For several years we have passed The Yearling Trail as we make our way to several springs that are near it. Hiking the trail has been on our list for years, but every time we pass by it's too hot outside (it's not hiking season when it's spring swimming season). A couple of weeks ago, we watched The Yearling movie, and decided that during this year's hiking season (which runs from about November-April in Florida) we would hike the trail. Today, we had nice cool morning to go take the hike, so we did!
The area became famous after Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings visited the area in the 1930's. There, she was told the story of how someone there had raised a deer, called The Yearling. She went on to use that as inspiration to write the award winning book, which came out in 1938. It was also later turned into a movie, which was filmed there.
I printed a map of The Yearling Trail from online, but it turned out to not be so accurate (at least where the points of interest were located). The trail is right across the street from Silver Glen Springs. There is a parking area and you can start heading back on the trail to find informational signs. The signs explain the significance of the area, as well as provide an accurate map (snap a picture of it, so you have it with you if you need it). The first leg of the trail heads straight back, and you will come to a fork in the road, where you can decide which way to go, either right or left. The trail loops, so either way you, will end up back at that point when yo make your way around the loop.
We went to the right. The trail has a yellow blaze, which is good in some areas and nearly absent in other areas. The first half of this trail is quite challenging. There is no clear cut trail and without the blazes you would wonder if you are even on the trail. There were many downed trees that we climbed over, bushes we pushed through, and brush that you make your way through on the trail. At about the two mile mark, the trail takes a turn to the left (to continue the loop). However, the blaze is so poorly marked that we missed it. Since you are supposed to make a left turn, there should be a double yellow blaze to let you know the trail turns. But there isn't. So we continued on straight for about another .25 miles. As an avid hiker, I know that if you go about 10 minutes and don't see a blaze or sign that you are still on the trail, it means you probably are not and you need to turn back to find your last marker and try continuing on again. Many people have missed that turn, as that quarter mile trek is well worn with people who have walked it, only to have to turn back.
So, around the two mile mark (if you had went to the right of the loop from the beginning), there is a left turn of the trail. There is a blaze on a tree after turning left, but if you don't see it you will miss it, since the turn is not properly marked with a double blaze to indicate the turn. Once you make the left turn, you continue on and you will come to a large sinkhole on the right hand side. It's an impressive sinkhole! Continue on straight and you will come to a spot where you can go straight to head back to the old cemetery, turn right to head out to the Florida Trail, or turn left to continue on The Yearling Trail loop. We headed back to check out the cemetery, before continuing on the loop trail. The cemetery is just a minute off the main trail and is worth checking out. The graves of those who lived there before are in it and it's interesting to read their headstones.
When you continue on the loop you will come to the place where The Yearling movie was filmed. Continue on after that and you will make your way back around the loop, and back to the long entrance where you started. The second half of the loop trail is much easier than the first. It's more clearly defined as to where the trail is.
The trail was a lot of fun and well worth doing! The scrub habitat is beautiful, unique, and the forest was awesome. It was also a little bit of a windy day, so I got to keep hearing my favorite sound in the world - the wind through the trees. The trail is in the Ocala National Forest, which is wonderful. You see a piece of Old Florida, and it's lovely. We saw a woodpecker, scrub jay, and numerous gopher tortoise burros. In all, we hiked 5 miles. Had we not missed the turn and went back to look at something we missed, the distance of doing the loop would have been more around 4 miles.
This trail is not stroller friendly, but it is something children can handle if they walk. It's quite a trek for those under five, but those over five (or kids used to hiking) should have no problem with the distance. Two minutes in the car and on our way home and both kids (ages 10 and 12) were sound asleep after such a long hike. It was a great morning!
Here are pictures from our hike on The Yearling Trail today: