Divided into eight tracts, Florida’s third-largest state forest comprises 157,479 acres and spans four counties: Citrus, Pasco, Hernando, and Sumter. Although the World Wildlife Fund has called Withlacoochee “One of the 10 Coolest Places in North America You’ve Never Seen,” about 300,000 people do visit annually. The forest takes its name from the meandering Withlacoochee River, which flows for 13 miles through the forest. From March to November the landscape is often aglow with the brilliant colors of wildflowers. The following hike description covers one of the forest’s most popular short walks, the McKethan Lake Nature Trail, a 2-mile loop with numerous interpretive signs. For a longer, multiday hike in the Withlacoochee State Forest, see the 40-mile Citrus Perimeter Loop under “Long Haulers.”
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