Oakmont Residents’ Explorers’ Club: Get Out for a Walk

Spring has sprung, summer is around the corner, and longer days and temperate evenings mean the perfect time for Oakmont residents to stretch their legs.

Oakmont residents

Hiking in Florida’s cooler months has its charms — lower humidity and opportunities to pile on that toasty, little-used outerwear. But once landscapes glow with new growth, it’s the perfect time for Oakmont residents to get out for a walk.

There’s no shortage of walking opportunities in north central Florida. Oakmont is Gainesville’s premier master-planned community, surrounded by gently rolling hills, plentiful freshwater springs and numerous city, county and state parks.

So grab those athletic shoes and give it a go. Here’s a quick list of walkable places near Oakmont.

Gopher Tortoise Reserve

Gopher Tortoise ReserveOakmont spans 556 acres and if you’re a newer resident who hasn’t sampled your community’s jaw-dropper amenities, the Gopher Tortoise Reserve is a great first expedition.

It’s home to protected tortoises who share their habitat with a two-mile walking trail. Open only to Oakmont residents, the trail winds through the Reserve’s 46 acres and features signage explaining its sights. You’ll see woodlands, flowering plants and meadows, and perhaps a tortoise. It’s a fun walk for all ages.

Note: the Gopher Tortoise Reserve trail is pedestrian-only. Tuck your bicycle in the storage rack at the trail entrance.

Paynes Prairie State Park

This is an outdoor recreational powerhouse only minutes and miles south of Gainesville and Oakmont and a can’t-miss excursion.

Paynes Prairie was designated Florida’s first state preserve in 1971 and is a National Natural Landmark. The site’s history spans thousands of years, from native peoples, to Spanish, English and American settlers, and folks like noted 18th-century botanist William Bartram.

It’s also home to much wildlife and waterfowl, and is the site where regional springs and rivers merge into Florida’s underground limestone aquifer, which supplies most of the state’s freshwater resources.

Unsurprisingly, Paynes Prairie boasts some great hiking trails. There are eight of varying distances, including the three-mile La Chua Trail, which ends at the Preserve’s 50-foot-tall observation tower. Join a Preserve ranger-guided Rim Ramble Hike on Saturday mornings.

Note: dogs are not allowed on some Paynes Prairie trails due to wildlife risks. Check the Preserve’s website for more information.

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

This popular Gainesville-area trail actually courses through the north rim of Paynes Prairie State Preserve and is included as one of the Preserve’s eight hiking trails. The Trail is a paved multi-purpose surface that’s 10-feet-wide and roomy enough for cyclists, hikers, runners and other people who enjoy outdoor recreation. A grass-covered equestrian trail parallels it.

It’s part of a Rails-to-Trails restoration and runs along an old railroad bed from Gainesville to the historic town of Hawthorne. The Trail begins in Gainesville, at Boulware Springs Park, moves east through Paynes Prairie State Preserve, and ends in Hawthorne.

There are four trailheads and plenty of historic sites and landscapes to enjoy along the way.

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