Florida Fresh Air: Savage Christmas Creek Preserve Is A Natural Escape East Of Orlando – Orlando Sentinel

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Nov 05, 2021 at 5:00 AM

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Florida Fresh Air: Savage Christmas Creek Preserve

Sometimes the best natural escapes are tucked just out of sight from everyday commuters, such as the more than 1,000 acres of protected land that comprises Savage Christmas Creek Preserve.

Just when East Orlando strip malls and signs of civilization start to disappear, a turn off State Road 50 in Christmas starts to reveal a more natural side of Florida. Drive beneath a canopy of oaks then find a trailhead at the start of a sandy pine flatwoods environment.

The Orange County public land presents a network of trails totaling more than 7 miles for hiking and equestrian use, including a portion of the orange-blazed Florida Trail. Some trails are marked for hiking only, while others are wide and can be used by equestrians as well.

The orange-blazed Florida Trail is designated for hiking only at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

The scenery on the eastern side of the preserve includes saw palmettos and longleaf pines in a scrub habitat that can be explored on the yellow trail and Florida Trail. Heading west on the red trail, which is seasonally flooded, the preserve becomes muddier as trail users meander into the marshy territory. Some sections of the trail pass through scenic oak hammocks, providing shade and a welcome break from sandy or grassy footpaths.

The site is listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail, so look for sandhill cranes, bald eagles, owls, hawks, woodpeckers and songbirds. Keep an eye out for gopher tortoises and squirrels as well.

Savage Christmas Creek presents a mostly quiet place to explore wild Florida and reflect in nature, a welcome respite from busy daily life.

A chaffhead flower shows its lavender colors at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

Location: 11046 N.W. Christmas Road in Christmas Hours: Open sunrise to sunset daily Amenities: Hiking trails, equestrian access, picnic areas, benches, trash can, parking Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, wildlife viewing Accessibility: Savage Christmas Creek Preserve contains sandy, somewhat rugged trails that are unsuitable for wheelchair users. Nearby, Orlando Wetlands Park may prove slightly more accessible. What to bring: Bring sunscreen, drinking water and bug spray to keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay. Footwear is a consideration, especially with trails that are sandy or muddy. A map will prove useful for navigating the preserve, and some paper copies should be available at the trailhead.

The morning sun shines through trees at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

What not to bring: Motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited at Savage Christmas Creek. It is against the rules to disturb plants and animals. Alcoholic beverages, fires and littering are also against the rules. Pets: Leashed pets are allowed at Savage Christmas Creek Preserve. Pro tips: Orlando Wetlands Park isn’t far from Savage Christmas Creek, presenting avid birders with multiple locations to visit in one day. Gaia GPS is my app of choice for navigating trails. A recording feature helps keep track of the pace and length of hikes. More information: 407-836-1400 or orangecountyfl.net