While visiting my college roommate in Tampa this summer, we decided to do a midnight bioluminescence kayaking tour on the other side of the state. In order to kill some time before the tour started, we decided to hike the Hal Scott Regional Preserve.
Hal Scott Regional Preserve a great spot to kill a few hours
We had to drive across the state to Titusville, so Kerry asked me to do some research and find a hiking spot along the corridor between Tampa and Titusville. It is not too difficult to find something to do in the outdoors in Florida and this task turned out to be rather simple. Looking at the map on google maps, the stretch of road we were driving consisted of green spaces, Orlando, more green spaces, and then the coast.
I placed my finger on one green part of the map that seemed even greener than the rest. I know you are green with envy reading this post and perhaps even looking forward to St. Patty’s day. If that is the case, then you need to listen to my roommate’s band, Paddy O’Furniture. Now that we made the shameless plug to my good friend’s band, we can continue with the post.
This spot was the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park. I looked it up on the web and discovered the preserve featured over 20 miles of trails featuring three loop trails in the realm of five miles. This was exactly what we were looking for.
Hot humid with a chance of rain
We embarked on this adventure in early July. The Florida summer forecast is rather consistent. The weather called for hot and humid with possible thunderstorms. Furthermore, this was two days after Tropical Storm Elsa drenched the state, so we knew conditions would be far from ideal.
We pulled off the interstate after some terrible Orlando traffic and found ourselves in the welcoming community of Wedgefield. We drove a few miles through this charming community before finding the entrance to the park and the trailhead off of Dallas Boulevard.
We were under no delusions regarding Hal Preserve Regional Park
We knew exactly what we signed up for when we decided to hike Hal Preserve Regional Park in the summertime after a tropical storm. I fully expected the combination of mosquitoes, humidity, and flooded trails to really limit our experience to perhaps not even a mile or two. Surprisingly, the weather fully cooperated and we were able to hike several miles and explore the center of the park.
Overcast and threatening rain led to pleasant conditions
Thunderstorms were in the area, so the sky completely clouded over. A couple of times it began to lightly rain, but it never rained all that hard. The light rain and overcast conditions held the humidity in check and made for decent hiking conditions. It was still warm, but not oppressively humid. This also held the mosquitoes in check. They made an appearance, but they were not all that bad.
We hiked the White Blaze Trail past a pond and ended up at a beautiful campsite. We then looped back around the trail and crossed over the Econlockhatchee River. Due to Elsa, the river was quite high as it meandered through a forested swamp. The campsite we checked out was a beautiful live oak canopy and the river area was heavily wooded; however, the majority of the park was pine palmetto prairie.
Hal Scott Regional Preserve is a different sort of prairie
Kerry and I both grew up in Illinois, which is noted as the prairie state. The name prairie conjures up images of Little House on the Prairie and running aimlessly through the grasslands with ease. Florida prairies are a different beast. If you ran Melissa Gilbert style through a Florida prairie, you would not get far before thick undergrowth would tear your legs to shreds. Kerry and I marveled several times how impenetrable the vegetation was even in the more open prairie sections.
Spiders and snakes abound here, so staying on the trail is the best bet. Florida hiking is best enjoyed treading lightly with your eyes peeled in front. I nearly stepped on a water moccasin while hiking a Florida prairie farther south.
In search of the red-cockaded woodpecker
Hal Scott Regional Preserve is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. They love the old growth pine forests. I thought sure that we saw one, but it turned out to be a red-bellied woodpecker. We also got a nice glimpse of a pileated woodpecker. Besides two woodpeckers, other bird highlights included an osprey at the pond and a wild turkey by the campsite.
Flooded trails added to the adventure at Hal Scott Regional Preserve
The flooded trails were a little bit of an annoyance, but they also added to the adventure. We had sandals back at the car, so a few hours of wet socks is not too much of an inconvenience. It was actually a little refreshing feeling the cool water on your feet as we sloshed through the submerged trails.
No spectacular sunset tonight at Hal Scott Regional Preserve
Hal Scott Regional Preserve is noted for its beautiful sunsets. We enjoyed some beautiful views of the clouds in the distance, but those same clouds blocked a spectacular sunset. There are pros and cons to every adventure, and we benefited from the cooler weather thanks to the cloud cover.
Part of the St. John’s River Water Management District
We were thoroughly impressed with Hal Scott Regional Preserve and the St. John’s River Water Management District. Hal Scott is run by the aforementioned water management district, and they operate several other outdoor recreation areas in the St. John’s River watershed. I was impressed with the trails, the camping, and the scenery at this beautiful oasis not far from the Orlando Airport.
I will definitely return for another hike, and I will look into the camping next time I am in the area. The campsite under the live oak canopy was gorgeous. They also have backcountry camping available along the trails.
Best time to come to Hal Scott Regional Preserve
Another impressive aspect about this park is we managed to have a great time during the absolute worst time to visit. If you have an option, do not come to Florida in the summer and go hiking. Even though we hiked in mid July after a tropical storm, we still managed to have an enjoyable hike. Check out the Water Management’s website for more information.