Starting across the street from Silver River State Park, the trail makes its way south from a prominent trailhead along the Cross Florida Greenway at Sharpes Ferry Road (CR 314). The trail begins at the parking lot kiosk. Visit in winter to see a sprinkle of autumn color livening up the oaks, maples, and sweetgum, or before winter’s touch to savor the rich shades of green in the swamp at sunrise.
Location: Silver Springs
Length: 5.6 mile round-trip or 2.7 mile linear
Type: Linear with loop and spur
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: low to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
There are restrooms, picnic tables and potable water at the trailhead. Slather on the mosquito protection for this hike! And fair warning: walking on gravel this distance can be a bit rough on the feet. Use shoes with hefty soles.
From Interstate 75 in Ocala, take exit 352 and drive 8.4 miles east on SR 40 through Ocala to Silver Springs. Turn south on CR 35 (Baseline Rd) and drive 1.5 miles to CR 314 (Sharpes Ferry Rd). Turn left (east) and continue 2 miles to the trailhead entrance on the right.
Walk south from the trailhead into a forest of mixed hardwoods, with many laurel oaks. Orange blazes and orange footprint markers lead you onward. As the elevation drops a little, your surroundings become lush and filled with palm fronds; fungi creeps over rotting logs and dangles from hollows. At the trail junction sign, explore the loop to the west. A spur trail off the loop leads to an observation platform overlooking a pond edged with willow and lively with frogs.
Marvel at the height of the cabbage palms overhead, and at the colonies of resurrection fern, lichens, and mosses that blanket the live oak trees and fallen logs. Boardwalks provide crossings over low spots in the terrain, enabling sluggish tannic waters to flow between the cypress knees. This is but a finger of a much larger swamp draining into the Ocklawaha River, which flows northward to meet the St. Johns. Near here, along the fringe of Marshall Swamp, the Marshall Plantation, one of the largest sugar producers in the region, was raided by Union forces on March 7, 1865. Two weeks later, a local cavalry company tracked down the stolen goods and returned them. An annual re-enactment commemorates the skirmish along the river.
At the southern end of Marshall Swamp, the Florida Trail continues its journey for another 25 miles along the Cross Florida Greenway across Marion County, stretching from Silver Springs past Belleview to Dunnellon. An old tramway leads you away from the picnic table towards the SE 67th Ave trailhead and Baseline trailhead. But on a day hike, you’ll want to pause at the picnic table and retrace your path, exploring the other side of the loop to complete this 5.6 mile walk.
0.0 Marshall Swamp trailhead
0.2 junction with loop trail
0.4 side trail to pond overlook
0.4 junction with main trail
2.3 picnic table
2.7 SE 67th Ave trailhead