O’leno State Park (High Springs, Florida) surpasses expectations.
The road into the park is paved, and the parking lot holds a moderate number of cars. Visitors are greeted with well-kept restrooms, a playground, and an expansive, well-kept picnic area.
On this initial visit, I walked River Trail, Dogwood Trail (to Limestone Trail), and Limestone Trail, for a combined distance of 3.4 miles.
To reach River Trail from the parking lot, cross the picnic area. Soon you will see the Santa Fe River.
Then, look for the long swinging bridge, which serves as the trailhead.
When I crossed the bridge, I veered toward the left, taking the section that parallels the river. There was still a bit of fall color during this mid-December outing. And, since the trees had dropped many leaves, viewing the water was easy.
Occasional alligator warnings remind hikers to stay watchful. Although I didn’t see any alligators during my visit, I did hear a juvenile barking for its mother.
The park is filled with natural gullies, which apparently fill when the area floods. But today the paths were dry and covered with leaf litter. Boardwalks extend across deeper depressions.
As I walked, the well-marked trail eventually turned away from the water, crossing drier scrubland.
It then curved once again toward the river, wrapping sink holes and some long, skinny lakes.
A flock of Sandhill Cranes flocked overhead, honking rhythmically.
After this 1.5 mile trail, I had some lunch and then walked to the other end of the parking lot. Walking the left-hand side of the road, I soon spotted a sign for Dogwood Trail, which parallels the pavement.
Seven-tenths of a mile later, the trail again met the paved road.
Limestone Trail was across the street.
I had high hopes for Limestone Trail and its rock outcroppings. But I saw only one outcropping and some standing water.
However, there were some beautiful maples in glorious fall color that made the hike worthwhile.
The trail itself was covered with fallen leaves. Although it was a pleasant hike, it was a bit of a let-down after spectacular River Trail.
Oleno State Park is at 410 SE O’Leno Park Road in High Springs, Florida. I hope to complete the 4.4 mile, Paraners Branch Loop Trail in the future. Paraners is accessed via River Trail. Just veer toward the right before crossing the swinging bridge and continue until you reach the trail sign. Or cross the bridge and go straight on River Trail. Again, look for the Paraners sign.