I love trail running at Croom in Withlacoochee State Forest. Withlacoochee State Forest is the third largest state forest in Florida and is divided into different areas. Withlacoochee State Forest has a lot of outdoor activities, including trails for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and canoeing. I have been lucky enough to run several trail runs and races in the Croom Tract section of Withlachoochee State Forest. The trails at Croom are north of Tampa, near Brooksville, Florida. Easy access to the hiking trails are at the Tucker Hill Day Use area. Tucker Hill is located at 26416 Croom Road.
There are trails on both sides of Croom Road, that you can access from Tucker Hill. They connect into loops, and you can connect the north and south loops by crossing over Croom Road. The main outer loops are each bisected by a cross connector. All the hiking trails are marked with either an orange blaze (the main loops) or a blue blaze (the cross connectors). The blazes are 2″ x 6″, or about the size of a dollar bill.
On the North side of Croom Road, you have the A Loop, the B Loop, and the A-B connector. The A Loop starts at Tucker Hill, then continues for approximately 4 miles until you reach the connector and the B Loop. The A-B connector will bring you back to the A Loop, near the start, where you will have a short distance to return to Tucker Hill. The B Loop continues until you cross Croom Road again, and enter the trails that are on the South side of Croom Road. The South side trails are the B Loop, the C Loop, and the B-C Connector. The C Loop extends off of the B Loop, with the B-C connector completing the loop.
There are plenty of ways to run some unique routes at Croom using combinations of the loops and connectors. Below is a map of the trails to help you plan your route.
One of the attractions of running at Croom is the changing terrain. Hills in Florida can be hard to come by, so trail runners flock here to get some hill training in! On the north A Loop, you will encounter nice gradual climbs with a steeper climb up Sugar Mountain. Most of the trail is through the pine forest. Be sure to collect a pine cone on your run to contribute to the giant pinecone peace sign that keeps going through the years! When you are back into the oak forest near the A-B Connector Loop, you will cross through The Pit. The Pit is a huge sinkhole area that will have you running through a short steep depression. You can follow the path around the edge of The Pit, but it is much more fun to run through it! Besides running up and down hills, you will travel through expanse pine forests, open fields, and dense oak woods. The Croom trails are a great way to experience the wildness of Florida.
Get Out and Run!
Croom is a fun place to plan a nice long trail run. (Pack a picnic and reward yourself after your miles!) There are also a lot of trail runs to participate in that use all of these trails. Tampa Races has one just about each season! I have run each of the Croom races at least once! The races are: the spring Croom Fools Trail Run, the summer Moon Over Croom night trail run, the fall John Holmes Trail Run, and the winter Croom Zoom trail run. There are different distances to choose from. Visit Tampa Races for more information!