There are multiple trails to take in O’Leno State Park, and they all connect, so I can’t tell you exactly how long your trip will be if you decide to go hiking out here. I usually reference AllTrails before I go anywhere to hike, so I was expecting a 6.5 mile trip, but once you get out here it gets sort of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-y so the final total ended up being 8 miles for us.
Probably the most popular trail in O’Leno is the River Sink Trail, which is a 1.5 mile loop that follows along the Santa Fe River. Hiking in Florida (as you’ve probably noticed), we see a lot of water that comes in all shapes and sizes, but the unique thing about the Santa Fe River is that it disappears underground now and again. So although a lot of the river just looks like ponds and little creeks, it is in fact all one river.
The trail starts out crossing a super old suspension bridge, and eventually splits off between the River Sink loop and the Paraners Branch trail, which is what we took until it again split off towards the Sweetwater Lake campsite. Most of the trail was wide and well-kept, but once we started traveling towards Sweetwater Lake, it started feeling a lot more like we were actually getting away from civilization.
Not too long after we started down that way, the trail crossed over Bellamy Road, a super old dirt road that runs all the way to Tallahassee. From there, it’s about another mile to the campsite (which consists of five or six big rocks around a fire pit, and some grassy places where you might pitch a tent). We stopped here for lunch, with a great view of the lake. For some reason, you’re also allowed to go swimming here if you want. They put a big sign up warning about alligators, which seems a little discouraging, but I guess if you’re really feeling it. Sure.
You can definitely hike much farther if you want, I don’t know for sure how far out that trail goes. If it weren’t Superbowl Sunday, we may have trekked out a little longer, but instead we turned around and finished out the end of Paraners Branch trail back to the parking lot.
This would be an awesome place to spend a weekend though, it seems like there’s a lot more to do besides hiking (like swimming, canoeing, camping of course, but it also looks like they’re set up with pavillions and places to hold bigger events). We just picked up a tent, so hopefully we’ll be able to start doing some camping soon. This would be a great place to get our toes wet (so to speak…but also maybe literally?).