50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

This is Hike #17 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on May 19, 2019.

I arrived at De Leon Springs State Park just before one o’clock to find the park was full, so I had to join the queue of cars waiting to get in. As cars left, the seven or eight cars ahead of me were let in. After waiting for about fifteen minutes I paid my $4 entrance fee and alerted the ranger that I would be hiking the Wild Persimmon Loop trail.

To reach the trailhead for the Wild Persimmon Trail you first have to walk up a short paved trail. From this trail, the book recommended taking a quick side boardwalk trail to see Old Methuselah, a bald cypress tree that’s more than 500 years old. So I did.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

I rejoined the paved trail, took a left and continued to the loop at the end where the proper trailhead stood. The sign warned of “BEARS in Area” and to beware of venomous snakes, so I was half hoping and half worried I’d run into a bear and wholely worried I’d step on a snake.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

The trail description didn’t mention any exceptional spots, so I decided I’d walk this trail at a bit of a faster pace than normal. So off I went to follow the blue blazes. Although not shown on the map in the book, there were markers mentioned in the text to note your progress.

Less than ten minutes in, I reached the first of several wood plank walkways. Although the trail was mostly dry, these raised boards were useful to keep above the grass and out of the few muddy spots.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

The first marker I noticed was Marker 5 about a mile into the hike. I came to a clearing with a grassy trail going off to the right, but the book said to stay to the left and reenter the woods. I passed a couple of benches, Marker 6 and 7, followed by more wood walkways. Soon I reached the Wild Persimmon Loop trail next to a rustic bench.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

Again, I stayed to the left and hiked into the woods, soon reaching Marker 8. I hiked on nearly walking into a large spider web. Ducking under that one, I soon came across another to the right of the trail. In the center of this web was the empty husk of a large spider, still hanging where it died.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

The rest of this section was uneventful as I passed Marker 9 and 10. The trail briefly became a grassy double-track before entering the woods again before Marker 11. Soon the trail emerged back into a sunlit grass trail (see photo, at top) where it continued for some time. This section was hot and I was followed for a bit by a horsefly or small wasp or something. I had slowed my earlier quick pace but here I picked it up again. I passed Marker 12 and then the first “EXIT” marker. A bit farther in the sun and I reached the end of the Wild Persimmon Loop at Marker 13 and the rustic bench from earlier. Another “EXIT” marker pointed to the trailhead.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

I quickly retraced the trail back to the beginning, crossing again all of the wooden plank walkways. Shortly before the end, I passed one older hiking couple then a group of kids. I emerged back onto the paved trail around three o’clock, completing the recommended hike.

I wasn’t yet tired, so I chose to walk one of the short “other hiking options” for this hike in the book. Just a few yards down the paved trail was the trailhead for the Monkey Island Trail

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

This turned out to be a busy half-mile total out-and-back walk that ended at bench sitting a muddy patch. I circled the bench and headed back.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

I still had one last section to hike just before reaching the trailhead. So at the fork I turned right to follow the trail a short way before it ended again. This is where you can see the remains of the original Monkey Island which was home to monkeys and part of a jungle cruise in the 1950s and ’60s.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park

Leaving the Monkey Island Trail I turned right and followed the paved trail down to De Leon Springs. The swimming area was crowded and loud so I just took a quick walk around the springs, across the bridge, and behind the Old Spanish Sugar Mill. Since I hadn’t carried any water, I bought lemonade and a bottle of water and headed to my car.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park Route Details

Post-Hike Beer

Persimmon Hollow wasn’t directly on my drive home, but I was passing by downtown DeLand so I motored a few miles out of my way to enjoy my traditional post-hike beer(s). This was the hottest day of hiking so far, so the cold wheat beer was most welcome. The bartender there recognized me and my book from a previous trip and we got to chatting about hiking again. He was moving north soon and planned to do some hiking in his new place. I also started looking forward to my next hike.

50 Hikes: #17 De Leon Springs State Park Beer