People On Bikes / Trails

Big Tree Park to Black Hammock Trailhead Along the Cross Seminole Trail

An Easy Way to Bike 20+ Miles – Out-and-Back

by William Wills

I’m mainly a trail guy.  Bike trail, trail mix, Portland Trailblazers. I enjoy the variety of paved multi-use trails throughout Seminole County and periodically will go off-road on relatively easy packed-sand pathways. I don’t typically bike on Seminole County streets because I tend to veer and wobble way too much to cling to the right side of public roads. Luckily for me and others who stick to the trails, there are plenty of lengthy routes on paved trails available, and my recent ride along the Cross Seminole Trail between Big Tree Park and Black Hammock Trailhead is an example of an excellent one.

I started at the Big Tree Park trailhead, took a hard right (east) coming out of the trailhead and kept biking until I could bike no more (because I was tired, not because the trail ran out). My out-and-back route took me 11 miles to my turnaround point at Black Hammock Trailhead for a total of 22 miles, which is a nice way to spend a few hours on an early summer morning.   (Note: Coming out of Big Tree, you could instead veer left (west) but that quickly leads to a sidewalk that crosses over Ronald Reagan Blvd (SR 427) and continues as a sidewalk until you get to Lake Mary High School.)

Where to start this ride?

 Big Tree Park is somewhat centrally located in Seminole County in Longwood at 761 General Hutchinson Pkwy. between Ronald Reagan (SR 427) and 17-92.  The trail runs both east and west out of the park, but I headed east (turn right) out of the entrance.  Big Tree Park has plenty of parking and amenities including water, a bathroom, covered seating and a playground. 

Lady Liberty Tree at Big Tree Park

The eponymous ‘big tree’ used to be the Senator, a 3,500-year-old bald cypress, but it perished in a fire in January 2012. Now the largest tree is Lady Liberty, an impressive two millennium’s worth of towering bald cypress. She sits patiently at the end of a short boardwalk – a great place for photo opportunities even if you’re not biking.  

Heading out of Big Tree eastward you’ll immediately encounter a newly and well-paved pathway with lush foliage and trees clinging to each side, zigging and zagging gently. You’ll clatter over Soldier’s Creek Bridge, with a sign inviting you to go off-road.  If you choose to do so, this one-way off-road trail tightly parallels the creek, crossing over it a few times.  But that’s for another article.  

Soldiers Creek Park

Soldiers Creek Park

Continue biking and you’ll get to BOOMBAH Soldier’s Creek Park right at the SR 419 crossing.  This large complex houses six baseball fields, plenty of parking, and amenities. You could start here instead and easily access the same trail.  Continue on, but carefully, across SR 419. There’s a signal but at the writing of this article, the bike crosswalk is not yet operational so please be careful. (It should be operating soon, so please press the button to cross safely.)

Crossing the state road takes you by the Environmental Studies Center, tucked to the right side of the trail as you continue toward Lake Jesup. At this point, you could continue straight and off the paved road and into a thick forest canopy.  Instead, you’ll veer rightward and follow the pathway under the crackling high tension lines, the least attractive part of this route but a great study in vanishing lines.  No matter it’s still a pleasant and quiet ride that slowly moves uphill.

Near the end of this portion, you end up traversing a railroad crossing that has recently been completed.  It includes crossing arms and a raised path that doesn’t force you to dismount.

Gee Creek section

Onward, parallel SR 419 down the sunniest part of this journey. You’ll eventually turn left into the entrance of Layers Elementary School and then a right onto the Gee Creek portion of the trail.  Here you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful thick overhand of native trees and then cross Gee Creek.  Take a stop there and just listen to the sounds of nature. 

The Florida National Scenic Trail Merge & Past Central Winds Park

Continue along as the Cross Seminole Trail merges and shares pavement with The Florida National Scenic Trail. It eventually turns left to parallel SR 434 towards Tuskawilla Road until you meet the south side of Central Winds Park, where you’re treated to a beautiful vantage point over vast expanses grassy lands, four baseball fields, numerous picnic areas, and brand-new restrooms.  At this point, you’ll veer away from SR 434, behind Winter Springs High School and continue near Winter Springs Town Center.  It’s a good place to take a break, maybe have a drink or even a pizza as there are plenty of shops and restaurants. 

Howell Creek Trestle Bridge and on to Black Hammock Trailhead
For the rest of the ride, you’ll be shielded from the sun under an uninterrupted canopy that keeps you cool even when it’s a scorcher.  An antique looking trestle bridge takes you over Howell Creek where you’ll spy a rope for folks who want to swing out and drop into the tannic acid-colored water.  You could do that, or travel a short distance further and you’ll be given the option to veer left to the Black Hammock Trailhead (right at the intersection of the 417 and SR 434) or continue straight into Oviedo.  I took the left and stopped at the trailhead because I was pooped and was heading into the hottest part of the day. And considering I had to trek back to Big Tree, over ten miles back I needed to sit for a bit.   There’s a bathroom nearby that includes a water fountain and some benches.

The whole journey took nearly three hours (with some stops along the way).  The trail is peppered with benches where you can pause and re-energize.   I’ve made this journey a few times and it’s never been crowded.  The way is wide and smooth, well marked, and a pleasant way to spend a summer morning.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll see along the trail

By Guest Writer William Wills, a BWCF volunteer and trail correspondent, is a native of Central Florida. He enjoys the outdoors, and you might find him at the beach or on the trails, biking, blading, or at night viewing the stars through his telescope. 

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