Want to get lost in the woods? Not literally, but in a get-away-from-it-all manner that refreshes and restores? We’ve got the place for Oakmont residents. It’s the Tuscawilla Preserve, a 600-acre conservation tract near the historic town of Micanopy, just south of Gainesville. Teeming with flora and fauna, it includes Lake Tuscawilla, a hiking trail amid forests, wetlands and open prairie, and even a small picnic area, plus handy parking.
If you wonder why you should leave Gainesville’s top master-planned community to enjoy a walk in the woods — especially when Oakmont is surrounded by namesake live oaks and palms and pines of its own — the answer is simply a fun escape.
Visiting parklands and preserves is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Gainesville’s north central Florida landscape. You have lakes and rivers fed by crystal-clear freshwater springs. Forests that provide vistas and trails for walking, hiking and mountain biking. Wildlife spotting and birdwatching. And, plenty of state, city and municipal parks with facilities, programs and easy access.
So, let’s get out there! Here are our tips for a walk in the woods at Tuscawilla Preserve.
Where to find it
It’s an easy 20-mile drive from Oakmont — and another example of the community’s convenience to everywhere you want to be in the Gainesville region.
Go east out of Oakmont’s main entrance and head south on Interstate 75. Take Exit 374 and head east toward Micanopy on Alachua County Road 234.
The Tuscawilla Preserve is just southeast of Micanopy’s picturesque downtown area (do reconnaissance for a post-hike ice cream or coffee stop while you’re at it). Turn right off CR 234 onto Northwest Seminary Avenue, then right on Northeast Cholokka Boulevard. The latter becomes Southeast Tuscawilla Road and you’ll see the Preserve on your right.
Park across the street at the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve (more on that momentarily).
Enjoy the exploration
The Tuscawilla Preserve contains 1.5 miles of unpaved trails that lead visitors past creeks, marshy areas and through north central Florida forests. It’s also historic land in the care of the Alachua Conservation Trust, so tread lightly and leave no traces.
Lake Tuscawilla expands and contracts depending on the season, but you’ll always have gorgeous landscape to explore in every season. Take the binoculars if you’re a birdwatcher or learning how to become one. You’ll be rewarded.
Keep an eye out for deer, turtles, otters and other wildlife. Fido is welcome to accompany you, but remember to keep him or her safely leashed. Watch eagles and hawks soar overhead. Listen to grasses, palm fronds and tree canopies rustle in the wind.
The Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve across the street from the Tuscawilla Preserve is another lovely place to explore. Its 16 acres contain historic Native American sites and an unpaved hiking trail. It’s a Florida Communities Trust park.
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