See the sheer beauty of Payne’s Prairie and the Alachua Sink with a hike on the La Chua Trail. A visit to La Chua is never complete without spotting an alligator sun bathing on the side of the trail or a wild horse grazing in the marsh. If you’re truly lucky, you may even catch a rare glimpse of a pack of bison.
The trail also a haven for an incredible variety of birds that fly, dive, and swim amongst the marshy wetlands of the Alachua Sink. The La Chua Trail is a journey into the wilds of Florida and a unique experience you will never forget.
What Makes It Great
The amount and variety of wildlife along the trail is truly what makes it incredible. From birds, to alligators, to horses, to bison, the La Chua Trail has it all. Wildlife aside, the environment is simply stunning. Payne’s Prairie, a vast savannah unique in Florida, was formed when Alachua Lake drained into the Alachua Sink in the late 1880’s.
The La Chua Trail sends you straight into the heart of the remainder of the former lake beginning with a boardwalk that skirts the banks of the Alachua Sink. On some afternoons, rangers are posted near the end of the boardwalk to answer any questions you might have and to offer learning opportunities for children.
The highlight of the trail is the observatory at the end of the of a 1.5 mile trek. After close encounters with alligators the observatory offers a panoramic view of the lake and prairie beyond. On a sunny day you can see for miles and get an idea of the expanse and beauty of Payne’s Prairie.
Who is Going to Love It
The La Chua Trail is a fantastic stop for families and people of all ages. The terrain is flat and easy going, and the length is perfect for a quick hike. If you want to stay a while longer, there are several benches along the trail that you can relax and observe the prairie scene. While anybody would love the La Chua Trail, bird watchers absolutely adore it. Countless varieties of birds populate the environment, especially in winter, and lend a serene ambiance to the experience. If you're looking for an isolated hike, this is not the one. The trail is extremely popular, especially on weekends.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to the trailhead, drive east on University Ave past Downtown Gainesville and make a right on SR-20. Make an almost immediate right on 15th St and take the road until it ends. There should be a gate ahead which leads to the trailhead. Park anywhere along the road past the gate. There are traditional parking spots closer to the trailhead, but on busy days, you may have to parallel park on the road. NOTE: Potential for interaction with wildlife such as alligators and horses makes this an unideal location for pets.
Alternatively, you can access the trail from the Hawthorne-Gainesville Bike Trail. The trailhead has a bike rack for you to store your bikes during your hike.