin Trail intersects with the Cross Seminole Trail and provides new views of Soldiers Creek while walking beneath towering oak trees and next to saw palmettos.
Across the street, Soldiers Creek Park offers restrooms and a fun, short mountain bike trail in an easily accessible location.
On weekdays, the trails are quiet and serene, though it’s still possible to hear the faint noise of traffic in the distance on U.S. Highway 17-92. Despite that, Spring Hammock Preserve should serve as a beautiful setting for a morning walk or evening escape, tucked away from the trials of urban life.
Location: 2985 Osprey Trail in Longwood, Florida
Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily
Amenities: Covered pavilions, picnic tables, hiking trail, paved trail, education center, parking, trash cans, wheelchair accessibility
Activities: Birding, biking, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing
What to bring: Pack a camera to capture the natural scenery available in the preserve. Hiking boots are also recommended in case of muddy areas. Bug spray may be a helpful addition during warm and humid days.
What not to bring: Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on Seminole County natural lands. Hunting, swimming, camping, tampering with plants and wildlife, fires and motorized vehicles are also not allowed.
Pets: Leashed pets are welcome to enjoy the natural space at Spring Hammock Preserve.
Pro tips: A trip to the preserve can serve as a quick hiking escape or turn into an all-day adventure, especially when combining visits to other nearby green spaces. Pack a picnic or spend more time outdoors by visiting Soldiers Creek Park next door, or nearby Big Tree Park with a big cypress thought to be thousands of years old.
More information: 407-665-2211 or seminolecountyfl.gov