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The Lake Apopka Loop Trail is nearly 15-miles. There’s an abundance of nature as well as some background history regarding the lake. Spanning across former farmland along the north shore, Florida’s fourth largest lake, once second, is currently a restoration in progress after the soil had been poisoned with pesticides and the city, after buying the land, allowed it to flood.
The trail was proposed by the Friends of Lake Apopka to boost appreciation for the suffering lake in Orange and Lake Counties. It may one day tie into the West Orange Trail and other paths to circle the 50-square-mile lake. With improved water conditions, wetland plant species are returning. This is a wonderful trail for nature lovers; a popular birding destination; with abundant alligators and occasional raccoons, otters, and turtles.
The only restrooms are at Magnolia Park and a port-a-john at the old pump house at mile marker 4. Other than parking, there are no amenities at either the North Shore or Clay Island trailheads. Take plenty of water and whatever else you need.
The Magnolia Park trailhead is located in Orange County's Magnolia Park at 2929 S. Binion Road, Apopka.
The North Shore trailhead is located at 24500 County Road 448A, Mt. Dora. Follow the spur that heads east from the parking area for one mile to link up with the trail.
The Clay Island trailhead is located at 22526 Carolyn Lane, Astatula.
Nice ride with lots of birds and gators. Didn't see a slot of other riders. Very nice but bumpy in places. Safe parking with restrooms. We stopped at La Prada Mexicana grocery and deli 5 miles down from the trailhead and got great homemade tamales to take on the trail.
What a great trail to enjoy nature. Walked with the dog 5.5 miles in and then back out. Lots of gators and birds. It definitely isn't a loop, 18 miles one way. Ran into several people riding bikes and the winter bird count was going on. Also trail markers every 1/2 mile for emergency or tracking your distance.
This is a fun trail but the review is incomplete as you can turn left just before Clay Island and continue on to the Green Mountain Trail-head (http://greenmountainbyway.org/things-to-do/natural-sites/). To loop the lake you can run south on the paved road from Green Mountain, through Montverde, and on to the Kilarney Trailhead for the West Orange Trail, then continue on West Orange for 10 miles and take a left on Ocoee-Apopka Road. From there it is about two miles to Binion Road, take a left and you are about 1/4 mile from where you started at Magnolia Park. It is a fun ride!
I have a Felt 29er and got a great workout. got held up by a 12 foot gator who was enjoying the sun just off the trail. rode around him and never looked back. did the whole trail out and back, it does not loop and is well marked. Make sure you have water and enjoy the scenery.
As others have stated, the trail is not smooth - it's compressed sand and gravel, so you can't hurry. For walkers, it's fine, but it would be useless for skateboarders and in-line skaters. I rode on a hybrid and as long as I rode slowly (7-8 mph) it was OK, although a bit hard on the old behind. Think of this more as a nature trail than a bike trail and you will get the idea. It's "Wild Florida" at it's best - birds everywhere and even the occasional turtle. However, what you will see are LOTS of alligators. Not little, just popped out of their shell - "aren't they cute" alligators, but BIG "I haven't eaten in a while and you look like my dinner" alligators. And I mean dozens, all with that evil grin. They are all along the shoreline as well as in the water. If you startle them, I promise they will startle you as well. If you are thinking of taking Fido for a walk, I would keep him on a short leash. I can just see one of these monsters chomping down on a small pet before you could say as much as "here boy!".
So take your time, stop along the trail and enjoy what's left of Florida's wilderness. And look out for the peacocks in Magnolia Park. They are spectacular and very tame but I think they expect to be fed!
It is not a loop!!
We have hybrid bikes and while the bikes were okay, it was an extremely uncomfortable and bumpy ride.
It ends without any sort of signage, so if you simply continue where the trail leads, you will end up on top of a hill. The trail was so uncomfortable that we didn't want to go back so we were forced to take an alternate through. We went through Montverde and down to Killarney Station of the West Orange and gave up!
Interesting wildlife. We saw tons of gators, birds of all kinds and beautiful scenery, although some of it was also marred by what looks like old government science experiment wastelands (like something out of the show "Lost").
Overall, not our favorit etrail in Central Florida so far.
Be sure you start early, this will help with the heat and rain.
I experience a close encounter with a few gators, there are a lot of gators (all sizes). If you are a bird lover you will enjoy this trail.
Just make sure you bring plenty of water/snacks for yourself and stay away from the water! Enjoy and remember to be safe, Florida weather can change quickly.
This is one of the most scenic views of Lake Apopka I have seen. I road to Magnolia park from the west Orange trail, only a couple miles on some side walks and side streets.
Once arrived, I noticed there were was almost no one on the trail, which I found to be very nice. I was wriding my cycle cross bike, usually good for compacted gravel and paved trail. I would strongly recommend a bike with shocks. I can also see this being a wonderful trail to walk on.
I have completed two sections of the trail. First from Mongolia park to the pumphouse. The wide path is not paved but something like compressed crushed stone. Lots of potholes. Would be most comfortable on a mountainbike or beach cruiser. Very little shade, some views of the lake. Lots of wildlife. Anytime we stopped we were swarmed by biting flies and mosquitoes. It is a marsh and lake!
Next trip in July we started at the north trailhead and went towards the pumphouse. The first half mile of trail reminded me of the potholes but not as bad, but then to my pleasant surprise after a turn the road smoothed to crushed rock in great condition. The first 4 miles were through more of a marsh area, best seen from bike or horseback. I could not imagine walking itin the summer. Very little breeze, lots of hungry bugs and humid in the marsh area.
From a bike you can see out into different areas of the marsh. Tons of birds also saw turtles, family of raccoons, a coyote who was not to concerned about us, and several very large gators on the trail. One was about 15 feet, and we almost turned around. Some shouting got him to move back into the water.
Not far after the gator, at about 4 miles the trail takes a couple of turns and then arrives at the edge of the lake. The breeze is nice, but the trail goes back to the horrible potholes surface. The pumphouse has porta potty and a small pond filled with big gators. There is a short section of the trail you have to share with cars taking the wildlife drive, but its one way for cars and they go slow and are polite.
The turns on the trail are well marked as there are multiple roads on levies. Each one is marked with a sign that says Stop! Turn around for loop trail.
So wear bug spray. .. bring lots of water, watch out for gators and enjoy a ride.
Don't let the crushed stone surface deter you; it is pretty much compacted all the way, and is very rideable. I have ridden the entire trail, and nowhere was I forced to stop. It can be a little rough, with many potholes, but it is not a problem if you watch where you are going. I prefer to ride my old beach cruiser on this trail, but I have seen many people with hybrids and road bikes. The trail is virtually flat except for a slight rise and descent at the bridge over the Apopka-Beauclair Canal.
The best section of the trail for viewing 'gators and birds is from Magnolia Park west for about 6 miles, but the entire trail is worthwhile. You will likely see large 'gators from a very close distance.
There are nice picnic shelters at the old pump house (mm 4) and at mm 8.7. Be sure and carry drinking water, as there is none on the trail.
A friend and I made the 21-mile round trip from the Clay Island trailhead to the old pump house and back on Monday, March 16th. We saw many alligators and birds, 2 raccoons, and 3 otters.
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