Ocala National Forest

Hiking The Yearling Trail in the Ocala National Forest – The Land that Inspired the Novel

Years ago, back when I was in High School, I remember the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings as being a major reading assignment in my Sophomore year. Years later, my own children were required to read the book during their high school years. Do you remember reading The Yearling? How about the 1940’s Hollywood adaptation of the novel starring Gregory Peck?

John and I love hiking, and we are always looking for new and interesting places to add a little Florida history learning to our hiking adventures. When I discovered that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings found her inspiration in the Ocala National Forest and that there was a trail marking the very spot where she visited and where the movie was filmed, I knew that it was a trail we just had to hike.

Check out this Video View of our Hike

In the late 1800s, Ruben and Sara Long of North Carolina migrated to Florida along with their eleven children, eventually making a life for themselves in a rugged big scrub area which is now part of The Ocala National Forest. In the 1930’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings left her New York home to take up residence in Florida. She visited with new friends Calvin and Mary Long, descendants of Ruben and Sara. Their stories of eeking out a meager living within the Longleaf and Sand Pine Scrub brought her the inspiration for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Details of our Hike

John and I hiked 4.2 miles of the 5.5-mile hike, opting out of the portion that connects with The Florida Scenic Trail. The temperature was in the high 80’s, and we got a late start, so we ended up hiking in the peak heat of the day. There is not much shade on the hike and knowing our limits, we backed tracked a bit as not to overdo it. Due to high temps and humidity, I, myself, would not attempt this hike in Florida’s brutal summer months.

Looking at the map below, you can shorten your hike and still see most of the landmarks by hiking only the Jody’s Trace loop. From #1 to #8, back to #1 is about 3.5 miles.

Yearling Trail

At #8, you will find the Long Family Cemetary. Reading the gravestones put the hike into a real human perspective. People lived here, worked the land here, and were inspired here.

The Beauty of the Ocala National Forest

Make sure you pack plenty of water and take a picture of the map posted on the trail. Apply your bug repellent and sunscreen. Also, a hat and sunglasses would come in handy. We had cell phone reception throughout the entire trial, and it is always good to keep your phone with you in case of emergency.

John and I love the Ocala National Forest and plan to have many more adventures there. We hope to visit Cross Creek soon, another area of Florida that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to write another novel, “Cross Creek.” Near Cross Creek is a restaurant called the Yearling, which is I hear is just as much a museum as it is a restaurant. It is closed on Wednesdays, and as luck would have it, we hiked The Yearling Trail on a Wednesday, so we missed visiting the restaurant on this trip. But that is the great thing about our journey; there is always the next time as the journey will never be complete.

How to get there

From Interstate 75 in Ocala or Interstate 95 in Ormond Beach, follow SR 40 into the Ocala National Forest to its intersection with SR 19 at traffic light east of Juniper Springs and west of Astor Park. From the intersection of SR 40 and SR 19 to the east of Juniper Springs, drive north on SR 19 for 6.2 miles. The trailhead is well marked by a large sign on the left, across from Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area entrance. Drive up the short dirt driveway to the trailhead parking area. There is no fee to enjoy this awesome trail.

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We hope you enjoyed our post. John and I are having a wonderful time discovering Florida and invite you to discover it right along with us. If you would like to learn more about great places to visit and things to do in Florida, please subscribe to our site, and we will send future posts straight to your email inbox. To get in on the Florida conversation, interact with us, make new Florida loving friends and ask Florida questions, then please join our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/THEVIEWFROMFLORIDA/groups/

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