Levy Loop Trail is located in the Barr Hammock Preserve just south of Gainesville, FL. The entire loop is about 6.5 miles around, with lots of benches where you can stop and take in the scenery (and also maybe a snack). While the parking lot by the trail head is right next to the highway, it doesn’t take long before you’ve hiked away from everything and all you can hear are the wind and the birds.
And there are a lot of hecking birds. I wish I knew more about them so I could tell you all the different sorts of birds we saw, but as it stands all I can say is that most of them were some type of heron or egret. At one point pretty early in the hike, when it was mostly quiet apart from the stiff breeze and our on-and-off conversation, suddenly there were some very loud and close-sounding bird noises that about scared me out of my brand new hiking boots. We walked for almost a solid minute, expecting to see the bird somewhere in the tall grass right along the trail, but eventually we notice a group probably 50 or 60 feet away in the marshes (which you can make out in one of the above pictures). We guessed that the sound must have been just bouncing off of the embankment, making them sound way closer than they actually were. It was pretty neat, though again, unfortunately I have no idea what kind of birds they were. I did get some decent video in which you can hear what we were hearing, and if you want you can take a listen here.
The southern half of the trail was lined with beautiful tall trees full of Spanish moss, and we got to see a few deer as well. Thankfully it was a bit too cold for the snakes and alligators to be out; there was a fair amount of signage at the trail head warning to look out for those.
This was our first Real Hike, and it was a really awesome experience. I’m happy to know that we can walk for six and a half miles without dying, and still have energy afterwards to do another (significantly shorter) hike.
If you’re in the area and feel up to it, this trail is definitely worth the hike. The northern half of the trail is completely out in the open, though, so if you go when the sun is out make sure to bring a hat and lots of sunscreen (or in our case, if it’s cold and windy make sure to bring a good warm windbreaker).