Withlacoochee State Forest is currently the third largest state forest in Florida and is divided into several distinct tracts of land. Using sound ecosystem management, the Florida Forest Service provides for multiple-use of the forest resources. The forest is managed for timber, wildlife, ecological restoration and outdoor recreation.
Withlacoochee State Forest was acquired by the federal government from private landowners between 1936 and 1939 under the provisions of the U.S. Land Resettlement Administration. The U.S. Forest Service managed the property until a lease-purchase agreement transferred the property to the Florida Board of Forestry in 1958.
Withlacoochee State Forest's location provides convenient access for many visitors since it is within two hours driving time from Cape Canaveral, Orlando and several other points of interest. The state forest is located in west central Florida with headquarters located on U.S. Highway 41 approximately 7 miles north of the town of Brooksville and 50 miles north of Tampa.
Map with Trailhead Locations:
Withlacoochee is an Indian word meaning "crooked river," which accurately describes the river as it makes its 70-mile journey from the Green Swamp in northern Polk County to the Gulf of Mexico at Yankeetown. Withlacoochee State Forest has several waterways that flow through different portions of the property. The Withlacoochee River, Little Withlacoochee River and Jumper Creek have all been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. The most notable is the Withlacoochee River, which meanders through 13 miles of the forest.
Trees of many species create dense woodlands and canopy trails. Species found on the forest include slash pine, longleaf pine, pond cypress, bald cypress, oak, maple, southern magnolia, gum and hickory. Springtime forest visitors will be delighted with the colorful abundance of wildflowers. Flower varieties such as goldenrod, thistle and blazing star can be found along state forest roadways.
Wildlife is abundant and there are a number of species that are listed as endangered, threatened or species of special concern. Bald eagle, fox squirrel and gopher tortoise may be seen, along with white-tailed deer, wild turkey, rabbit and gray squirrel.
Named one of the "10 Coolest Places You've Never Been in North America" by the World Wildlife Fund, Withlacoochee State Forest is a haven for the outdoor enthusiast. Activities include miles of trails for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and canoeing. Seasonal hunting is available in most of the forest, and fishing is plentiful on Withlacoochee’s many lakes and waterways. Several campgrounds are available and feature full-facility, primitive or group camping areas. Croom Motorcycle Area provides 2,600 acres of off-road facilities for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Several day-use facilities are located on the forest and provide areas for picnicking and wildlife viewing.
- Find out about Recreation and Camping Facilities at Withlacoochee State Forest.
- Experience Florida's state forests first hand, become a Trailwalker.
- Explore Florida's state forests on horseback, as a Trailtrotter.
- Withlacoochee State Forest is part of the Florida Scenic Trail.
- Withlacoochee State Forest is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
- Hunting and fishing are offered on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) within Withlacoochee State Forest. Find out more about WMAs on Withlacoochee State Forest.
The Withlacoochee State Forest Visitor’s Center is open daily for visitors to obtain brochures and maps. Contact us for:
- Trail brochures
- Current trail conditions
- Trail closures during hunt seasons, special events, prescribed burns, flooding, etc.
- Contact information for trail groups offering guided tours of trails
In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules that apply to all state forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.